Betty Tableman was Inducted into the MI Women’s Hall of Fame on October 21, 2009!

Major Contributions and Accomplishments

We are deeply honored to nominate Betty Tableman for induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a remarkable candidate who meets many of the criteria for this honor, including outstanding achievements in the development and implementation of Prevention Services for Michigan’s Department of Mental Health, authorship of articles and books to assist professionals in their work and leadership that has successfully transformed services for families with young children across the entire State of Michigan. Her advocacy for early intervention programming began over 30 years ago, and has contributed to its recognition by program and policy leaders as most significant to healthy development across the life span.

Betty has long believed in the importance of positive parenting, early nurturing and relationship development to an infant’s social, emotional and cognitive health. She believes that all children benefit from a sustained primary relationship that is nurturing, supportive and protective. She believes in the early identification of risk and prevention of emotional disorder and relationship failure. She has never wavered in these beliefs and challenged other policy makers and advocates to champion the cause. She has influenced the decisions of policy makers who were in positions to appropriate dollars for infant mental health programming, fighting long and hard to institute and sustain a revolutionary approach to the system of care through infant mental health services across the state. By 1998, there were over 35 infant mental health programs in the community mental health system with over 150 infant mental health practitioners providing services through the community mental health system, serving over 1200 infant and families each year.

Betty transformed prevention services by entering into a collaborative agreement between county community mental health clinics, Michigan Department of Mental Health, and the Child Development Project at the University of Michigan – not an easy feat! Her partnerships united psychoanalytically informed understanding of early development and parent-child relationships with a home-based model of service delivery to help infants and parents in distress. This shaped policy at the state level and brought early treatment programs to many counties throughout the state. In addition to service, Betty developed, with Selma Fraiberg, her colleague at the University of Michigan, a training program of state and national significance to prepare specialists across many disciplines to work with infants and parents at high risk for abuse or neglect and in distress. The design of this training program has been replicated many times again and has assured that the infant mental health field would grow. Trained infant mental health specialists nurtured new clinicians as new infant mental health programs were established across the state. Betty was careful to include infant mental health training and continuing consultation in budgets for all newly established programs. She nurtured and protected the programs assuring that infant mental health staff would have opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out complex, relationship-based clinical work with multi-problemed and emotionally fragile infants and parents.

Betty Tableman’s legacy has strengthened service delivery in Michigan for more than 25 years. Of additional importance, she has provided consultation, nationally and internationally, about the construction of a state-wide system of infant mental health services to other state departments outside of Michigan – in Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Amsterdam to name a few. Thousands of children under 3 years of age, and their families, have and will continue to benefit from her understanding of systems construction and systems change.

Betty’s legacy extends beyond the field of infant mental health. As the Director of Prevention Services for Michigan’s Department of Mental Health from 1975 through 1998, she was involved in many, many important programs. She piloted and evaluated 19 different service models designed to reduce the incidence of mental disabilities among high-risk populations. This was pioneering work and she demanded quality at every turn, resulting in her becoming a highly regarded leader in the prevention movement in mental health with international recognition. In structuring Prevention Services policy and operations through the years, Betty promoted the use of evidence-based models, provided in-depth high-quality technical assistance, and insisted on outcome evaluations all now considered the hallmarks of quality behavioral health programming! She was masterful at using a small state appropriation to leverage change in the state mental health system.

Betty understood the value and importance of collaboration as she assisted in developing collaborative human service forums across Michigan’s counties to ensure that partners in health, mental health, education and child welfare worked together for all families long before the national movement for Systems of Care that is at the forefront of children’s services today. Her intelligence, her commitment to families with young children and her passion for effective government change and policy have been a model for more than thirty years.


Other Outstanding Achievements or Involvements

Betty’s leadership skills are legendary. A quick review of honors received include the Selma Fraiberg Award, Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health in 1980; Lela Rowland Prevention Award, 1985, National Mental Health Association; Prevention Commendation, 1986, National Council of Community Mental Health Centers – Consultation, Education and Prevention Division; Special Prevention Award, 1986, Mental Health Association in Michigan; Distinguished Practice in Community Psychology, Division 27, 1988, American Psychological Association; Ray Helfer Award, 1991, Michigan Committee to Prevent Child Abuse; Harrison Award, 1993, Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health; Outstanding Achievement Award, 1993, Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health; Outstanding Achievement Award, 1994, Michigan Prevention Association; Hal Madden Award, 1994, Michigan Association of Community Mental Health; Harry V. McNeil Award, 1966, Society for Community Research and Action; Sonya Bemporad Award, 2002, World Association for Infant Mental Health; Contributions to Evaluation, 2003, Michigan Association of Evaluators. The Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH) established the Betty Tableman Award in 1996, in recognition of her exceptional service through policy and programming for infants, toddlers and families. Betty’s colleagues have acknowledged over and over again her visions, her wisdom and her remarkable understanding of policy related to infant mental health and her ability to make things happen that no one ever believed were possible.

A skillful writer and editor, Betty has initiated and edited many publications that have influenced service delivery to vulnerable children and their families in Michigan for over 30 years. Most noteworthy are:  “A Model for the Introduction of Infant Mental Health Services to Community Mental Health Agencies” (1978); “Guidelines for Assessing Parenting Capabilities in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases” (1985/2004); “Social Competence Curriculum for Children of Disordered Adults” (1981); “Parent Education for Low Income Parents of Preschool Children” (1982); “The Politics of Possible” (1986); “Infant Mental Health Services:  Supporting Competencies/Reducing Risks” (2002); “Stress Management for Low Income Women” (1990); and “Promoting Positive Relationships Between Parents and Children When There are Two Homes” (1996). Betty also edited “Best Practice Briefs” through University-Community Partnerships, University Outreach and Engagement, Michigan State University, from 2000 through 2006.

Betty’s professional affiliations include volunteering her time and expertise for associations, advocacy groups and service on state governmental task forces and work groups. Some of the groups she has served are the National Mental Health Association, National Council of Community Mental Health Centers, the Michigan Early On State Interagency Coordinating Council, and Michigan’s Trust Fund. Of additional importance, Betty has served as President of MI-AIMH twice (1981/82 and 1998/99), remaining an active board member since 1982 and edited the association publication, The Infant Crier, from 1987-1998. Betty’s activities reflect extraordinary commitment to infant mental health at administrative and policy levels.

Betty’s accomplishments alone are worthy of this honor, but just as important is her character and demeanor in carrying out these accomplishments. While she could be a firm advocate and assertive champion, Betty also has a true warmth about her, which has always welcomed others into her circle of change and leadership. Many others have taken up the cause of young children after meeting and listening to Betty Tableman. She seems tireless to those who watch her. We marvel at her insight and stamina. She just never stops or gives up – an incredible model for those around her and an important force for all infants, toddlers and families in the public service arena who need infant mental health support.