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2015 Hiram Fitzgerald Award goes to Carolyn Dayton!
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The Hiram Fitzgeral Award

The 2015 Hi Fitzgerald award was presented to Carolyn Dayton, PhD, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV).
The Hiram E. Fitzgerald award is given to an emerging scholar/researcher who is committed to strengthening relationships between infants, toddlers and their families and whose research is innovative and dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for infants, toddlers and families. 
Nominated by Alissa Huth-Bocks
Carolyn Dayton is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Wayne State University and Associate Director of the Infant Mental Health Program at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development. She has many years of experience providing clinical interventions to the families of infants and young children in a wide range of settings including home-based, center-based and hospital programs. Dr. Dayton’s research is focused on early parenting processes with an emphasis on fathering in urban settings.  Her innovative focus on fathers in urban settings, from a developmentally informed and relationship-based perspective, works to advance our understanding about a largely undocumented but essential component of Infant Mental Health.  Dr. Dayton's program of research is fundamentally translational and transdisciplinary; it is informed by her clinical work with families and aims to identify biological and psychosocial risk and resilience factors that influence early parenting process and early child development.
Carolyn shared her appreciation at the 2015 Biennial Conference Award's Banquet: 

Learning to Hold. On.


Act I:  The Infant Mental Health Specialist who does not like Babies
 
To hold a baby.
To hold a mother.
To fall apart under the weight of the holding;
Knowing that you will come together again
in the arms of your family, your friends, your colleagues, your supervisor.
Knowing that you can withstand.
Knowing that staying connected sometimes means falling apart.
Because the weight. . .
         it is. . very, very heavy.
 
Tell me about the baby! Said my supervisor.
Actually, I don’t really like babies, I thought, but did not yet have the courage to say.
How can you not want to visit that young, vulnerable mother! she said.
Because I am tired, I thought, but did not say.
Because I’m not sure it will help.
Because she does not listen to me.
Because it is really, really hard for me to listen to her. 
 
But, that mother. . .
It’s not fair, I thought, feeling angry, but did not say, and did not let on.
That she cannot hold her baby.
Her mother did not hold her.  Her father did not hold her. 
There were no aunts or grandmothers or uncles or grandfathers.
How can we ask her to hold her baby?  It’s not fair.  I thought and began to think maybe I would say.
 
That’s it! I thought, but did not say.
I still did not like babies.
But, I thought, I do care about their mothers.
They are heavy though, those mothers.
And tricky, too.
They hide beneath their shame and their suffering.
They sometimes don’t come out for a long, long time.
They sometimes make me feel like I don’t matter, and they are very, very certain that
         they.  
                  don’t.  
                               matter.
And, why, after all, would you hold your baby, if you don’t matter.
 
So, I have to matter, I thought, and almost said.
Do I matter?
How do I know?
What if I’m wrong?
What if I don’t matter enough?
What if I
             can’t.
                      hold.
                                  on.
 
Act II:  Holding on
 
I was held.
I don’t remember it.
I know it felt good though. 
Safe. Warm. Contained. Understood.
 
I was held.
I can remember.
When things went wrong.
When I skinned my legs in the summer riding bikes. 
When I lost important things like my Mickey Mouse wristwatch.
When I felt scared of things – real or imagined.
I was held.
It felt good. 
    
I am held.
When I’m scared and tired and I start thinking that maybe I don’t matter.
“I don’t think I’m doing this right,” I say, out loud.
What?, she says.  What aren’t you doing right?
You know, life, I say.
And, she holds me. 
 
So, I hold on.
To myself.  To my others. To the young mother.  To her baby.
It’s sometimes scary.  I sometimes fall apart. 
I always come back together.
Because I was held and I am held and I can hold on.
 
Act III:  Reaching Up, or Out.  Sometimes Sideways.  Mostly just reaching.
 
So, what’s it gonna be, Dayton, I thought, but did not say.
I was looking out at a sea of IMH folks – many of the folks who are still here tonight – because we all continue to hold on to each other
Some of you are interventionists, some researchers, some policy makers.
So many people who matter.
So many people making a difference in the lives of families.
But, how can I matter?  How will I matter?  How will I make a difference?
I wondered.  For a while.  And I talked, and talked, and wondered.
 
I think maybe research. . . . with a clinical focus. . . that has policy implications, I said, to one of my others.
She shook her head.
What? I said.
Nothing, she said.  You’ll figure it out.
I’m pretty sure a hamburger and a glass of wine will help you figure it out.
Right, I said.
I was being held. 
 
Act IV – Figuring it out, kinda sorta
 
Fathers, I said.
Why? He asked.
Because they matter, I said, and nobody seems to know.
Not nearly as much as mothers, he said. 
But, you’re a father, I thought but did not say.
They do matter, I said, to one of my others.  They do. And she nodded.
 
I will try to understand fathers.  I say. Today. To all of you.
Because they matter.
Because I have a father.
Because my son has a father.
Because my son will someday be a father. 
And all of that matters.  To me.
Copyright © 2016 Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, All rights reserved.


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