Elizabeth “Betty” Tableman

Betty Tableman Betty M. Tableman died peacefully in hospice in Lansing on April 28, 2021. Born June 12, 1922, she grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She was a proud graduate of Vassar College, Class of ’43, and the University of Michigan, M.A. Public Administration. She met and married her husband Marvin in Ann Arbor.

Betty moved to Lansing in 1952 and worked for the State of Michigan for many years, retiring in 1998 as the Director of Prevention Services in the Department of Mental Health.  She helped develop innovative programs to serve infants, toddlers, and their families, including the nationally-recognized “Michigan Model” which established a training program for community-based mental health systems.

After retirement, she continued her work in infant mental health at Michigan State University’s Institute for Children and Family and the Michigan Association of Infant Mental Health (MAIMH). She wrote and edited many publications about delivering services to vulnerable children and their families. For her advocacy and development of innovative programs, she received many awards. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

Betty had a life-long love of gardening and enjoyed watching the succession of flowers bloom in her yard throughout the year. She could not bring herself to cut things down, so a small forest grew around her house, which was home to numerous birds and squirrels who enjoyed the bird seed she provided. She loved to travel to see the world. Through the years, she made many trips to visit her sister and three nieces and their families in England.

She was an active member of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Lansing and served as President of the Church Board.

Her husband Marvin died in 2003. Her son Kenneth (Jan) and daughter Martha survive her, as do her six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will take place on Saturday, July 24, 2021, at 11 a.m. at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, Lansing, Michigan. A live stream of the service can be viewed here: Live Stream

In lieu of flowers, send contributions to the Nature Conservancy, the Michigan Association of Infant Mental Health or the charity of your choice. Condolences can be sent to Martha Tableman, 143 Wagner Way, Dillon, CO 80435.


Emeritus Board Member Nomination for Betty Tableman, MPA 1948

Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health 2-4-2016 

Betty Tableman was an advocate’s advocate for maternal and child health issues prior to representing the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (Mi-AIMH) on the Council’s Board.  As Director of Prevention Services for the former Michigan Department of Mental Health (MDMH) she often attended MCMCH events and meetings to provide insights into state policy matters.  A long-standing and active MCMCH Board member she has served on the by-laws/governance committee, policy agenda development committee, and numerous strategic planning work groups over the years.   She was a driving force in working with MCMCH and Mi-AIMH staff to educate policy makers on early brain development.  Planning and implementing events at the capitol and in districts.  These efforts included producing a CD on early brain development that was distributed to all state policymakers by Mi-AIMH members via one-on-one policy maker and constituent meetings.

She was instrumental in the development of prevention services, especially home-based services in Michigan and nationally.  Betty served on the Maternal and Infant Health Program Design Workgroup in 2004-2005, and is the grandmother of Michigan’s Infant Mental Health Model.  She was an early and long standing proponent of service coordination and case management models that give voice to families and reduce parenting stress.

Starting in the 1970s as a planning coordinator for MDMH Betty worked with University of Michigan Professor Selma Friaberg, a relationship-based services pioneer to develop and implement a training program for community mental health professionals.

Betty became the Director of MDMH Prevention Services in 1975 where she championed infant mental health and other prevention services for infants, toddlers and their families.  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.  Betty was masterful at using a small state appropriation to leverage change in the state mental health system.  Her political savvy makes her one of the most sought after persons for fiscal and advocacy advice. While at the state she was recognized by MCMCH for her contributions with an Advocacy Award.

After retiring from the Department, Betty began working with the Institute for Children and Families at Michigan State University.  Where she continued working tirelessly on child and family policies and programs.  Betty is the author of numerous books and articles on prevention services.

A few of her accolades include: induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.  In 2008, the Michigan Chapter of the Nation Association of Social Work, gave her their Public Citizen of the Year Award.  In 2002, the World Association of Infant Mental Health honored her for significant contributions to the advancement of social and public policies that benefit infants, toddlers and their families.  Betty has even had awards named after her.

Other groups Betty has served on the boards of include: The National Mental Health Association, Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, National Council of Community Mental Health Centers, the Michigan Early On State Interagency Coordinating Council, and Michigan’s Trust Fund.  Betty continues to be an effective champion for the health and well-being of all infants, toddlers and their families, into her 90s. 



Betty began her work at the State of Michigan in the Department of Public Health….and brought the public health approach of planning across the population to the prevention of  mental health disorders. She was the former Director of the Department of Mental Health Office of Prevention Services.

Betty Tableman has provided leadership in the state to design, implement and support prevention services for children, families and other special populations where she began her work in the mid-70’s.  She is the former director of the Michigan Department of Mental Health Prevention Services unit.

Betty worked with Selma Fraiberg at University of Michigan in the late 1970’s to infuse Infant Mental Health practice in the Community Mental Health system.  The first cohorts of CMHSP staff were trained in Infant Mental Health by Selma Fraiberg and her cohorts. The practice of IMH in the CMHSP system was promoted due to Betty’s endeavors to infuse this practice and the development of a “prevention line item” in the DMH budget.  Infant Mental Health Services: Supporting Competencies/Reducing Risks, 2nd edition by Deborah Weatherston, Ph.D. and Betty Tableman, MPA provides an guide to the principles and practice of infant mental health.

Betty was instrumental in the development of:

  • Project SEEK — Services to Enable and Empower Kids – serving children with a parent in prison, co-sponsored by the Departments of Community Health (formerly Department of Mental Health), Corrections and Social Services.
  • Community Caregiver Services
  • Integrated Services (previously known as Children of Mental Ill Adults)
  • CCEP study which established the need for mental health consultation in child care and early education settings.
  • Coordinated Community Planning for Prevention Services (established Human Services Coordinating Bodies in over 60 counties to develop a coordinated prevention plan for at risk populations, now known as Community Collaboratives).
  • Parenting Education Curriculum
  • Development of the Outpatient Checklist (assessment/treatment planning tool for IMH staff) and the Borgess Interaction Assessment.

Betty published many studies and evaluation of prevention approaches.

Betty continues her work and is actively involved in the Steering Committee for the Infant/Toddler Maltreatment Court Program in Genesee County.  She has co-authored, Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers.

She is committed, visionary, ethical, scholarly, compassionate, and a person who never hesitates to advocate for infants, toddlers, children and their families

Her awards include:

  • Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers—Public Citizen of the Year Award (2008).  “Betty is recognized for her outstanding career and leadership in advocating, establishing, and supporting quality programs for infants, toddlers, young children and their families.  One of her most prominent legacies is that of establishing a clinical infant mental health program within Michigan’s Community Mental Health system, which has lead to national recognition and leadership in the field.”
  • The Michigan Association for Community Mental Health Boards–Hal Madden Outstanding Service Award (honor individuals from within the public mental health systems (CMH & DCH) who have made, over time, an outstanding contribution to the public mental health system). (1994)
  • Award for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology (presented annually to an individual whose career of high quality and innovative applications of psychological principles has significantly benefited the practice of community psychology) (1998).


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6 Messages to “Elizabeth “Betty” Tableman

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Cara Boucher
May 2, 2021 at 10:52 am

Fondly recall growing and helping Betty in the yard, listening to classical music, and holidays with the Tablemans, Atamans, and Boucher.

Alethia Carr
May 2, 2021 at 11:28 am

It was an honor to know and work with Betty. Her advocacy for children and families was always clear and passionate. Her contributions to families is a living legacy. She did God’s work.

Joanne Riebschleger
May 4, 2021 at 6:40 am

I’m so sorry to hear of Betty’s death. She was such an important mentor to me and others – shaping a leadership in prevention of mental illness that stands even today. I will miss her greatly.

Vicki Cowling
May 4, 2021 at 6:06 pm

Vicki Cowling, OAM
Betty was a generous colleague during my study tour from Australia in 2000, as I warmly remember. Her contribution to infant and parent mental health included launching a book on the subject at a conference in Melbourne in 2008. My thoughts and condolences to all.

Melissa Threadgould
July 24, 2021 at 11:31 am

I was touched by Betty as a young clinician making my way into IMH. She was a force, a trailblazer and definitely a “maven”. Rest in peace Betty. May you know that your passion will continue on because of your work.

Joanne Riebschleger
July 28, 2021 at 7:50 am

Betty supported my work with children who have a parent with a mental illness. She was one of the few who o really understood the importance of this work. She encouraged me for over 30 years, even going to Australia with me for a conference and connections. There are no words for the difference she made in the world for child and family mental health.


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