Making It Happen: Overcoming Barriers to Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health
Infant-early childhood mental health is an important building block of children's overall development, but it is often misunderstood and undervalued. During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, events and social media campaigns helped to inform the public about mental health issues.
On Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day – set aside each year by Congress and the Administration – we heard from clinicians, advocates, and survivors of childhood trauma about promising practices, advances in research, and the troubling stories of the most vulnerable children. Now that the month has drawn to a close, it’s time to delve deeper into infant-early childhood mental health issues.
At the ZERO TO THREE Policy Center, we inform policy conversations at the state and federal levels about mental health issues by providing a greater context for how infant-early childhood mental health fits into the larger issues impacting infants, young children, and families.
Our new report, Making It Happen: Overcoming Barriers to Providing Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health, illuminates the scientific evidence for infant-early childhood mental health policies; examines issues faced by national, state, and local program directors and mental health practitioners in providing these services; and proposes a set of recommendations for policy improvements at the federal level. Additionally, it provides a context for the issues and barriers states face when financing services for those most in need and during a time of life when those services would have the highest rate of return.
Here at ZERO TO THREE, we wanted to know: What prevents states and communities from delivering mental health services to infants, young children and families? And what can be done to overcome these obstacles? With the help of infant-early childhood mental health and policy experts from across the country, we gathered some answers.
The bottom line: States and communities don’t have the mental health services that many infants and young children need, don’t have enough qualified providers, and don’t have a system that will pay for them. This new paper provides federal and state decision-makers with tools they need to take up these issues, so that the early foundational development of all infants and young children will enable them to realize their full potential.
So what can you do?
- Talk with the director of your local mental health board about what’s being done for very young children in your community.
- Contact your elected officials and send them a copy of Making It Happen.
- Follow the Federal Policy Baby Blog to learn more about what needs to be done to ensure that all infants and toddlers in need of mental health services receive them.
- Sign up for The Baby Monitor e-newsletter and watch for upcoming infant mental health resources from ZERO TO THREE.
- Share this resource with your state or local early childhood advisory council, Part C early intervention interagency council, child welfare agency, or others in the field, so we can all work together to promote improved I-ECMH policies and services.
Kelsey Quigley is Federal Policy Analyst at ZERO TO THREE.