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Children of all ages can experience the impact of trauma.

When events such as parental incarceration, family separation, abuse or neglect, the illness or death of a parent or sibling, or natural disasters occur early in life, they weigh on children both emotionally and physically.  With intense and prolonged exposure to toxic stress, developing brains can actually be rewired and trigger constant stress responses (fight, flight or freeze).

Not all babies and toddlers experience traumatic stress after a traumatic event. For those who do, trauma can get under the skin, impacting health and well-being over a lifetime. 

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    Children are never too young to experience trauma and stress, and these difficult feelings can have a big impact on little kids.

    Why It Matters

    For babies, early trauma can impact lifelong learning, mental and physical health, and development. That’s why it's critical to act early–because every child deserves the chance to grow up with safety and security.

    Caregivers and early childhood professionals can play a vital role in helping restore and maintain emotional safety, serving as a buffer against some of the long-term impacts.

    By the Numbers

    Research shows traumatic stress hurts babies

    Sources: ZERO TO THREE. State of Babies Yearbook: 2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019, July 11). Identifying, preventing, and treating childhood trauma [Congressional testimony].

    I am astounded every day at how effective this trauma-informed approach is. When I began as a Florida Circuit Judge more than 30 years ago, I didn’t know the impact Judges and Court Teams could have on the trajectory of families if only we understood and recognized that trauma, child development, and outcomes are inextricably linked. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to apply it and see infants, toddlers and families thrive.”

    Judge Tepper, 6th Judicial District, Florida

    Our Impact

    As leaders in infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), ZERO TO THREE has helped make huge strides in advancing the understanding of childhood trauma.

    We’ve brought technical assistance and resources to nearly half the states, enhancing their ability to prevent and treat trauma in babies. Our transformational HealthySteps program places early childhood development and behavioral health specialists in pediatric visits, providing families and providers the tools to address traumatic stress quickly and effectively. Our life-changing Safe Babies program is specifically designed to support child and family well being and reduce further child welfare system involvement.  

    sad baby being held by mom

    Contribute now to help us reach our goal of serving at least 1 million children and families through Healthy Steps by 2032.

    Related Resources

    When families thrive, babies thrive.

    See how we provide support to strengthen families who have experienced extreme hardships or traumatic events.