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ZERO TO THREE Announces Inaugural Emerging Leadership Awards

Honorees in Practice and Policy leading the way for infant and early childhood mental health

WASHINGTON — ZERO TO THREE, the leading nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, announced today the first-ever winners of the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Emerging Leadership Award, honoring two emerging leaders in the field of infant and early childhood mental health. The organization presented Markita Mays of California with the Practice Award and Kerrie Schnake of South Carolina with the Policy Award.

“In order to ensure the growth of infant and early childhood mental health in the field, we need to recognize new leaders who are making incredible advances for babies and toddlers,” stated Matthew Melmed, Executive Director at ZERO TO THREE. “Markita and Kerrie are leading the way in ensuring that IECMH services for young children and their families not only better support relationships, but are inclusive, equitable, culturally relevant, and fiscally accessible and sound. We wholeheartedly congratulate them on this honor and look forward to following their bright careers moving forward.”

Markita Mays Headshot

Markita Mays, LCSW, is the clinical supervisor for the University of California-San Francisco’s Child Trauma Research Program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. In her work, she co-created EMBRACE, a primary care/mental health collaboration for the treatment of Black pregnant women and their partners. She also co-founded the Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative, an anti-racist curricula used at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Department of Psychiatry, and created a learning partnership curriculum for entry and mid-career level clinicians to provide case-based reflective supervision that raises awareness and knowledge about racism and structural and systemic inequities affecting infants, young children, and families.

Kerrie Schnake HeadshotKerrie Schnake is the Director of the South Carolina Program for Infant/Toddler Care at the University of South Carolina. She championed the establishment of the South Carolina Association for Infant Mental Health, striving to strengthen the IECMH workforce in her state by integrating policies and systems that promote the use of IECMH Competency Guidelines and Endorsements. She also created the innovative “Be Well, Care Well” program to support the well-being of caregivers in early childhood settings. Kerrie was also a member of the 2018-20 ZERO TO THREE Fellowship Class.

The IECMH Emerging Leadership Awards acknowledge the efforts of early to mid-year career professionals (5-15 years of experience) who have made significant contributions to the field of infant and early childhood mental health. Recipients demonstrate significant visionary and cutting-edge work to transform practices, policies, and systems at the local, state, or national level in promoting IECMH.

The recipients will be honored with ZERO TO THREE’s Emerging Leadership Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and Wednesday, Oct. 7 at the organization’s annual conference, which is being held virtually this year for the first time.

To learn more about ZERO TO THREE’s work to advance Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, click here.


ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, please visit zerotothree.org, facebook.com/ZEROTOTHREE or follow @ZEROTOTHREE on Twitter.

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