Home/About/Media/ZERO TO THREE Announces Winners of Fourth Annual Emerging Leadership Award

ZERO TO THREE Announces Winners of Fourth Annual Emerging Leadership Award

Trailblazing recipients are honored for their innovative and unique work in infant and early childhood mental health and ensuring the well-being of babies across the country.

Siobhan Mueller
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – For the fourth consecutive year, ZERO TO THREE, the nation’s leading early development nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, will honor three outstanding professionals as recipients of the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Emerging Leadership Award. This year’s awardees are U’nek Clarke from the Developing Brain Institute at Children’s National Hospital, Dr. Angela Narayan from the University of Denver and Amanda Yancey from the Ohio Head Start Association (OHSA).

“A new generation of leaders are building a future where robust infant and early childhood mental health is universal, and we are so proud to be honoring three extraordinary individuals who are advancing our field,” said Matthew Melmed, Executive Director at ZERO TO THREE. “Nurturing our babies’ mental health creates a world where every smile is genuine, every challenge is conquerable, and every dream is boundless. We look forward to supporting U’nek, Angela, and Amanda for many years to come.”

The IECMH Emerging Leadership Awards acknowledge the efforts of professionals who have made significant contributions to the field of infant and early childhood mental health and highlights those serving diverse populations who strive for increased access to services and support. Recipients demonstrate significant visionary and cutting-edge work to transform practices, policies, and systems at the local, state, or national level in promoting IECMH.


Practice Award: U’nek Clarke, LICSW, LCSW-C, PMH-C

Clarke is the Lead Perinatal Behavioral Health Specialist at the D.C. Mother-Baby Wellness Program with the Developing Brain Institute at Children’s National Hospital. Her primary focus is providing therapeutic support to individuals during pregnancy and postpartum. She is certified in Perinatal Mental Health, Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, and Child-Parent Psychotherapy. Clarke has played a pivotal role in expanding perinatal mental health services to a dynamic community-based pediatric setting within the Children’s National Hospital System.

Research Award: Dr. Angela Narayan, Ph.D.

Dr. Narayan is an Associate Professor in the Clinical Child Psychology PhD. program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver (DU). She has studied the enduring effects of early childhood maltreatment, exposure to violence, and homelessness on long-term pathways of risk and resilience and how the perinatal period is a window of opportunity to promote resilience and reduce traumatic stress in low-income, underserved families. Dr. Narayan founded the PROTECT Lab at DU, which investigates how risk and resilience transfer across generations. Her research involves a multi-site longitudinal study following 350 low-income families from pregnancy to kindergarten, uncovering protective factors against intergenerational trauma and psychopathology.

Policy Award: Amanda Yancey

Yancey is the Operations Director at the Ohio Head Start Association, and oversees both the Parent Ambassador Program and the newly formed alumni group – Ohio Head Start Parent Advocacy Network – which provides resources for parents and advocates of childcare, mental health, and developmental disabilities to make important policy changes. She developed the Parent Ambassador Program ten years ago, after seeing a need for parent engagement at the policy level. She has provided over 120 parents whose children attend a Head Start center with a unique introduction to advocacy, self-awareness, leadership, goal setting, and storytelling.


ZERO TO THREE will present the Emerging Leadership Awards at the organization’s annual LEARN Conference on September 19 – 20, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To learn more and register for the conference, please visit signature.zerotothree.org.

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