"... ZERO TO THREE is spreading its wings in major ways to impact practice and policy across disciplines to ensure that the needs of babies and toddlers are being met."
Editor’s Note: We’ve invited ZERO TO THREE Board Member Tammy Mann, PhD, to share her perspectives and reflections with you. Dr. Mann has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2018 and is currently serving her second term on the Board. You can learn more about her work focused on addressing the needs of children and families, especially those living in economically and socially challenged environments, on her bio page on the ZERO TO THREE website.
1. What has it meant to you to be a member of ZERO TO THREE’s Board of Directors?
It has been a real honor to have an opportunity to serve on the Board. I literally fell in love with the organization back in the late 80s as a practicing clinician at a community mental health center in Detroit where I worked with families with infants and toddlers (in their homes) who were struggling to engage and build relationships. I relied heavily on my clinical supervisor, and the ZERO TO THREE Journal, to appreciate how to best support babies and toddlers in the context of family and community. A few years later, I found myself in DC after completing my doctorate. I thought I would pursue a pure policy path. An opportunity to join the staff at ZERO TO THREE surfaced and I felt like I had won the lottery. Early Head Start was born and ZERO TO THREE was charged with helping to scale and support this program across the country. In my 14 years on staff, I witnessed the organization blossom and had a chance to build incredible relationships with incredible people. I will always love ZERO TO THREE because it has been the catalyst for helping so many other organizations see the power and importance of the first 3 years of life.
2. What is happening at ZERO TO THREE right now that you are most excited about?
That’s a really hard question, because as I see it, ZERO TO THREE is spreading its wings in major ways to impact practice and policy across disciplines to ensure that the needs of babies and toddlers are being met. That’s true if we are talking early childhood education, child welfare, pediatric practice, infant mental health, and so much more! I have been very pleased to see the organization focus on making certain that there is attention to infant and early childhood mental health across programs and departments. I believe this is important because it remains one of the areas that can be most difficult to get the field and lay people to appreciate, understand, and embrace. It’s also been exciting to see the organization focus on racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in a very intentional way.
3. As you observe the world around you, what is an issue affecting young children and their families and caregivers that concerns you? How do you think ZERO TO THREE can help?
I’ve been pretty passionate about making sure that we are attending to the need for building a stronger pipeline of professionals who will be there for infants and toddlers, especially in the area of infant and early childhood mental health. In my current capacity, I have been grieved over how difficult it can be to find clinicians who are trained in infant and early childhood mental health. I think the field has come a long way with infusing promotion and prevention aspects of infant and early childhood mental health across many professional disciplines—and this is a very good thing. It is possible to do so much good when one has an appreciation for the role that relationships play in helping children learn to navigate and make meaning of the world around them. Yet there are also times when babies and toddlers suffer, and in those times we want to make sure that we can deploy the right level of support to help get things back on track. ZERO TO THREE has prioritized this work as a part of its strategic directions and as such I am optimistic that we have the potential for impact.
4. What is something that ZERO TO THREE members, staff, and even other Board Members might be surprised to know about you?
I am currently one of 37 first cousins charged with helping to ensure that our 125-acre family farm that my great-grandfather bought in 1916 in Garland, Louisiana, remains a symbol of hope and pride for generations to come. Prior to COVID, during the even-numbered years, about 400 family members would travel “home” for a 4-day family reunion. Our last reunion was in 2018. We have incorporated and are determined to honor this legacy by keeping the property “whole” just as our parents (10 of them) did when they were charged with picking up the mantle from my grandfather. Hopefully we will get back on track with our reunions in 2023. So while I love Motown, I’ve got some country in me!