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Foundations of Well-being: Policy Strategies for Integrating Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health into Child Welfare

Baby with a teddy bear

From birth to age 3, the brain undergoes its most dramatic period of growth, as babies learn to think, speak, walk, reason, and interact with others.

Why it matters: Infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), a foundational element of early childhood development for babies and toddlers, shaping their ability to form healthy relationships, navigate emotions, and explore their world.

The big picture: Child welfare and other early childhood system partners are crucial for providing high-quality IECMH services and supports. By collaborating and prioritizing input from families with firsthand experience, we can positively impact families with young children affected by trauma.

The bottom line: This brief highlights the importance of IECMH for families in child welfare. It covers key components of the IECMH continuum of care and the importance of integrating ZERO TO THREE’s IECMH Guiding Principles and Best Practices for family support and reunification. Additionally, it suggests policy strategies for states to enhance collaboration between IECMH, child welfare, and other early childhood systems.

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