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USA Today Article Shows How Pandemic Babies Have Fallen Behind

Young girl with mother at pediatrician visit

In a major new article published by USA Today exploring how the pandemic has impacted the growth and learning of babies and toddlers, ZERO TO THREE and HealthySteps experts explain what can be done to help our children and their families.

Emerging evidence reveals an uptick in developmental delays and challenging behaviors in children belonging to the so-called “COVID generation.” Born during or shortly before the pandemic, many of these children are talking, walking and interacting later and less frequently. They’re also more prone to certain behaviors, like outbursts, physical aggression and separation anxiety.

Intervening early is key, experts say, because of what we know about early childhood development. After age 3, the brain begins to prune itself: The neural connections that are used frequently become more secure while the others fade away. Essentially, the brain loses what it doesn’t use. Caregivers and providers weigh in on these delays, and how our HealthySteps program is helping bridge the gap.

HealthySteps Supports Families

The HealthySteps program provides early childhood development support to families where they are most likely to access it – the pediatric primary care office. Our program specialists identify whether children are reaching developmental milestones, help connect families to additional services, and answer families’ questions about child development and well-being so all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life.

“The past few years have seen unprecedented challenges for children and parents alike, making the work that HealthySteps Specialists do across the country more vital now than ever. So much goes into our efforts with families in pediatric settings, and shining a light, as this article does, will go a long way in reaching those who may have thought they were going through these difficult times alone.” – Rahil Briggs, national director of HealthySteps

The Impact

HealthySteps Impact

In 2020, we reached more than 300,000 children, at over 180 sites in 20 states – and that number continues to grow. Read more about how the HealthySteps program has impacted the lives of families.

Supporting Caregivers’ Mental Health

The mental health and early childhood development of an infant is greatly affected by the mental health of the adults who care for them. Optimal child development, including during the perinatal period, is based on feeling safe, secure, and loved. Primary caregivers should have the capacities to be attuned, consistently meet their child’s needs, and nurture healthy attachment relationships, which are often dependent on the caregiver’s own mental health and well-being. When parents and caregivers are under stress because of the pandemic, that can greatly affect the health and well-being of their children.

To learn more about how trauma and mental health can affect the earliest years of life, listen to The Earliest, a ZERO TO THREE podcast.


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We need your support now more than ever to ensure all babies have access to the quality care, services and support they need to thrive.