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The Role of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Leaders Across Disciplines and Settings: The 2018-2020 ZERO TO THREE Fellowship Class

Aimee Hiladado, Ekaterina Zoubak, Melissa Buchholz, Natasha Byars, and Lynette Aytch

This ZERO TO THREE Journal issue was a culminating project for the 2018–2020 ZERO TO THREE Fellowship Class. Its members—15 total—represent individuals from different states/ countries, from diverse academic disciplines, and who work in a variety of settings ranging from community-based programs to international aid institutions. Together, the class sought an opportunity to share their Fellowship experience and the role of infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) leaders across different sectors. To that end, this journal and each article touch on the role of leadership in effecting change in the early childhood field with specific attention to IECMH systems. The articles also address common themes of diversity, equity, and social justice in the service of children and families as well as the imperative to promote these values across systems.

As part of the Fellowship experience, we learned about the importance of being adaptive leaders in an ever-changing environment. We also explored issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; values that are reflected (and sometimes obscured) in our work with young children and families. We define and describe these terms in the context of advancing equitable access to resources and information–an embodiment of social justice–that promotes the health and well-being of all young children and their families. This element of social justice begins with individual and collective commitment and is fully realized only through informed policies and coordinated systems that understand, value, and invest in the first years of a child’s life.

Ultimately, this journal issue embodies our multifaceted vision for advancing IECMH and the early childhood field. The articles serve as an entrée to these critical discussions and offer readers an opportunity to see themselves as leaders in their own respective settings. Finally, this journal issue represents a call to action for those inspired to advance policy and systems change for infants and toddlers at the local, state, tribal, national, and even international level. We ask readers to “lead from where you are,” a mantra that has been a guidepost for the 2018–2020 Fellowship cohort.

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Fellows attend the ZERO TO THREE Annual Conference and the Annual Spring Scientific Meeting, additional professional development opportunities that can deepen content knowledge and expand professional networks.

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