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ZERO TO THREE Announces Winners of Third Annual Emerging Leadership Award

Aug 2, 2022

Trailblazing recipients leading the way in field of infant and early childhood mental health

For the third 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, is thrilled to honor three outstanding professionals with the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Emerging Leadership Award. This year’s recipients are Erin Henderson Lacerdo from the Association for Infant Mental Health in Hawai’i; Callan Wells from the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students; and Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“As more and more people come to realize the importance of infant and early childhood mental health, we’re thrilled to know that there’s a new generation leading the way in this critical field,” stated Matthew Melmed, Executive Director at ZERO TO THREE. “Whether it’s in the arenas of policy, practice, or research, remarkable work is being done at all levels to lift up infants and toddlers, particularly those in underserved and overburdened communities. Callan, Erin, and Holly have proven to be incredible leaders providing innovative and unique insights into the wellbeing of our babies, and stand as shining examples for what our field needs moving forward. We enthusiastically congratulate them on this honor and look forward to supporting their bright careers in the years ahead.”

Practice Award: Erin Henderson Lacerdo, LCSW, IMH-E® Clinical

Erin Henderson Lacerdo is the first executive director of the Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH) in Hawai‘i, where she is responsible for creating the state’s first agency focused on promoting IECMH. She is recognized for her deep clinical experience in IECMH and dedication to promoting and integrating infant mental health practices in state systems and policy. She previously served on the AIMH Hawai‘i Board of Directors for eight years, where she co-developed and led the Promising Minds Fellows Program, a statewide program aimed at building an IECMH-focused direct service and consultation workforce. The program’s model focuses on creating capacity for early childhood providers to understand and embrace the basic tenets of IECMH, building a system of consultants to provide support to those working with the 0-5 age group, and collaboratively support the work in perpetuity.

Policy Award: Callan Wells, MS

Callan Wells is the senior health policy manager for the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS). Wells has helped build an early childhood system of care in Georgia that promotes coordinated policy and collaborative service delivery to support young children with or at risk for social, emotional, and behavioral health needs, as well as to promote healthy social and emotional development for all children. On behalf of GEEARS, she lent her guidance and expertise to a legislative study committee that brought to fruition the state’s first IECMH director and a Child-Parent Psychotherapy pilot. Wells helped establish the Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health (GA-AIMH) and recently led GEEARS’ advocacy efforts to pass the Mental Health Parity Act into Georgia law, bringing early childhood into the state lens for comprehensive behavioral health.

Research Award: Dr. Holly Hatton-Bowers, PhD

Holly Hatton-Bowers is an assistant professor in child, youth, and family studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an early childhood extension specialist. Her applied research focuses on enhancing and supporting the emotional well-being of caregivers, helping professionals, and young children. Dr. Hatton-Bowers co-created Cultivating Healthy Intentional Mindful Educators (CHIME), a professional development program based on mindfulness and compassion aimed at enhancing early childhood educators’ well-being. Her CHIME research is the first of its kind to investigate the impact of a mindfulness-based intervention on physiological markers of stress to determine whether the intervention has a positive effect on early childhood educators’ self-regulation and well-being, which is essential for their ability to be fully present with young children and to support their social and emotional needs.

The IECMH Emerging Leadership Awards acknowledge the efforts of professionals with 5-15 years of experience 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 supports. Recipients demonstrate significant visionary and cutting-edge work to transform practices, policies, and systems at the local, state, or national level in promoting IECMH.

ZERO TO THREE will present the Emerging Leadership Awards at the organization’s annual LEARN Conference in September 2022. To learn more and register for the conference, please visit go.zerotothree.org/signature.

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    Max Samis

    Communications Manager, Media and Public Relations

    ZERO TO THREE

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