Services for Families of Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Trauma: A Research-to-Practice Brief 


Research documents the high rate of exposure to trauma among infants and toddlers, particularly children living in high-poverty communities.  Beginning life in the context of trauma places infants and toddlers on a compromised developmental path.  This brief summarizes what is known about the impact of trauma on infants and toddlers, and the intervention strategies that could potentially protect them from the adverse consequences of traumatic experiences. Interventions that are highlighted support parents to provide the stable and nurturing caregiving that is responsive to the child’s general developmental needs and that promotes children’s sense of safety and security. Such interventions may reduce or provide a buffer against infants’ traumatic experiences. Finally, the brief discusses how child care, Early Head Start, home visitation, and child welfare can become trauma-informed infant/toddler service delivery systems. This brief was written by Brenda Jones Harden, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland. Dr. Harden is a member of the Network of Infant/Toddler Researchers, a consortium of leading researchers studying the first three years of life.

Source: Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families

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Health Education Materials for Parents and Staff


Explore these low literacy health education materials below. The resources, which include topics such as lead awareness, home safety and injury prevention, and mental health, can be given to both parents and staff. Find useful information and basic tips that parents and staff can easily understand.

Lead Awareness
Lead is toxic to everyone, but unborn babies and young children are at greatest risk for health problems from lead poisoning. Unsafe levels of lead in blood can lead to a wide range of symptoms and can also affect a child’s developing brain. This brochure can be shared with parents and staff to inform them of how to avoid lead exposure.

Home Safety
Young children have the highest risk of being injured at home because that’s where they spend most of their time. The majority of childhood injuries can be predicted and therefore prevented. Supervision is the best way to prevent injuries at home but even the most prepared parents can’t keep kids completely out of harm every second of the day. This brochure can be shared with parents and staff to inform them of how to reduce injuries at home for their children.

Reducing Stress
Stress is a part of life. Yet, too much stress can have negative consequences. Too much stress can cause health problems and can make parenting more difficult. Caregiver stress can even contribute to children’s challenging behavior. This brochure identifies some easy-to-use stress reduction and self-care tips. It can be shared with parents and staff.

Learning about Depression
Parental depression is common and it is particularly common among Early Head Start and Head Start families. Parenting is challenging for every parent, at times; however, for parents experiencing depression it can be extremely difficult. It can be hard for parents experiencing depression to provide responsive, consistent, and sensitive care. When a parent is depressed it increases the risk of his or her child having behavioral, emotional, or cognitive problems. Seeking support to address depression can make a difference in the life of a parent and a child. This brochure can be shared with parents and staff to offer information about depression and strategies to seek support for concerns about depression.

Responding Positively to Your Child’s Behavior
All children misbehave or exhibit challenging behavior sometimes. How a parent responds can make a big difference in how a child develops. Treating a child with kindness and respect helps him or her to treat others with kindness and respect. Parents who nurture themselves and their children are teaching their child positive lifelong skills. This brochure can be shared with parents and staff to provide tips and tools to positively respond to your child’s behavior.

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, National Center on Health

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Glass Half Full: The Bright Side of ACEs Research


In recent months, it seems as if the public, and policymakers, have caught on to the science on adverse childhood experiences ACEs, aka “toxic stress” in a big way. The list of prestigious organizations and government entities collecting and reporting on ACEs data, providing summaries of the science, and implementing trauma-informed interventions include the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Harvard University, at least18 states, the city of Philadelphia—and Child Trends.*

Why is this new research about ACEs important?

  1.  It bridges the divide between the biological and the psychological. Many of the old and often stigmatizing distinctions between “mental” and “physical” health just don’t make sense here. The research on toxic stress, particularly as it affects children, reveals how experience modifies the brain and other body systems immune response, hormone activity. Chronic early stress alters children’s emotional responses, their impulse control, and their attentional and decision-making processes. It puts them at risk, in adulthood, for cardiovascular disease, obesity, substance abuse, and depression, as well as early death. Thanks to this research, we’re poised to take a more holistic view of wellness.
  2. It reinforces the importance of child-caregiver relationships. The ray of hope in this new knowledge is that a child’s safe, stable, and nurturing relationship with a caregiver plays a buffering role against these toxic effects. Good parenting or, when that’s lacking, sensitive care from another adult can protect children from the harms they might otherwise incur from overwhelming stress, or even, in some cases, can help undo the effects of prior trauma. Relationships matter.
  3. It recasts much of the old debate about poverty. Do you explain poverty as mainly the result of a number of unfavorable circumstances beyond one’s control, or do you ascribe it primarily to personal failings of one sort or another? The research on ACEs and the toxic stress they can create doesn’t resolve that debate, but it most certainly offers a different and potentially more productive frame for thinking about poverty. Living in poverty, we know now, frequently causes an accumulation of stress that becomes toxic. As surely as smoking or obesity, chronic poverty damages health—now, and in the future. Moreover, when it also handicaps cognitive and emotional functions, it becomes harder for the poor to escape poverty.
  4. It puts a new spotlight on the toll violence takes on our society. The ACEs research makes it clear that violence—both directly experienced, and witnessed—is both pernicious in its effects, and is a too-common experience of children. Violence is toxic. Children are wired to recoil from it and, when they cannot, they respond in ways that damage their health and blunt their capacities. It is the responsibility of adults to protect children from violence wherever it may occur, starting at home. It’s a need on a par with their needs for adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care.

Fortunately, as we learn more about toxic stress, research is also progressing about how to mend the damage it wreaks on children. However, that’s not always reversible. The clearest message here is prevention.

Source: Child Trends

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A Two-Generation Approach to Policy


In a forum earlier today, co-hosted by CLASP and the Foundation for Child Development FCD, panelists discussed two-generation policy solutions to reduce poverty. Panelists highlighted local innovation, as well as opportunities for large-scale federal and state policy changes to improve educational opportunities from early childhood to community college to workforce development. With diverse perspectives and experiences, the panelists shared a common vision that the circumstances of poor families are too important and too widespread to continue our current public policies without rethinking how to serve families as a whole, rather than adults and children independently. Fortunately, we have many opportunities to take action.

A new CLASP brief examines major federal and state policy areas for large-scale change that better support families as a whole. Two-generation policies reflect strong research findings that the well-being of parents is inextricably linked to children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being. And at the same time, parents’ ability to succeed in school and the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. Despite growth of local two-generation programs, which combine services for parents and children, little attention has been given to two-generation approaches to large-scale policy change. These opportunities include:

  • Pair education and training pathways with child care and early education. Identifying opportunities for better policy choices that would make it easier to pair education and training pathways with early education would help both parents and children. This would require rethinking program design throughout many policy areas, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families TANF, workforce development, higher education, child care, and Head Start.
  • Expand early childhood home visiting programs through state and federal investments, and seize other opportunities to help parents and young children in their very vulnerable early years. Home visiting programs offer a variety of voluntary, family-focused services to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children in the families’ homes. Many home visiting programs have a two-generation approach, focusing on the parenting skills and needs of parents while providing child development activities, although this varies tremendously depending upon the model used.
  • Improve child care policies for both children and parents. Continuity and stability of care can improve children’s early education as well as adults’ work stability.  Removing work schedule verification requirements and allowing for broader authorizations can make child care assistance more usable for parents with work schedule challenges.  Linking child care enrollment policies with those of other public benefits can also reduce the burden on parents to get and keep subsidies.
  • Improve labor policies for low-income workers.  A comprehensive package of improvements in labor policies, including an increase in the minimum wage, advance notice of job schedules, the right to request and receive flexible and predictable job schedules, minimum hours, and paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, would support low-income workers in their role as parents.
  • Expand access to health care and mental health treatment. The Affordable Care Act ACA offers a game-changing opportunity. The ACA tears down major barriers to depression treatment and provides many mothers with health insurance for the first time. The benefit package includes mental health and substance abuse treatment, access to primary and preventive care, as well as, prevention screening and quality measures to target depression.

Read the full brief here>>

Watch the webcast here>>

Source: CLASP: Policy Solutions That Work for Low-Income People

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Are the Children Well?


The mental health challenges our country’s young people face call for shifting the focus of policy and practice from illness, to promotion of wellness and flourishing. This requires using evidence-based strategies with both children and parents, and improving the quality of the environments where children and youth live, learn, play, and grow.

In recent years, prominent experts have urged changes to help end longstanding disparities between physical and mental health care, and to foster wellness. This report builds on that prior work. Child Trends argues that the distinction between physical and mental health is both artificial and harmful, and make a case for re-balancing attention to include wellness in addition to illness. It is important to identify and address the needs of children at risk, while also improving the mental wellness supports and services available to all children and youth. Therefore, Child Trends considered the evidence for interventions, both prevention- and promotion-oriented, that can improve mental wellness at the multiple levels of individual, family, school, and community.

Download Report: PDF

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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ZERO TO THREE: Infant, Toddler, and Early Childhood Mental Health Competencies: A Comparison of Systems


In the United States, the past few years have seen heightened interest in and recognition of the mental health needs of infants, toddlers, and young children. Although those who have been working with young children and their families have known it to be true for decades, the general public is slowly coming around to the understanding that our youngest children can suffer from serious mental health disorders, that exposure to physical and emotional trauma during this period can have lasting consequences, and that many children have unmet social and emotional needs—with strong implications for development and learning.1 Recent publications and initiatives have highlighted this increased focus on infant, toddler, and early childhood mental health (ITECMH), such as the special section of an issue of American Psychologist (”Infant Mental Health,” 2011), and an updated paper by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (NSCDC, 2008/2012). In addition, heightened interest in the findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study in scientific (Anda, Butchart, Felitti, & Brown, 2010) and popular literature (Tough, 2012) have fueled the drive to understand these needs and offer services to promote child well-being, prevent early mental health challenges from occurring, and if necessary, provide treatment as early as possible.

A Policy Center webinar on June 5 highlighted state-level competency systems to support providers in addressing the mental health needs of young children.


Available at:

Re-Framing Children’s Mental Wellness | Child Trends


As a society, we are on the threshold of a new understanding of, and—one hopes—a new attitude toward, mental illness. A number of recent developments are responsible for this change:

  • Advances in brain science, and particularly the role of early-experienced toxic stress;
  • Reports of substantial, and incompletely understood, rises in the prevalence among children of autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other emotional or behavioral difficulties.
  • A new recognition of the magnitude of the issues surrounding our combat veterans (and their families) with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other mental illness; and,
  • Recent deadly attacks by individuals whose mental illness was at least one factor precipitating their behavior.

These events have helped call into question many of our prior assumptions about mental illness: its prevalence, its origins, and the ways we address it through both treatment and prevention.

Source: Child Trends

Available at:

Reducing Stigma and Misunderstanding of Mental Health

2014 Webinar Series

Improving the Mental and Emotional Well-Being of Communities through the National Prevention Strategy
Presented by Region VIII Federal Partners
Reducing Stigma and Misunderstanding of Mental Health

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 2:00 – 3:30 pm, MT (4:00-5:30 ET)

2:00-2:05 Welcome and Adobe Connect Logistics
Speaker: Cherri Pruitt, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA, Region, VIII Maternal and Child Health Consultant

2:05-2:20 What IS the National Prevention Council’s Mental and Emotional Well-Being Strategy?
Speaker: Charles H. Smith, MA, PhD, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Regional Administrator-Region VIII, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, with special guest artist/educator, Bianca McCann

2:20-2:40 Tribal Mental Health/Wellness Center Capacity Building Initiative- This presentation will discuss how to develop a Tribal mental health/wellness center based on a comprehensive, Native-developed tool that assesses community needs and incorporates Native and Tribal thought. The presentation will include how to garner stakeholder collaboration and embark upon a behavioral health business planning process to create a sustainable mental health/wellness center.
Speaker: Dan M. Aune, MSW, Executive Director, Mental Health America of Montana

2:40-3:00 Utah’s Peer-Led Wraparound Program – In this presentation, you will learn about Utah’s Medicaid-approved Peer Support Service program. Through this program, Family Resource Facilitators provide high impact care at a low cost for agencies who serve families with children experiencing emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges. The Peer Support Service program results in family involvement at all levels of care and improved outcomes for families and communities.
Speaker: Lori Cerar, Executive Director of Allies with Families

3:00-3:20 Be a Lifeline! Introduction to Mental Health First Aid –This presentation provides an introduction to Mental Health First Aid, an evidence-based, groundbreaking public education program designed to improve participants’ knowledge of behavioral health disorders, reduce stigma, and increase the amount of help provided to those who may need it. Colorado’s collaborative, public-private initiative to implement this program in urban, rural, and frontier counties statewide and regionally will also be shared.
Speaker: Brian Turner, Statewide Programs Manager for the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council

3:20-3:30 Questions & Answers and Additional Resources

To register:

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Continuing education credits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for this activity are pending.

Speaker’s Bios

Speaker: Dr. Smith is the Regional Administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Region VIII. Dr. Smith is the former Director of the Colorado Division of Behavioral Health and Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse for the State of Colorado. Dr. Smith isa Licensed Psychologist with over 25 years of experience in fields of behavioral health administration, program development, forensic/correctional psychology, emergency/crisis intervention, recovery support systems, research, and consultation.

Speaker: Dan Aune earned his Masters of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Denver in 1987. Since that time he has held clinical, manager and consultant roles in a number of organizations. He currently is the Executive Director of Mental Health America or ‘MHA’, a statewide mental health advocacy and education non-profit organization serving Montana. Mr. Aune also participates on state and national advocacy groups to develop a recovery-based service delivery system and programming material appropriate to the needs of community mental health services. Dan has extensive research experience for institutions related to the implementation of services in hospital and community environments, and over 32 years of counseling, consulting, and training experience. Over the last five years Dan has worked with over 20 Tribal communities across the country providing technical assistance in their efforts to build Wellness Centers.

Speaker: Lori Cerar is the Executive Director of Allies with Families, the Utah Chapter of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and a member of the Utah Family Coalition. She and her partners in the Coalition and at the State have developed the Family Resource Facilitator Project in the State of Utah.

Speaker: Brian Turner is the Statewide Programs Manager for the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC), which is the membership organization for Colorado’s community behavioral health system. Brian worked as Public Policy Specialist and Special Projects Coordinator for CBHC before moving into his current position to direct a variety of projects and statewide initiatives for the Council. His work has focused heavily on health reform; veterans’ mental health; prevention of homelessness; the integration of behavioral and physical healthcare; and prevention and wellness efforts statewide. Beginning in 2011, Brian has served as Director for Mental Health First Aid Colorado, a collaborative effort focused on the strategic dissemination and growth of the program statewide.

Source: Region VIII Federal Partners

Understanding Toxic Stress in Young Children

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Pacific
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Mountain
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Central
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern

Sponsored by:
Healthy Child Care America

Expert Presenter:
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD

The Understanding Toxic Stress in Young Children webinar provides current information on toxic stress in early childhood, recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on helping early brain development, and available resources.

Please join Healthy Child Care America and the Building Bridges Among Health and Early Childhood Systems program for an overview on

  • The importance of early brain and child development
  • How positive relationships can help children develop
  • The negative effects of stress on children
  • The 5 Rs of early childhood education

This webinar is free and will be recorded and posted to the Webinars Web page,, for those who cannot attend the live webinar. * One contact hour of continuing education for child care providers can be earned by attending this webinar. Due to tracking limitations, credit can only be earned by attending the LIVE webinar. Credit cannot be earned by viewing the webinar on the Web following the April 22nd presentation.

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For providers attending the webinar as a group, the center director can access a participation confirmation form by going to the HCCA Web site, on which they can verify the attendance of the center’s respective employees after completion of the webinar.

Source: Healthy Child Care America

Available at:


The Backpack Connection Series was created by TACSEI to provide a way for teachers and parents/caregivers to work together to help young children develop social emotional skills and reduce challenging behavior. Teachers may choose to send a handout home in each child’s backpack when a new strategy or skill is introduced to the class. Each Backpack Connection handout provides information that helps parents stay informed about what their child is learning at school and specific ideas on how to use the strategy or skill at home. This series was developed in collaboration with Pyramid Plus: The Colorado Center for Social Emotional Competence and Inclusion and Bal Swan Children’s Center in Broomfield, Colorado.

The Backpack Connection Series includes handouts in four categories:

  • Addressing Behavior
  • Emotions
  • Routines and Schedules
  • Social Skills

Source: Technical Assistance Center for Social Emotional Intervention

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