If infants and toddlers had the capacity to tell us their needs, what would they say? Young children are not directly in the courtrooms, therefore their perspectives can be often ignored and unheard in legal proceedings. How do we know the decisions being made are in the best interest of the child?

As part of the Family Law Initiative, IEMHP has created a video series focusing on understanding infant and early mental health within the judicial system. The video series was developed to inform judges, lawyers and other legal professionals working on cases involving child protection and/or divorce.

Infant Mental Health from the Bench

Infant mental health from the bench banner with text " in a courtroom who speaks for those who can't" on the left and a monitor with text "infant mental health from the bench" on the right



1. To increase knowledge about infant mental health, including:
  • What is infant mental health
  • Factors that influence positive infant mental health
  • Factors that derail healthy development of mental health in the early years
  • Experiences that cause trauma for infants
  • The impact of poor infant mental health – short term and long term
  • How the presence or the absence of the attachment relationship can irreparably derail a child’s development
2. To understand the effect of neglect and/or maltreatment on child development – short term and long term, such as:
  • The application of the science on brain development, epigenetics, toxic stress, and attachment as it may apply to cases in which young children have experienced high conflict, exposure to violence, neglect, or abuse
  • What situations may increase or decrease a child’s stress 
3. To identify judicial options specific to infants and toddlers who may be are at risk for poor mental health as a direct result of their early caregiving experiences that may have included neglect, maltreatment, or physical/sexual abuse.


  • Cheryl Jackson – Host/ Journalist
  • Dr. Judy Cameron, Ph.D, Professor, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Clinical and Translational Science, Director of Science Outreach, University of Pittsburgh
  • Jean M. Clinton, BMus, MD, FRCP(C), Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University
  • Justice Andrea Moen, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
  • Justice June Maresca, Judge of the Ontario Court of Justice
  • Mary Rella, B.A., Dip.C.S., Director of Education, Training and Data, Mothercraft
  • Brenda Packard, BSW, Supervisor, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (retired)
  • Donna J. Gray, LL.B., Senior Legal Counsel/ Manager, Legal Services, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
  • Dr. Jean Victor Wittenberg, MD, FRCP(C), Department of Psychiatry, The Hospital for Sick Children, Associate Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Toronto
  • Lisa Hayes, LL.B., Senior Community-based Family Lawyer


Click the links below to watch

                                                                                     Module 1 – Understanding Infant Mental Health
                                                                                     Module 2 Part A – Understanding Infant Trauma
                                                                                     Module 2 Part B - Developmental and Psychosocial Consequences
                                                                                     Module 3 Part A – Options for Supporting Infant Mental Health
                                                                                     Module 3 Part B – Interventions
                                                                                     Module 3 Part C – Implications for Judicial Practice

 Updated May 04,  2021