A Call to Action

A Call to action On Behalf of Maltreated Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers in Canada - Cover imageWhen young children experience adversity, it increases the risk of poor outcomes for them throughout their life. When infants, toddlers and preschoolers become involved with child protection, many of them have already experienced adversity and many, if not all, have been traumatized by it. Today, science is helping us understand just how that adversity is embedded into the body and how it ultimately influences brain development, health, education success, and relationships. The science is also showing us that for this very vulnerable group of children, a response that is exponentially greater in all respects is essential if we are committed to helping them achieve better outcomes. The time for a change in how we respond to this group of young children is now. The science has never been stronger.

Infants, toddlers and preschoolers served by child welfare need intervention that is relationship-based, child-focused and trauma-informed. They need a response that goes beyond wait lists. All of those involved in the system need to understand that simply removing a child is not enough. Today we know that infancy is a developmental period when children are most vulnerable and when they present with the greatest potential. Those supporting these children such as birth parents, foster parents, kin, child and family service workers, and others need tools and resources that make it possible to positively influence that child’s outcomes.

In this document, you will find rich evidence-based information about the unique vulnerability of maltreated infants, toddlers and preschoolers. You will also find policy recommendations which are informed by strong scientific evidence. We at IEMHP hope that you will be inspired by what you read and embrace the powerful role that you can play in the lives of these especially vulnerable young children. With the demanding tasks and pressures related to your work, it is easy to forget how potent your influence can be. You may be the very buffer these children need against some of the negative forces in their world. You may be the only person who sees the adversity and works to address the impact it has on their development and mental health.

Every child that you work with is an opportunity to change precious lives today and bring hope for a better future. We hope this Call to Action will be a valuable new tool for you as you work to inform policy and practice on behalf of young children.

Why consider early mental health? Babies have no voice. They need those around them to understand their needs and advocate for their wellbeing. Positive early mental healthy increases the likelihood of positive physical and mental health outcomes and overall success. Young children are the most vulnerable population with the fewest available mental health supports. Without consistent support they could be at a high risk for a lifetime of poor outcomes physically, emotionally and cognitively.
Infant and early childhood mental health , sometimes referred to as social and emotional development, is the developing capacity of the child from birth to five years to: form close and secure adult and peers relationships; experience, manage and express a full range of emotions; and explore the environment and learn - all in a context of family, community and culture.
Your Role as Practitioners

We all have a role to play in supporting the mental health and long term wellness of our next generations. We at IEMHP hope that you embrace the powerful role you play in the lives of young children. You may be the only person who sees the adversity of vulnerable children and works to address the impact it has on development and mental health.