A Child’s Journey to Mental Health

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Recommendations to give young kids and their families the support they need to thrive. 

Early life experiences play a critical role in setting children up for a lifetime of good mental health.  

As we address the children’s mental health crisis, it’s important to look to our youngest children. For them, supporting mental health throughout life means supporting their families early in life. North Carolina’s parents and caregivers need partners to help them navigate the foundational early years, to build resilience and strong mental health that can last children a lifetime.  

An interconnected web of services and programs is supposed to fill that need – but for many that web is tangled, and hard to find, understand, and pay for. The EarlyWell Initiative is focused on removing those barriers, so that families have what they need to thrive and raise resilient kids.

New Report Traces the Journey of a Young Child 

With the support of The Duke Endowment and Alliance for Early Success, EarlyWell has released a new report on how North Carolina’s policies and services can better support families to build their children’s mental health during their early years. The recommendations grow out of a robust, family-centered stakeholder process. They will lead to future policy recommendations and advocacy.  

Read about EarlyWell’s recommendations for supporting kids and families on each stage of the journey in the new report, From Equity to Issue Campaigns: The Next Stop on the Road Map to Childhood Mental Health in North Carolina.  

Download the report. 

Stages in the Journey 

The recommendations are rooted in the journey that kids and families take together, starting before birth. They cover changes needed both to policies and programs, and are grouped together around these important stages in a young child’s journey: 

  • Preconception, pregnancy & birth 
  • The first three years 
  • Child care transition 
  • When kids need intervention & treatment 
  • Beyond age three 
  • Family economic security 

The recommendations in this report come directly from the wisdom of two main groups: (1) the families of young children who are now or have been part of the programs and services described here; and (2) dozens of professional stakeholders who work in these systems, from child care providers and pediatricians to state officials. EarlyWell is grateful to all of these stakeholders for their time and hard work to envision a better way to serve and support families of young children.   

Looking forward 

The EarlyWell Initiative’s next step is to turn these recommendations into a plan of action for changing policy and practice in North Carolina. Parents, practitioners, and EarlyWell stakeholders will be moving from recommendation to solutions and action. Contact Morgan Forrester Ray if you’re interested in joining this journey. North Carolina’s youngest kids and their families deserve our best efforts. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is a close partner of EarlyWell, which builds on the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative and its prioritized actions to help ensure North Carolina’s social-emotional health system is accessible and high-quality. Learn more about EarlyWell and other NC initiatives working to impact young children’s mental health on the Pathways Action Map

A version of this has been republished with permission from NC Child’s blog