The first five years of a child’s life shapes his or her future forever. What a child eats and drinks, where they live, how they play, and so many more factors are critical to his or her health and development.
The predominant western approach to health care is that our bodies, teeth, eyes, and minds are all cared for in entirely different systems and settings. This model impacts the way child health is approached and often keeps health partners disconnected from the diverse types of care that can be beneficial for young children.
At Wicomico’s Early Childhood Council, we believe that working collaboratively with schools, early learning programs, health care, and mental health care organizations on issues ranging from developmental screening and referral to obesity prevention and safe sleep.
In the mid 2000’s, research indicated preschool children were being expelled from early childhood education (ECE) programs for behavior issues at a rate three times higher than school age children. Early learning professionals were reporting that challenging behaviors were their most significant barrier to teaching.
Wicomico’s Early Childhood Council recognized that access to mental health services for young children was limited and that very few social-emotional development resources and training’s existed for the early care and education field. The Council formed a mental health action alliance to develop a strategic plan based on community input, research, and best practices that would inform our direction in this domain.
The goal areas included:
- 1) Increasing the knowledge about early childhood social-emotional development through education and training
- 2) Improving access and availability of early childhood social-emotional and mental health services
- 3) Developing the quality of center and home-based care around these issues
- 4) Expanding the infrastructure to support an early childhood mental health system