Promote Early Childhood Social and Emotional Development
What Can Policymakers Do?
Develop initiatives to increase understanding of early social and emotional development. Developing initiatives to increase public understanding of the important developmental needs and milestones for children, as well as information on supporting those milestones, is a critical way to promote social, emotional and behavioral health. Information about early childhood mental health, early indicators of risk and mental health disorders and ways that parents can best support their child’s early social and emotional development can be shared through a variety of means. State agencies can launch outreach and educational efforts, state legislators can declare an “early childhood mental health month” or a “healthy child month” and support initiatives in their home districts to broaden awareness. State agencies and their partners can provide information to the public on healthy social, emotional and behavioral health as well as information on where families can go for help. Wisconsin’s Think Big, Start Small campaign is a statewide effort to promote early childhood issues, including infant mental health.
Integrate social and emotional development into existing programs and services. States can use current systems and funding to expand their capacity to support early childhood social, emotional and behavioral health. States could use Medicaid to promote healthy development through routine developmental screenings and care coordination, utilize Head Start to support parent education, provide training and professional development to early childhood programs and agencies and use federal funds to enhance their state’s capacity. Kansas expanded the Early Head Start programs in their state through the commitment of TANF funds. Kansas expanded Early Head Start further in 2010 with the investment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.