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Increase Positive Experiences in Early Years

The initial years of life are more than a developmental stage; they are a critical window of opportunity where the cornerstones of a person's future are laid. During this time, young ones are forming the neural pathways and social-emotional skills that will shape their future trajectories. A robust and growing body of research confirms that positive and protective experiences in these formative years, characterized by safe, stable, nurturing environments and supportive relationships, are essential for fostering healthy development and building the capacity to navigate life's challenges, laying the foundation for lifelong health, well-being, and resilience.


Based on a nuanced understanding of how the interplay between a young child's immediate surroundings and the broader societal context shapes their development, it is clear that it is important that change initiatives go beyond merely mitigating and preventing harm by intentionally and actively promoting positive early experiences known to contribute to the flourishing of young minds as well as more positive experiences and outcomes along the life course. 


At the micro level, the focus is on nurturing the immediate relationships surrounding the child—those with parents, caregivers, and educators. These relationships are pivotal in shaping children's perceptions and responses to the world, forming a secure base from which they can explore and grow. This requires a multi-generational approach as caregivers must themselves feel well and also develop insight, self-awareness, capacity, and self-regulation strategies in order to show up for little ones in a way that is trauma-informed.

At the mezzo level, resources and institutions such as accessible, trauma-informed childcare, and education settings play a significant role in providing consistent and compassionate support, reinforcing what is experienced and established in the home. By streamlining processes and fostering an inclusive environment, these settings can become sanctuaries of learning, connectedness, and resiliency.


At the macro level, advancements that reflect a collective commitment to fostering resilience and enable the creation of supportive frameworks necessary for the adoption of trauma-informed curricula and training are needed to ensure that every adult interacting with children—from healthcare providers to parents to pediatricians to educators to neighbors—understands and applies the principles of a trauma-informed approach. 


A society where the well-being of babies and children is prioritized and actively nurtured will lead to a brighter, more resilient future for everyone. Through engaging a conscious and intentional collective commitment to trauma-informed transformation, we can rewrite the narrative for countless people, shaping their early experiences into a springboard for intergenerational health, well-being, and resilience.


​ This dimension of the vision calls for us to:

  • Create a national or statewide task force on early childhood trauma-informed care to make recommendations for standards, as well as to oversee and provide technical assistance on the development and implementation of trauma-informed and trauma-responsive practices

  • Establish a national mandate for integrating a trauma-informed approach into organizations and systems of care that interface with babies, young children, and their families

    • Require all childcare professionals to have foundational and ongoing training in trauma, developmental adversity, NEAR concepts, trauma-informed approaches, and related topics

    • Integrate content on building practical skills such as co-regulation strategies, social-emotional learning practices, positive coping, and other concrete tools providers can use in their roles

    • Increase funding for trauma-informed early childhood initiatives to support leadership implementing organizational culture change as well as a healthy workforce to implement their learnings in their roles

    • Develop accountability standards to ensure that the foster system, early childhood education settings, and all other child- and family-strengthening organizations and systems of care are acting in alignment with the principles of a trauma-informed approach

  • Require that state education standards in early childhood-related programs include competencies and engagement with curricula in trauma-informed practices, with the adoption of such being a condition for state or federal funding

  • Establish tax breaks and other incentives for businesses that provide childcare benefits to their employees

  • Expand access to guaranteed paid leave for all parents and caregivers, allowing them time to bond with their newborn and adjust to parenthood 

  • Create and fund programming specifically to support mental health among children up to age 5

  • Expand access to high-quality, affordable/free, trauma-informed childcare as well as early education settings for children under 5

    • Offer scholarships or sliding scale pricing to low-income families

    • Ensure services are culturally-responsive and developmentally-appropriate

    • Provide trauma-informed training, support, funding, and equitable pathways to accreditation for home-based childcare centers 

    • Ensure that all families have access to information and services in their preferred language

  • Strengthen partnerships to ensure all infants and children with special needs have access to comprehensive, coordinated healthcare services, including primary care, specialty care, and behavioral health services

    • Increase funding for programs that provide medical equipment, supplies, and other resources to such children and families

    • Expand access to respite care and other supports for families and caregivers of children with special needs

  • Reduce barriers to participation in essential services and programming that support healthy development among babies and young children

    • Allocate funding to provide transportation vouchers or subsidies to offset the cost getting to and from appointments

    • Require state- or federally-funded facilities to provide options for evening and weekend appointments to accommodate working families

    • Utilize telehealth and online platforms to provide remote access to services and support where feasible

    • Reduce administrative burdens for families by improving care coordination and simplifying billing and insurance processes

    • Provide education and training programs for families and caregivers on advocating for their children

    • Provide financial assistance to families with low incomes to help offset the costs of childcare and other expenses related to caring for a new baby

  • Expand and enhance ready-for-school initiatives 

  • Create standards for and fund the creation of a national universal preschool program 

  • Implement universal home visiting programs to provide families with support and guidance on child development, positive parenting practices, and trauma-informed approaches

  • Provide free or low-cost prenatal care to all pregnant people, regardless of income or insurance status to support infants in experiencing a healthy start

    • Expand access to prenatal and postnatal care in underserved communities through telehealth, mobile units, and community-based clinics

  • Create and allocate funding for pilot programs to improve outcomes for infants, children, and younger people who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing trauma, and their families

  • Provide funding to support existing community organizations and businesses such as libraries, community centers, and other settings to offer free or discounted services to meet the needs of the community 

  • Integrate social-emotional curriculum into childcare and educational settings for young children

  • Create opportunities for family engagement and education

    • Offer interventions and support programs that help parents build positive relationships with their children and manage stress effectively

    • Provide avenues for parents and caregivers to participate in their child's education and build strong relationships with teachers, aides, and other staff

    • Key topics to cover include child development, ACEs and PACEs, the importance of healthy attachment in early years, coping with caregiver stressors that make babies more vulnerable to adversity (e.g., crying, post-partum depression, parental substance use, economic pressures, social isolation, etc.)

    • Promote parent/caregiver peer groups and other community-based initiatives that connect families with resources and build social support networks

    • Waive fees for filing for a marriage license when people opt into taking a formal training course with either state-wide or federal standardized curriculum on ACEs (including the impacts of divorce and separation, abused, and neglect, as well as broader ACEs-related experiences, attachment science, and positive parenting practices

    • Integrate cultural considerations into family engagement and education initiatives given the influence such factors have on parent behaviors and perspectives regarding important topics such as discipline, supporting infant self-regulation, affection and attachment, what constitute “normal” infant behaviors, and so forth

  • Create partnerships to help communities identify, gather, and synthesize relevant data and use data to generate trauma-informed solutions

  • Expand the adoption of restorative justice practices and other alternatives to punitive discipline

  • Create federal programming to monitor and enforce health insurance parity requirements for coverage of infant and early childhood mental health services

  • Streamline trauma-informed application, intake, and referral processes for early childhood care, education, and development programs

    • Make these processes accessible in multiple languages and formats

  • Implement trauma-informed disciplinary practices

    • Utilize restorative justice approaches and focus on positive behavior reinforcement

  • Fund continued research on indicators of aspects of a young child’s environment that can support a sense of safety, stability, and bonding

  • Promote training and trauma-informed administration of trauma and adversity screening procedures and tools to improve prevention and inform early intervention to children and their families as needed

    • Increase referral processes to support adults in caregiving roles to address their own traumatic past

  • Fund the creation and maintenance of safe, welcoming, stimulating, and enriching indoor and outdoor environments for babies and young children

Engage in public awareness and education campaigns about trauma and the importance of positive experiences in early years to garner support for building environments, relationships, parenting, and community experiences that promote thriving among young children

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