The stress and anxiety induced by the pandemic is an even greater burden on children, who are unable to fully cope or process what happened.
Child Care Resource Center has been advocating for a proposal for California leaders to include in the State Budget that will allocate millions for a preventative intervention program to address the serious emotional distress children have experienced.
Child care providers have long been voicing concerns for the mental wellbeing of children in their care and have advocated for training and assistance in addressing challenging behaviors. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) assessment identifies traumas in a child’s life and, even before the pandemic, research shows 57 percent of California children had at least one ACE. Now that many of these same children have experienced the deaths of loved ones and have lost all routine and sense of normalcy due to COVID-19, those traumas have only intensified.
CCRC is partnering with the First 5 Association of California, First 5 California, The Children’s Partnership and Kidango in asking state leaders to take a proactive approach to family wellbeing by implementing an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) model program. ECMHC would connect mental health professionals with those who work with children and families to improve their social, emotional and behavioral health and development. Under the proposal, a combined $112 million investment over three years would include:
- Child care professional development funding to expand access to Early Childhood Mental Health Consultations,
- Funding to help local communities contract with consultants, leverage existing funding and match them to provider need,
- Incentive funding for counties to increase access to mental health services for children, including strategies to increase the number of professionals serving children age 0 to 5 in child care and other non-clinical settings,
- Provide technical assistance to child-serving programs on early childhood mental health services and supports,
- And leverage and expand existing Trauma-Informed Training and Coaching that’s currently offered to providers participating in the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program in order to maximize federal financial participation.
ECMHC includes skilled observations, individualized strategies, and early identification of at-risk children and their mental health challenges. Mental health consultants will work to promote resilience in young children by investing in the adults who care for them while focusing on culture, race and equity. The ECMHC model has been found to be effective in reducing suspensions and expulsions from early care and learning settings, which disproportionately affect children of color. These programs mitigate stress and reduce poor outcomes for children by empowering ECE providers to identify and address mental health issues and behavior concerns early on.
For this model to be successful, it must be layered with other existing early childhood initiatives: expanding Trauma-Informed Training and Coaching should be expanded, launching a pilot program to increase Home Visiting services through Medi-Cal to support the early care and bonding of infants, and adding family-based intervention as a covered benefit through Medi-Cal are all critical to the success of ECMHC.
A recent poll of families found 70 percent of parents are worried about their family’s mental health. The added stress of the pandemic on families is a threat to the wellbeing of our communities and the funding of a program designed to address the mental health of families as a whole will ensure our communities thrive.