Connecticut Examines Ways to Foster Nurturing Relationships for Infants
A panel of early care and education providers met on Wednesday in New Haven to discuss infant mental health with Congresswoman Rosa Delauro, who sits on the Congressional Baby Caucus.
Infant mental health focuses on the ways parents and caregivers can nurture the social and emotional development of children from birth to age three, a key time of brain development.
Earlier this year, the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut released a report that examined how the state can strengthen the skills of providers who work with infants and toddlers.
The state's Office of Early Childhood funded the report. Its Commissioner Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor said Connecticut is working on several initiatives to train providers like day care workers, early education professionals, and social workers, among others.
Jones-Taylor explained why children need to experience nurturing relationships with adults from birth.
"When they enter kindergarten, we ask so much from them. So much of their success in being able to do complicated tasks is dependent on whether they have healthy attachments with their caregivers," Jones-Taylor said. "That's when the actual brain starts to form synapses. They can do the cognitive thinking -- all the stuff we want to happen later -- only if they have developed a strong sense of self, and a secure sense of where they are with their caregivers in their lives."
Jones-Taylor said staff from 40 providers in the state's Birth to Three program are already being trained in infant mental health. The hope is to expand the training to the OEC's home visiting program, which serves 6,600 families with children who have developmental delays. Her office is also looking to reach more early care and education leaders. She said the efforts are all part of Connecticut's approach to build a continuum of care from birth to early elementary.
"We have something that will launch this summer, our birth to three institute, where we have leaders who will be trained in all the important early childhood development," Jones-Taylor said. "So it's a collaboration between the community-level early care and education providers and public schools."
Connecticut is just one of four states that has a cabinet-level office devoted to early childhood.