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Early Childhood


What is early childhood mental health?


Brains are built on a foundation of early experiences.

In the first few years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed every second. These neural connections, the brain’s architecture, are formed through the interaction of baby and his or her environment through early enriching experiences. While genes provide a blueprint for brain architecture, neural connections must be formed through repeated use. All children are born with the ability to reach their highest potential, but connections that form early either form a strong or weak foundation for the connections that form later. These critical interactions with adults lay the foundation for all later learning, behavior, and health.

Babies who engage with responsive, consistent, nurturing caregivers and who are living in safe and economically secure environments are more likely to have strong mental and emotional health. As children mature, early childhood mental health supports growth in other essential areas of healthy development including physical health, cognitive skills, language and literacy, social skills and readiness for school.  

  • Kids who exhibit strong social and emotional skills are 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma.

  • Kids who share or are helpful in kindergarten are 46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25.

When children experience trauma and their emotional health deteriorates, they are subject to poor outcomes in these areas because their ability to form close and secure relationships, manage a full range of emotions and explore their environment is compromised.

While state policy and investment have lagged behind in making early childhood mental health a priority, the public has embraced this understanding as evidenced by the following poll findings:

  • More than 9 in 10 voters say it is important for society to support the healthy emotional development of children ages 3 and younger.

  • Most voters (95%) feel that emotional milestones are just as important as physical milestones.

  • Most voters (97%) say it is important for parents to have resources to help them be aware of the emotional development of their children.

Early Childhood Mental Health


Advancing Early Childhood Mental Health through Evidence-Based Home Visiting


Webinar Recordings:

Webinar 1

What do developmental milestones tell us?

with Teresa Kobelt & Maggie Gons of OCALI

Webinar 2

A Policy Overview

with Cindy Oser

Webinar 3

Perspectives from the Field

with the Ohio Association for Infant Mental Health

Responses to Ohio Department of Medicaid:

Fact Sheets:

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