Building Capacity for Trauma-Informed Infant & Toddler Care: A Professional Development Framework

Early childhood is a period of rapid brain development that forms the foundation for cognitive, social, and emotional functioning across the lifespan. This development is strongly reliant on experiences and input from the caregiver and environment. Unfortunately, early childhood is also a time with high risks for traumatic experiences and toxic stress, with more than a quarter of children experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event before the age of four. Longitudinal studies demonstrate that these adverse experiences have long-term effects on a wide range of negative life outcomes. Early care providers hold the key to promoting resilience and positive social-emotional development in the face of adversity. Professional development and coaching can support care providers in early childcare settings to provide the responsive, developmentally-targeted, and trauma-informed relationships that are important for all children, but absolutely critical for children with early experiences of trauma.

This three-year project seeks to build a trauma-informed professional development framework for infant/toddler teachers and caregivers as well as for the specialists and mentors who support them. Year 1 will be a planning year where specialists in infant/toddler care, teacher support, trauma-informed practices, and early childhood mental health collaborate to develop the curriculum content, delivery model, and evaluation components for trauma-informed professional development for infant/toddler caregivers. In Year 2 we will pilot the model within Infant/Toddler classrooms in select regions, modifying based on their feedback. Based on results of this pilot, we anticipate Year 3 expansion of training and coaching across a wider array of Infant/Toddler mentors and classrooms. Goals of this project include improved caregiver knowledge about trauma, classroom structure and climate, caregiver/child relationships, and infant/toddler self-regulation. We also hope to see longer-term gains in behavior and learning.