Positive social-emotional development in early childhood is essential for lifelong health and well-being. When children have safe environments and secure relationships with parents or caregivers, their bodies and brains are fully able to develop complex skills like self-regulation, empathy, resilience, and curiosity that are the building blocks for learning and growth. For children who experience trauma or chronic adversity, though, those developmental processes are interrupted, increasing their risk for a range of negative outcomes from dropping out of school to developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses in adulthood. With a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Center for Child and Family Health (CCFH), a Durham-based nonprofit with expertise in trauma-informed approaches to early childhood development, brought together partners in early care and education, pediatrics, family support, mental health, and homeless services in a unified strategy called Responsive Early Access for Durham’s Young Children (READY).
The goal of the project is to build community capacity to screen, assess and provide evidence-based treatment services to children ages 0 to 8 with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. The grant funds multiple training opportunities for medical, mental health, and education professionals so that they can learn to: a) conduct validated screenings, b) implement evidence-based prevention programs and c) provide treatment services to children and families. Increased training programs are expected to expand the skillset of adults, both professional and lay, who work with children; increasing the likelihood that children who need services will be identified and served. Lastly, the grant funds outreach programs for the broader community to increase awareness of the social emotional and mental health needs of Durham’s youngest children. Over the five-year grant cycle, the Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP) at Duke will evaluate the impacts of the READY program at the community, agency, and individual child/family level.