NEW YORK, October 4, 2013- A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) at the New School for Public Engagement highlights the lasting impacts of trauma and stress on a child’s development and mental health.
The report, entitled “Baby Steps: Poverty, Chronic Stress, and New York’s Youngest Children,” reveals how poverty and constant stress can affect a young child’s well-being. Previous research shows that 20 to 60 percent of foster children under the age of 5 have significant developmental delays, while 25 to 40 percent display serious behavior problems. Yet there is strong evidence that responsive and nurturing caretakers can prevent or even reverse much of the damage caused by trauma and stress. This report proposes solutions and recommendations for bettering this supportive care and strengthening early childhood policy in New York City.
“Every experience a baby has - every word she hears, everything she sees, and every time someone picks her up - has an influential effect on her developing mind,” said Abigail Kramer, co-author of the report. “Over a decade of research shows that these early experiences determine much of our life-long well-being. Establishing accessible programs that focus on the parent-child relationship are key to buffering the toxic impacts of chronic stress.”
In New York City, research regarding developmental strategies for securing a child’s earliest years has only just begun to shape the fields of mental health and children’s services. Only a few programs and clinics engage in therapies thought to foster responsive parenting. New programs are emerging, however—and attracting attention.
Promoting young children’s mental well-being goes beyond therapy. It means connecting early on with new parents, especially those living in poverty, to help them lower their stress levels and, if necessary, learn skills of responsive, supportive parenting. “Baby Steps” recommends implementing innovative programs and targeted interventions for parents with infants or toddlers in places where they already visit—such as the pediatrician’s office, public schools and child care centers. The report provides recommendations to be taken up by city and state agencies, such as the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Administration for Children’s Services. These include:
• OMH and the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene should provide adequate funding for early childhood mental health treatment, and for professional training.
• The State Department of Health should provide comprehensive training in the social and emotional development of the young.
• The State OMH and the City’s Human Resources Administration and Department of Health should collaborate with parents and community organization to create an advertising campaign that promotes positive, supportive parenting of young children.
• The Administration for Children’s Services should require foster care agencies to ensure that babies and toddlers in foster care are screened for mental health impairments.
Read more here.
The Center for New York City Affairs is a leading applied policy research institute within the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School for Public Engagement. CNYCA's projects include the Schools Watch Initiative, Child Welfare Watch, Feet in Two Worlds, College Ready Communities, Public Policy Forums, Politics & Advocacy Training, and the respected independent public school-review site Insideschools.org.
Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The New School welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and calendar of lectures, screenings, readings, and concerts. Through its online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence. Learn more at www.newschool.edu.