“Most potential mental health problems will not become mental health problems if we respond to them early.”

The foundations laid in early childhood are critical for later emotional and mental wellness. Early childhood experiences can strengthen or disrupt a child’s emotional well-being. Therefore under our program, we also focus here on caregivers, a term that includes all adults who have regular contact with infants and toddlers—such as parents, grandparents, child care providers, etc.

We believe the emotional well-being of young children is directly tied to the functioning of their caregivers and the families in which they live. When these relationships are abusive, threatening, chronically neglectful, or otherwise psychologically harmful, they are a potent risk factor for the development of early mental health problems. 

In contrast, when relationships are reliably responsive and supportive, they can actually buffer young children from the adverse effects of other stressors. Therefore, reducing the stressors affecting children requires addressing the stresses on their families.

By improving children’s environments of relationships and experiences early in life, society can address many costly problems, including juvenile delinquency, incarceration, homelessness, and the failure to complete education.