Infants and Toddlers Need Strong Parents

Parents play the most active and significant role in their baby’s healthy development. Young children learn and grow in strong families where parents are able to successfully face the challenge of nurturing their children. During the first three years of life, experiences are shaping a child’s brain and providing the foundation for later development. Parenting support services, which range from informational resources to more intensive interventions, can help improve parenting skills, strengthen parent-child relationships, promote children’s health and development, and reduce the likelihood of problems later. Negative experiences, such as maltreatment (abuse or neglect), can interfere with healthy development. Good child welfare policies can ensure that infants and toddlers have stable, nurturing relationships both by providing preventive services to help avoid maltreatment and by offering proper intervention and supports should maltreatment occur.

As part of the Building Strong Foundations: Advancing Comprehensive Policies for Infants, Toddlers, and Families project, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and ZERO TO THREE identified 13 policies core to advancing infant-toddler wellbeing in four essential areas: healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy parents; economically stable families; strong parents; and high-quality child care and early education opportunities. These policies have a strong evidence base and, when implemented effectively and funded adequately, have the potential for long-term benefits to children and families. Today, ZERO TO THREE and CLASP are releasing two policy rationales making the case for strong parents:

Parent Support Services and Resources

Parents of infants and toddlers should have access to a full continuum of evidence-based parent support services that are appropriate to their needs. This includes a range of services, such as: information resources, evidence-based home visiting, parent education and peer support programs, and guidance in navigating other community services. Despite a patchwork of public funding, such as Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) and Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP), existing parenting services are not widely available to those who need them. Read more>> 

Child Welfare System

Infants and toddlers in the child welfare system should have access to developmentally appropriate supports responsive to the needs of the child and family. Children under age 3 make up an alarming proportion of children entering the child welfare system. Yet few states currently differentiate their policies and procedures or equip child welfare staff with the necessary skills to meet the unique needs of infants and toddlers or address their parents’ problems. A concerted focus at the federal, state, and local levels on the particular needs of infants and toddlers and their families is required to nurture positive development and promote resiliency so these very young children can avoid the long-term consequences of adverse early experiences. Read more>>

More information on Building Strong Foundations and its 13 core policies can be found on the project website. Stay tuned for more papers in the series.

Next week: Economically Stable Families