It’s been nearly a year since Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled ThriveNYC, the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city or nation. Last week, the administration took an important step in ensuring that the program benefits our youngest citizens. First Lady Chirlane McCray announced a new ThriveNYC initiative called the Early Childhood Mental Health Network, which will provide mental health services and support for families who have young children (ages 0-5) with mental health needs. The Network was developed to work alongside new social-emotional learning support that will be offered at Administration for Children’s Services’ EarlyLearn sites and Department of Education Pre-K for All sites across the city.
As an organization with deep roots in both mental health and early childhood education services, The Child Center of NY was a natural fit for this initiative, and we are pleased to serve as the Queens borough-wide provider of the Network.
“We are so grateful to Mayor de Basio and First Lady McCray for making mental health a priority through ThriveNYC,” says Chuck Caputo, The Child Center’s associate executive director for behavioral health services. “We look forward to working with Head Start/EarlyLearn and Pre-K programs to identify—and treat—families in need of mental health services.”
Starting this fall, ACS and pre-K sites will begin implementing new social-emotional learning practices, which help teachers, staff, and parents better support and nurture children’s social and emotional development. As staff members and parents learn to better recognize and respond to mental health needs and trauma, the Network will expand treatment options and add capacity for training and technical assistance.
Our youngest citizens are often left out of mental health initiatives, but reaching them is especially important because doing so can prevent long-term problems down the road. As First Lady McCray pointed out in her announcement, “By acting early to help our youngest New Yorkers understand and manage their emotions, we can better equip them to handle stress, prevent or lessen the severity of future mental health challenges, and set them up for success. It is easier to grow a healthy child than to mend a broken adult.”
“The foundation for sound mental health is built early in a child’s life,” adds Linda Rodriguez, The Child Center’s associate executive director for early childhood education and child abuse prevention. “Early childhood experiences—which include relationships with parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers, and peers—provide an essential foundation of stability that supports all other aspects of a child’s development.”
The Child Center of NY has long recognized that just as we need to ensure children begin school ready to learn, we also need to ensure that they begin life ready to grow and thrive. When children walk through the doors of our early childhood education centers, we look at them holistically—at their physical, cognitive, social, and, most importantly, emotional health—and help them achieve their full potential in each of these interrelated areas. We also realize that children do not grow in isolation and offer support to parents and whole families.
Our Head Start programs have been recognized by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services and Department of Education for our exemplary approach in supporting the emotional wellness of children and by Bank Street College of Education, which selected one of our programs to be featured in an iBook series as a model of social-emotional development integration.
Head Start/EarlyLearn, Pre-K for All, and other early childhood education providers are encouraged to call Michele Neuhaus at 718-530-6892 to refer a child or find out more about the services we provide to young children through the ECMH Network.