Why This Matters

Research has clearly demonstrated the connection between young children’s healthy emotional development and their lifelong cognitive and social functioning.

What Are The Facts?

According to WCA’s 2005 study, No Time to Lose: Rethinking Mental Health Services for Westchester’s Children, increasing numbers of young children in Westchester were showing signs of behavioral and emotional problems. At the same time, mental health clinics serving young children had waiting lists for treatment. Many children were being asked to leave early childhood programs, such as day care centers, because staff was not equipped to handle their difficulties.

What Did WCA Do?

In 2006, WCA successfully advocated for the creation of Early Step Forward, a non-traditional behavioral health program in which mental health specialists work directly with low-income children, families and staff in day care and Head Start programs. They teach everyone at the centers how to recognize, understand and express difficult feelings; improve social and emotional skills; and offer intervention and referrals for children and families with greater difficulties. Since the program was implemented, it has served more than 1,000 children each year in more than a dozen early childhood centers.

In that same year, WCA published and distributed Pay Attention! / Preste Atención!, a bilingual booklet that shows parents how to nurture early emotional development and recognize warnings of possible problems. Thousands of copies of this booklet have been distributed to parents through early childhood programs, health centers, mental health agencies and community organizations.