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A Child's Journey to Mental Health

This article was written by Morgan Forrester Ray and published on

Early life experiences play a critical role in setting up children for a lifetime of good mental health.

As we address the children’s mental health crisis, it’s important to look to our youngest children. For them, supporting mental health throughout life means supporting their familiesearly in life. North Carolina’s parents and caregivers need partners to help them navigate the foundational early years, to build resilience and strong mental health that can last children a lifetime.

An interconnected web of services and programs is supposed to fill that need – but for many, that web is tangled and hard to find, understand, and pay for. The EarlyWell Initiative is focused on removing those barriers, so that families have what they need to thrive and raise resilient kids.

New Report Traces the Journey of a Young Child

With the support of The Duke Endowment and Alliance for Early Success, EarlyWell has released a new report on how North Carolina’s policies and services can better support families to build their children’s mental health during their early years. The recommendations grow out of a robust and family-centered stakeholder process. They will lead to future policy recommendations and advocacy.

Read about EarlyWell’s recommendations for supporting kids and families on each stage of the journey in the new report, From Equity to Issue Campaigns: The Next Stop on the Road Map to Childhood Mental Health in North Carolina.

Stages in the Journey

The recommendations are rooted in the journey that kids and families take together, starting before birth. They cover changes needed both to policies and programs, and are grouped together around these important stages in a young child’s journey:

  • Preconception, pregnancy & birth

  • The first three years

  • Child care transition

  • When kids need intervention & treatment

  • Beyond age three

  • Family economic security

The recommendations in this report come directly from the wisdom of two main groups: (1) the families of young children who are now or have been part of the programs and services described here; and (2) dozens of professional stakeholders who work in these systems, from child care providers and pediatricians to state officials. I am so grateful to all of these stakeholders for their time and hard work to envision a better way to serve and support families of young children.  

Looking forward

The EarlyWell Initiative’s next step is to turn these recommendations into a plan of action for changing policy and practice in North Carolina. Parents, practitioners, and EarlyWell stakeholders will be moving from recommendation to solutions and action. Contact me if you’re interested in joining this journey. North Carolina’s youngest kids and their families deserve our best efforts.

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