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States and Early Childhood Systems Can Improve Trauma-Informed Approaches to Address Mental-Health Challenges for Young Children in Immigrant Families
Press Release
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

States and Early Childhood Systems Can Improve Trauma-Informed Approaches to Address Mental-Health Challenges for Young Children in Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON – There is growing recognition that infants and toddlers can be profoundly affected by traumatic experiences, with research firmly disproving that they are too young to feel these effects. As a result, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) field and policymakers are becoming more cognizant of the need for early childhood programs to take a trauma-informed approach in providing services to young children.

Yet discussions of how to build a trauma-informed approach into the early childhood system often fail to take into account the unique experiences of children of refugees and other immigrants, a new issue brief from the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy finds.

In Mitigating the Effects of Trauma among Young Children of Immigrants and Refugees: The Role of Early Childhood Programs, authors Maki Park and Caitlin Katsiaficas explore the opportunities that exist for states and the early childhood, health care and refugee resettlement systems to build cross-system capacity to better support the healthy socio-emotional development of children under age 5.

A robust body of research demonstrates that young children are highly vulnerable to both the short- and long-term effects of trauma, due in part to the rapid brain growth occurring during these formative years.

Even as children of immigrants, refugees in particular, are more likely to have experienced or witnessed trauma, they are enrolled in pre-school at lower rates than their peers and there is a general lack of capacity in ECEC programs to identify and respond to early signs of trauma.

States and programs that serve young children have opportunities to increase trauma-informed services including by:

  • Promoting the systematic use of mental health screening tools that are appropriate both for young children and for use across cultures
  • Ensuring that home-visiting programs—an increasingly popular two-generation service model and one of the few services to reach children in their first years—are equipped to serve diverse populations and to identify and address the impacts of trauma
  • Boosting collaboration between ECEC providers, health services and organizations that work with immigrants to ensure that young children and their families are referred to needed services in a timely fashion.

“Because trauma can have significant negative consequences across generations, addressing gaps in the services available to young children of immigrants and refugees and their families promises to have long-standing, society-wide effects,” the authors write.

Read the issue brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/mitigating-effects-trauma-young-children-immigrants-refugees.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.