Research shows us that the first five years of life are critical for brain development. Unfortunately, half of all children in the United States, approximately 35 million, have experienced one more types of trauma, and young children are especially at risk. A new report from Child Trends and the National Center for Children in Poverty outlines promising strategies for child care and preschool programs to help young children who have experienced trauma.

To help address the needs of children who have experienced trauma at a young age, early childhood programs and systems can provide trauma-informed care, or TIC. TIC uses an evidence-based approach and helps:

  • Integrating trauma-informed strategies into existing ECE programs
  • Builds partnership and connections between ECE and community service providers
  • Implements professional standards and training for infant and early childhood mental health consultants
  • Supports professional development and training of ECE workforce

The report also makes policy recommendations for supporting early childhood educators in addressing trauma. These recommendations include:

  • Increase early childhood professional’s capacity to recognize and respond to trauma
  • Help childcare and preschool programs connect families with community services
  • Provide children with high-quality, stable child care and strong early learning supports

While trauma has negative and widespread effects to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, few early educators are prepared to recognize and respond to the impact of trauma. Early childhood professionals can help implement trauma-informed care. Specifically they can:

  • train all adults to recognize and respond to the impact of trauma on young children
  • incorporate strategies for addressing trauma and its effects into organizational culture, practices, and policies
  • build partnerships that facilitate screening and services for children and their families; and
  • Promote collaborations among families, staff, and mental health professionals to support children’s development.

Implementing these policies and strategies are a step in the right direction to help ECE programs and systems help the children who need it most.

Read the full report here.