Almost 35 million children in the U.S. have experienced trauma, and young children are at especially high risk. A new report from Child Trends and the National Center for Children in Poverty includes a review of the prevalence of early childhood trauma and its effects. Because early trauma can be hard to identify and address, the adults who care for young kids must be supported in learning to recognize trauma reactions and respond appropriately.
Helping Young Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: Policies and Strategies for Early Care and Education offers these promising strategies for child care and preschool programs looking to help young children who have endured trauma:
- Integrating trauma-informed care (TIC) into existing Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs to support children in those programs who have experienced trauma,
- Building partnerships and connections between ECE and community service providers to facilitate screenings of and service provision to children and families,
- Implementing professional standards and training for infant and early childhood mental health consultants that emphasize TIC, and
- Supporting the professional development and training of the ECE workforce in working with and supporting young children who have experienced trauma.
The report also offers three recommendations for policymakers to support trauma-informed early care:
- Strengthen the early care and education workforce by increasing early care and education professionals’ capacity to provide trauma-informed care.
- Expand initiatives that help early care and education programs connect families with community services.
- Provide children who have experienced trauma with high-quality, stable early care and education and strong early learning supports.
Early childhood trauma occurs when a young child experiences an event that causes actual harm or poses a serious threat to the child’s emotional and physical well-being. It has been shown to negatively impact early brain development, cognitive development, learning, social-emotional development, the ability to develop secure attachments to others, and physical health. Despite trauma being widespread and its impact, few early care and education ECE programs and state systems are prepared to offer care that is trauma-informed.