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Early childhood mental health system of care

Find out about the Minnesota System of Care project, a new way of helping children and youth with complex mental health needs and their families.

Early Childhood Mental Health Grants (PDF)

Advances in many areas of research, such as brain development, are showing that young children, including infants, can experience significant mental health problems. These studies confirm that the developmental journey towards positive mental health begins early, founded upon the first years of life. Studies have also found that children whose families experience stressors, such as parents with serious mental illness, families experiencing violence, families with histories of abuse and neglect, have the best outcomes when interventions focus on the entire family and not just the child.

  • “Research has found that core brain development, 85 percent of which occurs in the first three years of life, shows differences in brain structure and function based on the child’s experiences in relationships with others and with their social context.” (From Neurons to Neighborhoods)
  • Studies show that infants four months or younger can experience depression.
  • Young children in prekindergarten programs are expelled at more than three times the rates of students in grades K-12, while preschoolers in child care centers are expelled at over 13 times the rate.
  • “Stressful or traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with alcohol or other substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home … are a common pathway to social, emotional, and cognitive impairments that lead to increased risk of unhealthy behaviors, risk of violence or re-victimization, disease, disability and premature mortality.” (The Health and Social Impact of Growing Up with Adverse Childhood Experiences)
  • Minnesota estimates that 17,565 children ages 0 – 5 have serious mental health needs.
DHS has worked with many agencies and communities to create an early childhood mental health system of care to meet the needs of the state’s children. This requires integrating services to include the many systems that serve young children and their families.

Minnesota’s early childhood mental health system is creating a continuum of care and building infrastructure to get all children off to a great start.
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