Funding Will Improve Early Childhood Mental Health in the Northland

Clay County, Missouri — The first five years of life mark the most important period in human development. During this period, children develop fundamental, lifelong skills such as social-emotional abilities which will help them to control their emotions and manage relationships.

With support from the Clay County Community Children’s Service Fund, The Family Conservancy (TFC) will continue to partner with all six school districts and three child care centers in the county to provide social emotional training to early educators and parents and offer on-site play therapy.

This funding represented the third round of community-based grants from a Clay County sales tax that was established in 2017. The full early childhood mental health award to TFC of $1,024,868 is an increase of $163,718 from the 2020 funding level. The increase will allow TFC to partner with the Parents as Teachers programs at each Clay County school district to offer family consultation focused on children’s social-emotional skill development and fostering parent/child connection, as well as providing referrals to further community services as necessary

According to TFC President and CEO Paula Neth, “An often overlooked aspect of early care and education is the task of helping children build resilience and overcome psychological trauma. As a result, in Missouri, one out of every 10 preschool-aged children has been expelled from a child care program. This renewed and expanded funding will equip parents and educators with the skills they need to promote healthy social-emotional development and mitigate the impact of psychological trauma.”

TFC’s early childhood mental health project will serve Clay County’s youngest and most vulnerable children. Through this project, early educators will receive training and support to build their capacity to manage challenging classroom behaviors; early childhood mental health specialists will work in classrooms with teachers and children to build a foundation of social-emotional skills; parents will strengthen relationships with their children through parenting classes, facilitated family play groups, and other family education events; and families who have experienced psychological trauma will have access to mental health counseling.

To take advantage of the amazing opportunities that exist early in life, young children need high-quality early childhood education and healthy, resilient families. Through this new project, nearly 4,500 Clay County children will build resilience and develop skills that will prepare them for success in school and life.