Infant mental health gets boost through partnerships and early intervention

Published February 10, 2023

The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation is expanding its investment strategies that support babies from birth to 5 years old.

The Challenge:

Researchers cite several reasons for health professionals to address mental health of babies and toddlers. Those reasons range from the long-term impact of adverse childhood experiences during critical stages of brain development to a shortage of clinicians and a lack of training of professionals who can provide mental and social therapeutic services for such young children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 16% of children under 6 years have clinically significant mental health problems that require clinical care early in life.

READ MORE: CDC: A comprehensive approach to children’s mental health

Experts also draw a correlation between high expulsion rates among preschool children and the dropout rates and academic performance later in the child’s life. This problem disproportionately impacts children of color and low-income students.

The Solutions:

The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation is leading a multifaceted approach to improving the mental health among youth by starting at the infant level.

Three grants support multiple organizations throughout the state to address young children and babies under the age of five with a host of programs focused on awareness, professional development, and intervention strategies.

“Awareness and early identification will be key to getting ahead of the curve and preventing mental health issues before they become more serious in our youth,” said Bree Bess, program officer for the foundation. “Our infant mental health grantees are on the cutting edge of serving our state’s children to improve their mental and physical health for a lifetime.”

Here’s a quick glance at how the support will impact babies:

  • Build quality interactions between professionals and children – Training and professional development will be provided to dozens of professionals in the infant and family-serving workforce. South Carolina Infant Mental Health Association
  • Build strong relationships between young children and adults - Funding will help establish and build the capacity of a South Carolina Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) consultation network that will provide guidance and support to improve the quality of relationships between young children, teachers, and parents. This prvogram is also designed to elevate the importance of IECMH and mitigate adverse childhood experiences at an early age.
  • Promote trauma informed, individual care – This holistic strategy, led by South Carolina Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers shifts how families move through the child welfare system in a way that meets the needs of both the children and families. The goal is to mitigate the trauma children face and its impact on their development and health.

Read more: BCBSA – Innovative and compassionate ways to address mental health

These community partnerships are driving innovation and transforming the social-emotional health of children in South Carolina.

Potential long-term impact on infant mental health:

  • Improved data collection to assess the impact of training and improved quality of interactions and interventions
  • Increased number of professionals who are trained to address mental and social needs of children under the age of five
  • Increased public awareness of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH)
  • Increased scope and reach of parenting intervention services and a reduction in the number of repeat traumatic events experienced by children

Learn more about BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation’s efforts to improve mental health.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.