The idea for this on-line, interactive Early Childhood Social-Emotional/Mental Health Navigation Guide grew out of a meeting in 2010 where stakeholders brainstormed about ways to better serve communities in developing and improving early childhood social-emotional development and mental health systems. The Guide was developed by JFK Partners at the University of Colorado and the Partnership for Families and Children.
The need for such a Guide was motivated by the rapid growth in resources and opportunities related to children’s social-emotional development and mental health in Colorado. Although our state has successfully developed a number of initiatives/programs/services that address the needs of children, parents, and providers with regard to children’s social-emotional development and mental health, two unresolved issues remain.
First, there are disparities in access to these resources and opportunities related to state geography, demographics, and funding/payer issues. Second, while there have been recent advances in the use of evaluation, evidence and expert opinion (used particularly when there is an underdeveloped evidence-base) to assess social-emotional and mental health approaches and programs for young children, application of this information to the local policy and practice context at the point of direct service has been limited.
Along with an increase in opportunities comes an increase in the need for informed decision making so that arbitrary choices do not have to be made about what programs, services and trainings to use and about what approaches and initiatives can best meet a community’s specific needs. This Guide is intended to help communities and systems navigate through the decision making process related to social-emotional and mental health resources, curricula, approaches and professional development and to demonstrate a clearer relation between inputs (initiatives/programs/services) and outputs (child, family and community benefits).