- 20 Aug 2020 by Allison Parish
An invitation from our former Board Member, Allison Parish, and the FL Association of Healthy Start Coalitions:
In celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, we are partnering with The Children’s Movement of Florida for this exciting opportunity. We invite you, your community, friends and families to join us in watching the Chocolate Milk documentary and participate in a Facebook Live session. You won’t want to miss it!
Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chocolate-milk-documentary-screening-and-conversation-tickets-116764083517?aff=erellivmlt to receive a link on Friday, August 28, to access the film. You can watch it on your own time prior to the event.
On Monday, August 31, at 12:30 ET, we'll meet at https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensMovementFL/ for a conversation that centers on Black motherhood and illuminates the bold and courageous ways Black women have reclaimed and resisted a complicated history around breastfeeding and nursing.
- 14 Aug 2020 by Christine Hughes Pontier
FAIMH Vice President Jackie Romillo and Communications & Training Coordinator Christine Hughes Pontier were joined by Allen Yergovich of Kiwanis Florida at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education Demonstration School, where Congresswoman Donna Shalala donated a box of ClearMasks and our FACES ARE ESSENTIAL Kit.
This donation event, attended by several South Florida media outlets, was an exciting opportunity for FAIMH and our partners to share the importance of young children seeing the full faces of their caregivers. It also helps us spread the word to the community that this success of this program will depend on you! Our ability to raise the funds needed to donate ClearMasks + FACES ARE ESSENTIAL Kits to every child care program in the state will require each and every member and friend of FAIMH to donate and support us further by sharing this initiative with their network, friends and family.
Right now, tens of thousands of Florida's children are in the care of early learning teachers whose faces are mostly covered all day long, and that represents a threat to those children's healthy brain development and their lifelong mental health. FAIMH feels the urgency with which we must get these fully transparent masks to children--do you? Please help us by sharing our social media posts and emails about FACES ARE ESSENTIAL, and donate generously. 100% of funds donated go directly to this initiative. Every $75 will get 1 box of ClearMasks + a FACES ARE ESSENTIAL Kit to a child care program.
Learn more at faimh.org/faces
Donate by visiting faimh.org/donate or by texting FACES to 202-858-1233
If you represent an early learning program, you can get your program on our Priority List for donation.
If you represent a business or organization who wants ClearMasks for your own use, contact us about our Buy One, Give One program.
- 05 Jun 2020 by Christine Hughes Pontier
June 5, 2020
The Florida Association of Infant Mental Health (FAIMH) is committed to promoting both reflection and action to deepen the conversation and to foster self-awareness so that each of us can acknowledge and address the structural racism, implicit bias, and injustices that impact the well-being of the families we serve. We are also keeping in mind our infant and early childhood professionals of color who carry out this work in holding a safe space for the families’ experiences, giving voice to their pain, while managing their own emotions.
As an organization, we stand in solidarity with communities across the nation who are speaking the unspeakable, committing ourselves to mitigate the chronic racism and trauma that has affected children of color, their families, and our infant and early childhood workforce.
Our Board of Directors and Chapter leaders throughout Florida stand in solidarity with our community partners across the state who see, experience, and respond to racism and injustice through the work they do across many sectors. We are committed to supporting you and learning from you as we collectively work to examine our implicit bias and bring awareness to the work we do with families of color.
We close with these words from our partners at Child-Parent Psychotherapy:
“As a community that is dedicated to addressing the impact of trauma, we ask you to reflect on what you will do as individuals, as members of systems, and as members of our larger US society to actively address the forces within us and around us that contributes to the existence of racism and its associated crimes.
No need to answer with what you are doing. Our hope is that we will all reflect and act in a deep and enduring way, so that we work to end this cycle of historical violence.”
We invite you to join us in the work—work that each of us has to do for ourselves, work that no one can do for us.
Florida Association for Infant Mental Health Board of Directors and Chapter Chairs
- 19 Sep 2019 by Christine Hughes Pontier
Funded by Allegany Franciscan Ministries
The FAIMH Board of Directors is excited to announce that an idea that has been long in the works has launched as a funded project of FAIMH! Board Vice President Jackie Romillo and Board Member Christine Hughes were proud to lead the Training Academy launch party at the Miami Chapter Meeting on Sept. 11th at our partner site, the United Way of Miami-Dade.
#TBT Last week FAIMH launched our Training Academy! We celebrated our commitment to building capacity and providing high-quality, relationship-based education and training for professionals working with infants and young children.
Pictured Left to Right: Dr. Christine Hughes, Jackie Romillo, Silvia Alvarez McBride, Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, Noemi Aguila-Marquez (Not pictured: Clarissa DeWitt)
Meet FAIMH's New Training Coordinator & Expert Trainers
Training Coordinator Noemi Aguila-Marquez, LCSW, IMH-E®
Noemi Aguila-Marquez, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is the founder of Counsel & Connect, Inc., and has been in clinical practice since 2003. She is one of the first 22 persons in Florida to be endorsed as a Category IV Infant Mental Health Mentor-Clinical. She provides reflective supervision, professional education and agency consultation regarding infant and early childhood mental health, trauma, and gender & orientation concerns. She is also a Child Parent Psychotherapy practitioner and supervisor, and a Zero to Three DC:0-5 Trainer. Mrs. Aguila-Marquez is completing her doctoral degree in Social Work in Barry University specializing in trauma, child welfare, and transgender children/youth.
Ms. Aguila-Marquez is FAIMH's Training Coordinator (a new part-time staff position) and will be coordinating and providing expert IECMH training through our FAIMH Training Academy thanks to funding from Allegany Franciscan Ministries.
Expert Trainer Silvia Alvarez McBride, LMHC, IMH-E®
Ms. Silvia Alvarez McBride is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and supervisor with clinical expertise in the field of infant and early childhood mental health, and was one of the first in Florida to earn the Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement. Her work has focused on families referred by the Juvenile Court system following allegations of child neglect, domestic violence, and abuse for nearly twenty years. Ms. Alvarez McBride is the clinical supervisor for the University of Miami Linda Ray Intervention Center Infant and Young Children’s Mental Health Program team, where she also collaborated on the Miami Child Well-Being Court™ Model, a pioneering approach to meeting the relational, emotional, mental health, and developmental needs of young children in care. Ms. Alvarez McBride is a practicing clinical and reflective supervisor in the State of Florida for mental health counseling interns and clinical social work interns, provides infant and early childhood mental health education and training, and is a Zero to Three DC:0-5 Trainer.
Expert Trainer Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, IMH-E®
Dr. Harleen Hutchinson is the FAIMH Broward Chapter Chair and Executive Director of The Journey Institute, and was one of the first in Florida to earn the Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement. She also works collaboratively as a clinician and leader with the Broward County Early Childhood Court. With a background in social work and psychology, Dr. Hutchinson has devoted her career to the clinical practice and research centered on children in the child welfare system exposed to trauma and children prenatally exposed to drugs. Dr. Hutchinson is trained and nationally endorsed in the evidenced-based model Child Parent Psychotherapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Seeking Safety, The Circle of Security, a Becoming Trauma Informed Trainer, and Zero to Three's DC:0-5. Dr. Hutchinson is an adjunct professor with the Barry University School of Social Work, conducts training on topics related to early childhood trauma and attachment, and their impact on the parent-child relationship. She is a current board member of the Broward Healthy Start Coalition. and is recognized as a leader in Reflective Supervision.
Expert Trainer Clarissa DeWItt, LMHC, IMH-E®
Clarissa DeWitt, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, and Certified Circle of Security therapist, is the FAIMH Palm Beach County Co-Chair and the Director of the Center for Child Counseling's Institute for Clinical Training. Ms. DeWitt was one of the first in Florida to earn the Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement, and has worked with children and families since 2006. She has training in a wide variety of best practice and evidence-based treatment models including Play Therapy, Filial Therapy, Triple P Parenting Program, Infant Mental Health, Child Parent Psychotherapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR and Zero to Three's DC:0-5 . Ms. DeWitt is a member of the American Mental Health Counselor's Association and the Association for Play Therapy, where she is currently co-chair of the Palm Beach/Martin County Chapter.
Expert Trainer Jackie Romillo, LCSW
Jackie Romillo, our FAIMH Vice President of the Board of Directors, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and the Administrator of the Early Childhood Development Department at Citrus Health Network. Beginning her career in adolescent substance abuse intervention, Ms. Romillo rose from direct-service provider to Executive Director of a small nonprofit in Little Havana over the course of a decade. In her role at Citrus Health Network since 2007, Jackie has sharpened her focus on infants and young children, is trained in Child Parent Psychotherapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Addiction Prevention, Brief Strategic Family Therapy, and Zero to Three's DC:0-5, and is a Qualified Clinical Supervisor. She has built a strong team of infant and early childhood mental health practitioners who support thousands of children and families across Miami-Dade County annually, and has been an integral support to FAIMH since she began as Miami Chapter Chair in 2008, joining the Board in 2014, and becoming our Vice President in 2019.
2019-2020 Training Academy Opportunities are for FAIMH Members Only
FAIMH Memberships start at $15 (for students); $15 for child care providers; $50 for individuals (other professionals or IMH supporters)
FAIMH Agency Memberships start at $100 (for child care providers); $150 for Mental Health Group Practices; $500 for Agencies with budgets under $5 million; $1000 for Agencies with budgets $5-$10 million; $1500 for Agencies with budgets above $10 million.
Learn more about FAIMH membership or contact us with questions about which membership is best for you!
- 12 Jun 2019 by Neil Boris
Greetings FAIMH family! Welcome to the Spring 2019 edition of our Florida Association for Infant Mental Health Newsletter. As always, there is much to highlight in our shared work for babies and their families.
Recently, we were reminded by the 2019 State of Babies report that Florida has a lot of growing to do: if you’re not familiar with this report, please review the findings here: https://stateofbabies.org/data/#/Florida. The State of Babies report makes it clear that Florida is mostly "getting started" in helping our youngest and most vulnerable citizens realize their full potential. We have work to do.
The Board of Directors of FAIMH sees you--our membership--as change agents. As we build a stronger infant mental health community in Florida, the needs of babies and their families will be recognized. Together, we can change the State of Babies in Florida!
The centerpiece of our collective professional development work is the Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement (FIMH-E®). I'm happy to report ongoing progress in rolling out FIMH-E®. FAIMH's Endorsement Workgroup, a small but mighty team that interfaces directly with the FAIMH Board of Directors, has been steadily guiding our Endorsement efforts. In the last few months, almost two dozen infant mental health professionals from around Florida have led the way by going through our endorsement process. I want to personally thank our tireless Endorsement Workgroup as well as those professionals who stepped up to be endorsed for all they’re doing to advance infant mental health in Florida. The names of these leaders appear below in our Member's Highlight section. You can find out more about Endorsement here: https://www.faimh.org/endorsement.
The efforts of our Endorsement team remind me that we are part of an incredible community of professionals. In October of last year, we had our FIMH-E® kickoff meeting in St. Petersburg. In the back of the room was one of the great leaders in our Florida mental health community. Herb Quay, aged 90, was there to be with us at our kickoff! I am sad to report that Herb passed away in March of this year; if you didn’t know Herb, you probably know his wife of 34 years, Anne Hogan, who was on the Board of Directors of FAIMH (as our Past President) when we had the kickoff.
Herb was truly a man of letters--an accomplished academic psychologist whose legacy of training professionals in Florida is unrivaled. For more on Herb's incredible career, please see: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/herald/obituary.aspx?n=herbert-c-quay&pid=191800206) ... We will miss Herb greatly and hold Anne in our collective hearts.
- 31 May 2019 by Neil Boris
Honoring our Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement (FIMH-E®) Pioneers!
FAIMH Endorsement Workgroup
The Team who makes it all happen!
Greg Van Pelt
The First Floridians to earn IMH Endorsement!
Christine Hughes Pontier
Advisor/Reviewer Cohort #1
The First Group of Endorsement Advisors & Reviewers!
Silvia Alvarez McBride
If you're interested in learning more about Florida's new Infant Mental Health Endorsement,
- 16 Jan 2019 by Brianna Barnebee
We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this inaugural Florida Association for Infant Mental Health newsletter. Our goal is to foster stronger connections among our FAIMH community and build capacity in our membership and partners who work to improve the health and wellbeing of children birth to five. We value the work we do together across Florida for vulnerable young children, their families and those who provide needed supports to them. We hope this quarterly newsletter will inform and inspire you: there are so many leaders across our state providing I&ECMH services and working in programs which deserve more attention. Interviews with two such leaders—Allison Parish, IMH-IV and Jackie Romillo, LCSW and our incoming Board VP—are featured in this edition. Read on!
Neil Boris, MD
FAIMH Board President
- 15 Jan 2019 by Brianna Barnebee
Below is our interview with Allison Parish, IMH-IV. She is a partner and leader in the infant mental health field!
NB: Allison, the FAIMH Board is so thankful for the funds that the Florida MIECHV Initiative was able to share with us in 2018 to help kick-off the Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement (FIMH-E) effort. You’ve also stepped up personally and volunteered to be part of our Leadership Cohort for FIMH-E and you’re now officially Endorsed as a Level IV-Policy Mentor! As a past-president of FAIMH, your commitment was no surprise, but I know you’ve got strong feelings about the work we’re doing together. What’s motivating you?
AP: I’ve always been interested in investing in systems not just programs. And I feel like workforce development in infant mental health here in Florida is really important. As a mom of twins (now 8 years old), I also know what it’s like to manage stress while parenting! But it has really been my work coordinating and supporting Florida’s home visiting programs that has inspired me most. I just feel like the effort to support professionals at all levels who do this work is essential; we’re such a big state…it is time we get serious about growing and supporting our IMH workforce.
NB: You do have an interesting perspective these days, given your oversight of Florida’s MIECHV home visiting programs and the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant. Some organizations use masters level professionals and others rely on paraprofessionals, but all serve families at risk. I’d be interested in your perspective about what folks need to do this kind of frontline work…
AP: First of all, I feel like anyone working with kids and families needs to know more about infant mental health. Knowing more about the science of social and emotional development helps anyone working with kids of any age. And you don’t need to be a therapist to talk to a parent about their own history in life and to help them sort out ways to focus on their child’s wellbeing. If we give empathetic people good training and ongoing reflective supervision, they can do amazing things.
NB: Yeah, that’s one thing about the Endorsement system—there’s a focus on folks getting reflective supervision to support them in managing the work—and in not burning out. Speaking of burnout, you are one of those people who wears a bunch of hats! I know one thing that keeps you going is having a job in which you get to learn and do new things. Is there anything you’re working on these days that’s been particularly interesting?
AP: Yes! While we are great at screening primary caregivers for depression, we’ve struggled to connect families with services when they have a positive depression screen. This could be a lack of available resources or hesitation on the part of the parents. We were hearing that home visitors felt stuck when they knew there was a depressed caregiver and they didn’t think they could do anything about it. In 2018, we partnered with Dr. Darius Tandon at Northwestern University who has created a really helpful curriculum for supporting families, particularly when there are concerns about depression. It is called the Mothers and Babies Program. Mothers and Babies is an evidence-based, interactive program with lessons and activities geared towards promoting healthy mood, parent-child bonding, and strategies for coping with stress. What we like about it is that the home visitors can use these lessons and activities to help caregivers develop more awareness of their feelings and increase their coping skills. It is not a therapeutic intervention, but it can prevent symptoms from escalating and, in some cases, the insight developed through the program helps parents realize they need additional services from a clinician. Our staff are really pleased to have this new tool in their toolbox, and we know it is benefiting the parents and children we serve. They were so excited when they had the opportunity to meet and talk with Dr. Tandon at the recent First 1000 Days Summit.
Dr. Tandon told me recently, “I am delighted to see Mothers and Babies being used throughout Florida as a tool to promote stronger attachment between mothers and their infants, which is foundational to promoting children’s socio-emotional development.” In 2019, we will continue to promote infant mental health through partnerships like the ones with FAIMH and Northwestern University.
NB: Allison, thanks for telling our membership about this tool and the work you are doing. And thanks again for your ongoing support of FAIMH.
- 15 Jan 2019 by Brianna Barnebee
Below is our interview with FAIMH VP Jackie Romillo, LCSW. She is a Board Member and leader in our community.
FAIMH VP Jackie Romillo
NB: Jackie, I loved what you sent me when I asked you to describe yourself to the FAIMH Board—most of whom already knew you, I might add. Here’s what you told us: “Latina Social Worker with unique sense of humor—i.e., sarcastic, highly competitive, passionate about making the world a better place, identifies as an agent of change, fiercely committed to justice, focused on empowerment and believes there is never a limit to how much good one can do. Lives by the mantra: We Rise By Lifting Others (Robert Ingersoll).” I’d like to conclude this interview there!
JR: Glad we could spend this time together.
NB: In all seriousness, you really have been a change agent in your career and I feel like many infant mental health people gravitate to this field because working with babies means working with change. Tell me more about your path to IMH.
JR: Fun fact, I actually started as a political science major at FSU, with my sights set on a career in law. You know me, go big on justice and rights or go home! Yet, I had always been equally passionate about psychology, wanting to understand people, their circumstances and driven to help heal. I switched gears, came back to Miami and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida International University. It was the mid-1990’s when I started working in the substance abuse field with adolescents and their families, at a small non-profit in the Little Havana community. Shortly after graduating, I stumbled upon the field of Social Work thanks to a field educator, turned mentor, who I continue to thank to this day. This is where my love of law found a home, in the interconnectedness of social justice, advocacy, policy and direct service- key pillars of social work.
NB: Wow, so you started with intervention in adolescent substance abuse. That’s challenging work, but I get the connection to justice work…what happened next?
JR: Well, I completed a master’s in social work at Barry University and over the course of a decade, evolved from a frontline worker to Executive Director of the nonprofit where I got my start. I didn't set out to be a boss, I just wanted to be part of something that really made a difference. In 2007, my journey continued to Citrus Health Network when I fell into infant mental health work. I was hired to implement the first birth-to-five program focused on infant and early childhood mental health consultation to childcare and preschool settings. A few months after starting I was asked to attend a FAIMH Miami Dade Chapter meeting. I was voted in as Co-Chair shortly after. Eventually our programs grew here at Citrus and I became the Administrator for all Early Childhood Development programs. I continued to serve FAIMH faithfully since 2008 bringing awareness, connecting professionals, elevating the quality and competencies of staff and advocating for continued development in the field. I am proud to serve on the Board and excited to work hard as the incoming Vice President.
NB: Well, we’re thrilled to have you on the Board and now as Vice President, Jackie. I guess this is fair warning to folks: attend a FAIMH chapter meeting, and our organization is likely to pull you in and never let you go! You can find out more about FAIMH Chapters here.
- 18 Apr 2018 by Christine Hughes Pontier
Check out Job Board for a new posting - FAIMH has a part-time position available for an individual in Hillsborough County to support the implementation of our Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement! Apply by Friday April 27, 2018.
Visit members.faimh.org/jobs for more information
- 25 Aug 2017 by Christine Hughes Pontier
FAIMH extends warm and enthusiastic congratulations to Dr. Jeff Brosco, a champion for children in Miami and throughout Florida, on his new role as
Deputy Secretary for Children’s Medical Services (CMS) for the Florida Department of Health!
- 06 Jan 2017 by Christine Hughes Pontier
A new year means new Board Officers!
Get to know our incoming FAIMH President, Lisa Negrini, in this video conversation with FAIMH Vice President Neil Boris.
Use the link above, or copy & paste this link into your browser: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_Blt77U8TyBandhLTd2cFdZUnc/view
The FAIMH Board looks forward to an engaging 2017! Thanks for being a part of our movement to support Florida's babies and their families.
- 06 Jan 2017 by Lisa Negrini
On occasion in our personal and professional lives we meet a leader who inspires us with their ability to lead in an inclusive way that brings us together to work towards a common mission. A leader who selflessly gives of time and talent to achieve goals that she readily gives others credit for achieving. A brilliant leader who allows heart to drive the vision and uses team work to fuel the attainment of mutual goals. Anne Hogan is this leader!
We have had the great fortune of having Anne Hogan as the President of FAIMH for the last two years. There are not enough words to describe the contributions that Anne has made to FAIMH as its President and over the last decade as an active member, board member and officer of FAIMH. The gratitude that we feel for Anne and her work on behalf of young children and families in our state is beyond my ability to articulate. Anne brings a level of professionalism that shows us that mutual vision, mission, and goal directed work can and does make a difference in the world. Thank you, Anne, for your countless contributions to FAIMH as our President during 2015 and 2016!
It is time to transition to new FAIMH officers and I am honored to follow in Anne’s footsteps as President of FAIMH. Anne has been a tireless advocate for young children and families, always keeping the needs of the next generation as central to our thinking and planning for change. She has worked within state systems to ensure that we are working together as a state to move the needle towards stronger families and stronger systems for infant and toddlers. Anne’s crowning achievement may well be her contributions to the infant mental health workforce throughout her career and as a leader within FAIMH. Anne has trained countless professionals in their preparation to serve young children and families. Her leadership in professional development and her ability to share her experience and expertise in infant mental health has prepared many professionals for work within our field. Anne’s leadership in adopting the Michigan Infant Mental Health Competency system for our state and her direction in guiding FAIMH towards its mission of supporting the infant mental health workforce through the development of a statewide training infrastructure will change the way that we inform, train and prepare the professionals that we count on to deliver services to young children statewide.
Thank you, Anne, for everything that you have done on behalf of children and families, for always setting a good example for others, and for being a strong and inclusive leader who inspires others to work hard for the mission. We are proud to have worked with you, followed your excellent leadership and continue to have the opportunity to continue to work with you as the FAIMH Past President!
- 05 Dec 2016 by Anne Hogan
As we transition through the holidays toward the new year, it is always a good time to reflect on and express gratitude to important people in our lives. Sometimes, we overlook thanking people who have been such a part of our lives or endeavors for so long, it seems funny to keep saying “Thanks - again” over and over. There are still moments, however, when we still need to say it emphatically.
At the end of this year, Dr. Mimi Graham will be “term-limited” off the FAIMH Board as a member and Past-President. While I know many of you know of her considerable contributions to Florida and the field of Infant Mental Health, you may not be aware of her extraordinary Board service.
Mimi was the founding Vice-President back in 2002, and after serving as Wil Blechman’s Vice President, she became FAIMH’s second President in 2003-2004. She also served as Secretary (in 2010 when Peter Gorski was President), served as Treasurer (in 2011-2012 when Jamie McHale was President), served again as Vice-President (in 2013 when Allison Parish was President), and then served again as President in 2014. As director of the FSU Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy in Tallahassee, she has guaranteed FAIMH has had a secure home base through the years.
Mimi’s vision has included keeping us inclusive, solvent, and open to new ideas, as well as expanding FAIMH’s strong partnerships. For Mimi, “Eye on the Prize” has always meant we put children, families and strong relationships first, and get our message out as widely as possible. Over the years, she has consistently been a vocal advocate for all infants and toddlers, and has never let us forget about the extra supports our most vulnerable little ones deserve. She has worked to make sure that every system in Florida that addresses the needs of young children "gets" Infant Mental Health, and that our national and international colleagues are aware of FAIMH’s efforts.
As the individual who served as her Vice President, I have to add a more personal note of thanks. Mimi and I have been colleagues for a long time (actually off & on for about half our lives!), and as in all successful relationships – there must be give and take. I know that FAIMH’s continued success is extremely important to Mimi, and that of course there would be a bit of “Mama Bear” in her passion to protect our organization. I admire very much how she has supported FAIMH’s developmental trajectory both long-term and more recently as we move to strengthen our organization and keep moving ahead for our children, families and workforce.
Thank you Mimi – again – for the dedication you always bring, for the mentorship and support that have benefited so many, and the passion for vulnerable children and families you have shown that has kept FAIMH growing, thriving, visible and respected for so long.
- 03 Nov 2016 by Mimi Graham
If babies could vote, they’d want more than a kiss on the cheek at a rally. They’d want a voice in the issues that affect them. What would babies tell us about the type of candidates they’d support? Imagine what they’d tell us.
First, they’d choose parents who love them, period. Babies don’t care about their race, religion or sexual orientation. Babies want to be born to parents who are ready to be devoted to their care, so they’d support leaders who make family planning easy so parents-to-be can make the serious choice of when parenthood responsibilities are right for them. Unplanned parenthood means that too many of them are born to parents who are too young, too unstable, or too poor to take care of them. More than 62 percent of births in Florida are paid for by Medicaid, because sometimes parents cannot afford even to pay for delivery. That puts those babies way behind from the start when it comes to what they need to succeed.
For the parents who get hooked on pills or struggle with drug addictions, babies would support leaders who recognize it as a public health crisis and offer therapeutic options rather than locking up their moms and dads, sometimes for years without seeing them.
If babies could vote, they’d elect officials that support not just the minimum wage, but enough so that their moms and dads don’t have to work two jobs to make ends meet or have to make agonizing decisions about whether to pay the light bill or buy groceries and diapers. They would want their candidates to support affordable health care for everyone so their parents don’t stress out because they can’t afford the doctors' bills.
While their parents are busy at work, babies don’t want to be parked in front of television all day. Their little brains are doing big work, especially in the first 1000 days of life when they are hard-wiring the foundation for all their future learning. They would elect officials who understand that “bright futures” begin in the high chair, not on college campuses. They’d support scholarships for high-quality early learning programs that teach their parents to sing, read, and talk to them at the time when their brains are most receptive to learning. They’d know that programs that encourage play and getting along with others are equally important to teaching ABC’s.
Babies would want their political candidates not to just give talk about leaving no child behind, but rather to make wise investments so that every child gets an even start, head start, or the jump start they need to be successful. The success gap between rich and poor kids starts early, and once they fall behind, they can almost never catch up. By their second birthday, there is a 6-month word gap between rich and poor kids. By age 4 they’ve been exposed to 30 million fewer words. By third grade their reading scores are way behind, and by high school they score 125 points lower on the SAT than their more advantaged peers. Wise leaders know that early learning programs can prevent and narrow this gap.
Babies would want their political leaders to ensure that the Magic Kingdom isn’t just in Orlando but that children everywhere experience the joy and innocence of childhood; that every child goes to bed with a full tummy; that every child gets a bedtime story and kissed goodnight and never has to cry themselves to sleep; and that monsters and nightmares in their homes are only figments of their imagination and not reality; that children don’t have to shoulder adult responsibilities or be exposed to an X-rated world. If babies could vote, they’d support candidates who had common sense gun regulations so that in our innocent curiosity, gun accidents didn’t continue to kill at least 1 kid every other day.
If babies could vote, they would choose leaders who take climate change seriously. They know that in 50 years, the planet they inhabit will be drastically different. Weather patterns will make earth less hospitable to humans, spreading droughts and disease epidemics. Warming will swell the oceans so that much of Florida’s population who live and work on the coasts will be submerged. Babies would want leaders who will act quickly and wisely to keep climate change from becoming a nightmare.
Babies just want to come of age in a society that allows them to prosper in the nation’s wealth—not just the ones at the top. They would want society to recognize our shared responsibility for the well-being of children; to get communities to rise up to care for the children who need them—children who have never celebrated a birthday, children who have never seen a dentist, children whose nightmares come in the daytime, children who have no safe blankets to cling to, children who don’t have any rooms to clean up, and children who have never known the safe embrace of a father or mother. They would want a world where every child gets enough love to build a lifelong foundation of security so that they too can become nurturing, productive grownups who contribute to our nation’s economic growth.
If babies could vote, they’d tell our leaders to “use their words” to find common sense solutions to big problems like the economy, health care, climate change, gun safety, violence, racism, addictions, child abuse, unplanned parenting, and criminal justice reforms. Babies would build a HUGE bipartisan sandbox where there is plenty of room for everyone to play nicely together. Then, not just the children would be singing “if you’re happy and you know it”—we’d all be clapping our hands. So think of the babies when you go vote, because someday they will be the grown-ups. Your future and theirs depend on it!
Dr. Mimi Graham
Florida State University Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy
- 29 Aug 2016
We are proud to announce that several FAIMH Leaders (Board Members and Advisors) are presenting at this year’s DCF Child Protection Summit in Orlando September 7-9, 2016.
Mimi Graham will be part of two presentations: First 1000 Days: Ensuring the Best Start in Life and Breaking the Cycle of Maltreatment (an Advanced Training Workshop) and Improving Early Care and Education for Young Children in Child Welfare
Anne Hogan & Diane Koch will present Young Children's Emotions and Attachments: Development, Promotions and Repair
Jeanine Evoli will present Help before Harm: Expanding the Family Services Initiative in Pinellas County
Wil Blechman will present Effects of Early Maltreatment on Brain Development
Kim Renk, Leslie Allen & Neil Boris will present Engaging Substance-Involved Parents through the Circle of Security Program
Barbara White will lead a panel on Building Parenting Capacity Among Trafficked Youth Who Are Parents
Visit here for more information about the DCF Child Protection Summit. Be sure to check the program for session detail.
We all hope to see you there!