Supporting Infants, Toddlers, and Families Impacted By Caregiver Mental Health Problems, Substance Abuse, And Trauma: A Community Action Guide

Maschinot, B.,
Cohen, J.
Published: October, 2012
Number of Pages: 
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
HHS Publication No SMA-12-4726

This 92-page guide uses a case example to illustrate the impact of early experiences on children’s brain development and the importance of supporting parents so they can give children what they need to thrive. Section 1 looks at the developmental period from birth to age 5, highlighting recent findings on how the brain develops. Section 2 looks at the latest research on how toxic stress can harm brain development. The authors focus particularly on toxic stress that can occur in families struggling with mental health problems, substance abuse, and a history of trauma. Section 3 considers how to build supports and coping capacities in the families and the people and service providers surrounding the child. Section 4 provides a six-step road map for action that includes assessing the problem, determining the community’s existing capacity, building partnerships and coalitions, outlining a strategic plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the impact. Throughout the guide are examples of ideas that have worked in other communities. Appendices contain lists of organizational resources, hotlines, screening tools, and tips on how to evaluate what you are doing.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1 Choke Cherry Road, Rockville, MD 20857; Telephone: (877) SAMHSA-7, or (877) 726-4727, Website:
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