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Educating & Advocating on Behalf of Texas Babies
The Texas Association for Infant Mental Health (TAIMH) is a non-profit affiliate of the World Association for Infant Mental Health. TAIMH has addressed infant mental health issues in Texas since 1980, and is dedicated to improving the quality of nurturing family relationships for infants, young children and their families.
There are 1.2 million children age three and under in Texas (National Center on Poverty) with an estimated 208,051 in the Dallas County (Critical Years: Childhood Well-Being in Dallas County). Second only to families, child care plays a critical role in building a child’s developmental foundation. Individuals working with these babies must be skilled in promoting their healthy social-emotional development and learning.
The mission of TAIMH is to support the healthy emotional development of infants, toddlers and their families by building awareness of the critical importance of the first three years of life; supporting conditions that enhance the quality of infant and toddler/caregiver relationships; advocating for policies and practices that support the healthy development of young children; and educating the birth-to-three workforce in best practices.
Recognizing that early childhood is the most critical time in human development, and that how children develop impacts them for the rest of their lives, the founders began TAIMH as a spin-off of the Pediatric Interest Group in Dallas in 1983. TAIMH incorporated as a non-profit in 1985. For years the organization was operated by the Board of Directors, which significantly limited the organization’s scope and impact. In 2007, with funds donated by two families, staff was hired, the organization began to grow and the Board moved to a governance role.
TAIMH is a statewide organization but has a special focus in the Dallas area, working with other organizations in the Dallas area to carry out its mission. Examples include partnerships with:
• KERA-Dallas to present Food for Thought, an annual 5 part training series;
• Parents as Teachers, Educational First Steps, LaunchAbility, Child Care Group and others to hold the Biannual Brazelton Conference in Dallas;
• AVANCE Dallas to train parent educators (Promotoras);
• TAIMH has a MOU with the University of Texas at Dallas, which allows students completing the graduate program in Early Childhood Disorders from the School of Brain and Behavioral Science to apply for Endorsement as Infant Family Specialists;
• The Dallas Social Venture Partners are helping TAIMH take its Curriculum to web-based delivery.
Research on brain development demonstrates that the most important pathways to school success, lifelong behavioral competence, positive social relationships and mental health are formed during the first three years of life. There is much evidence that many problems later in life have their origins in pathways that begin in childhood, including: obesity, mental health problems, aggressive and violent behavior, criminality, poor literacy, and welfare dependency. James J. Heckman, Nobel prize-winning economist, "has clearly proven that America’s economic development starts at birth - and that our economy is only as healthy as our investment in the healthy development of children from birth to five" (www.heckmanequation.org).
TAIMH is currently working to inform and educate more caregivers in Dallas, especially those who care for infants and toddlers from lower income families. Quality child care is important to all children and it is essential to level the playing field for those who come from disadvantaged homes. According to Texas Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, 23.6% of Dallas families in 2008 lived at or below the poverty level. There are 1665 Licensed or Registered Child Care Centers/Homes in Dallas County, which makes up for 10.61% of the 17,672 Licensed or Registered Child Care Centers/Homes in the state of Texas. The 792 licensed childcare centers have an average of 10 staff. Only half of these centers report that at least one staff has a Childcare Development Associate (CDA) or Bachelor’s degree. Of the 873 licensed/ registered childcare homes only 70 of the day home providers have a CDA or Bachelors. For every 50 caregivers trained through TAIMH, approximately 300 children’s lives will be positively affected.