Our Purpose Statement
Strengthening and connecting our systems so that all young children in Larimer County, Colorado will be supported in their social development and emotional wellbeing in a culturally responsive manner.
From prenatal to 5 years of age, more than a million new neural connections are formed every second. Early experiences directly impact how these connections are made, laying the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health.
Infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), also referred to as social-emotional development, is the developing capacity of young children to form relationships; experience, manage, and express emotions; and, explore their environment and learn.
IECMH is also a term used to describe the full continuum of services and supports necessary to promote healthy development, prevent mental health problems, and treat mental health disorders.
Infants and young children who consistently engage in nurturing, responsive relationships with caregivers, and who are developing in safe and secure environments, are more likely to develop strong social-emotional health.
Strong social-emotional health is directly linked to healthy development in other essential areas, including physical health, cognitive skills, language and literacy, social skills, and school readiness.
Why is infant and early childhood mental health so important?
When young children’s social-emotional health is compromised, so too is development across other essential areas (including physical health, cognitive skills, language and literacy, social skills, and school readiness), leaving children more susceptible to a lifetime of poor outcomes.
Young children’s social-emotional health may be compromised when they are exposed to strong, frequent, or prolonged adversity such as abuse, neglect, and/or household dysfunction, without the buffering support of an adult.
This long-term exposure to adversity produces a response in infants and young children known as toxic stress. Unlike positive or tolerable stress that we all encounter from time to time, toxic stress permanently alters the developing brain and immune system, resulting in lifelong consequences.
The good news is that when caregiver relationships are reliably responsive and supportive, they actually can buffer young children from the adverse effects of toxic stress. Therefore, communities should focus their efforts on promoting a wide range of protective factors to empower caregivers.
The Leap Coalition has been working since 2016 to create a roadmap for exactly how we do this in Larimer County. We recommend that every time a service is provided for an adult with a substance use or mental health disorder, we stop and ask ourselves, “Is this person a parent? How can we mitigate the impact on his or her children?”
We are working together to build a system of infant and early childhood supports that will disrupt the intergenerational nature of toxic stress and build the future that Larimer County and its children deserve.
What is infant and early childhood mental health?
What is the Leap Coalition?
The science of early childhood shows that a foundation of sound emotional and behavioral health provides stability that supports all other aspects of human development, including the formation of friendships, the ability to cope with adversity, and achievement of success in school, work, and community life. Despite growing awareness of the link between early childhood social-emotional health to future wellness, gaps exist in Larimer County’s capacity to address the mental health needs of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, due to a lack of a specially trained workforce.
The Leap Coalition is a community-wide initiative working to enhance infant and early childhood mental health services in Larimer County, Colorado. Leap's core partnership is comprised of over 50 individuals representing more than 20 organizations and private practice therapists across the county. Through this and backbone support from the Early Childhood Council of Larimer County, the Leap Coalition directly supports hundreds of early childhood professionals across various disciplines and indirectly supports nearly 20,000 children ages 0-5 in Larimer County.
Leap's work focuses on three main areas, all through a culturally conscious lens: workforce development; community awareness and advocacy; and supporting a coordinated system of early identification and intervention for social-emotional concerns in young children. Learn more about our work by exploring our materials and resources. Stay up to date with all Leap happenings by signing up for our newsletter.
Questions about how you can get involved? Contact Liz Means, Leap Coalition Program Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leap Coalition Program Manager || Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
Executive Director || Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
Health Planning and Partnership Supervisor || Larimer County Department of Health and Environment
Community Volunteer and Board Member || Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
HCP for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs || KIDS Initiative for Developmental Support || Larimer County Department of Health and Environment
Quality Initiatives and Workforce Manager || Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
Mary Beth Swanson, LCSW, LLC
Executive Director || Young People's Learning Center
Director, Community Impact Team || Health District of Northern Larimer County