EQUITABLE START FOR BABIES
Advancing Family Supports for Well-Being
Pregnancy and the early years of parenting children, while joyous, are challenging times under the best of circumstances. Families affected by trauma and toxic stress magnified by racial, economic, and gender injustice face compounding challenges. For example, many families experience a dip in income, an increase in expenses, and an increase in debt after the birth of a baby. We know that when parents experience stress and instability, children feel the impacts. But when parents are supported in ways that allow them to stay attuned and responsive while delighting in their children in the midst of challenges, children are protected from the effects of too much stress.
Chronic stress is a risk factor for the development of parent mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance use. And for adults with a mental health condition, stress can contribute to worsening symptoms. As a mental health funder, Perigee views investing in Family Supports for Well-Being as primary and secondary prevention.
Family Supports take many forms, and most families benefit from more than one at any given time with differing needs over the prenatal-to-3 period. Perigee Fund prioritizes the tangible supports outlined below – ingredients for improved well-being.
Time is a precious resource for busy families. Paid Family and Medical Leave, child
care, mutual assistance, and services delivered in home, in community settings or
through technology are examples of supports that value and maximize time.
Money can enable families with young children to not just survive, but thrive. Paid
Family and Medical Leave, Guaranteed Basic Income, Child Tax Credit,
child care subsidies, and diaper assistance are examples of financial supports that are
relevant to the prenatal-to-3 period.
Care is needed by young children and by caregivers themselves. Infant and toddler
childcare, cultural healing practices, and health care (e.g., Medicaid, quality maternity
and pediatric care) during the perinatal period and first years of early childhood are
examples of care in different forms that support well-being.
Connection is a human right, the antidote to isolation and a secret sauce for well-being,
because big and little humans are inherently social and wired to connect. Formal and
informal group-based programs, peer support from people who share lived experience,
and amenities designed with young families in mind are examples of supports that
facilitate connection between adult caregivers, parents and their children, and families with their broader community.
These supports can be generated through policy, public and private funding, and services. Powerfully, these supports can be generated by communities. Community well-being and family well-being are linked, particularly for equity for families of color.
How Parents of Young Children Express Struggle
Parents and caregivers use plain language to describe their experiences and need for support. Professionals and systems must tune in. A parent who says “My child keeps crying, and I do not know what to do, I cannot sleep. I have headaches, I am home all day with my children.” Is also saying, “Parenting young children is challenging. I am stressed. I am exhausted. I am isolated. It is affecting my physical and mental well-being. It is affecting my relationship with my children. I need supports and I don’t know how to get them.” -Insight from Perigee survey of WA Family Wellbeing grantees