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VAIMH Monthly Newsletter (4.24.2024)

Dear Members,

In April, we stand in solidarity with several important initiatives that shed light on critical issues affecting our communities. As we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month, Autism Awareness Month, and Black Maternal Health Week, it's imperative to recognize the interconnectedness of these campaigns and their impact on early childhood mental health.

According to recent data from the CDC, approximately 1 in 6 children in the United States experience some form of child abuse or neglect, highlighting the urgent need for prevention and intervention efforts. Additionally, studies show that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at a higher risk of experiencing abuse or maltreatment due to communication challenges and social vulnerabilities. As we advocate for autism awareness, it's crucial to address the intersectionality of ASD and child abuse prevention to ensure the safety and well-being of all children. Moreover, disparities in maternal health persist, particularly among Black mothers who are disproportionately affected by pregnancy-related complications and maternal mortality rates. According to the CDC, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women.

Black Maternal Health Week serves as a platform to raise awareness, advocate for policies that address racial disparities, and promote access to culturally competent and equitable maternal healthcare services. By recognizing these initiatives and their implications for early childhood mental health, we reaffirm our commitment to creating a safer, more inclusive, and supportive environment for all children and families.

-Dr. Anjali Ferguson

Executive Director


Next VAIMH Town Hall


4:30 - 6:00 PM

All VAIMH Members are invited to participate in our quarterly Virtual Town Hall, where we will come together to engage in open and honest dialogue about pressing issues. In our rapidly changing world, it is essential that we create spaces for meaningful conversations that address the challenges and complexities faced by individuals of all backgrounds.

Thank you to all who attended our inaugural Town Hall. The feedback we received was incredibly valuable and is already shaping our strategic plans for program development and change.

Your voice matters and we look forward to convening with those who are able to attend so that we can continue to afford opportunities for feedback and growth.


Member Spotlight

Jackie Robinson Brock, MSW

I am currently serving as the Workforce Collaboration Director for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. In this role I work to make sure that folks going through the Endorsement are supported and have the training and professional development opportunities they need to meet the required Endorsement competencies.

I am Endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Mentor-Policy. I love systems work and working to reduce barriers to equity for people. Prior to this role I worked at a transitional homeless shelter with kids 0-18. In this role I led a children's group where I worked directly with kids and parents. I watched children and their families cycle in and out of poverty due to systemic barriers. This is what led me to shift from direct practice to systems work.

Prior to that role I worked as a lead teacher in early childhood classrooms primarily with children 2-4. I have always loved working with, and now on behalf of young children. As a parent, I have a new perspective of the importance of promoting infant and early childhood mental health. VAIMH is a place where you are able to connect with other people who are passionate about working with young children. Because of the rapid growth and developmental needs of young children, it requires a unique perspective and personality to be able to meet the child and families' needs. Relationships are at the foundation of the work that we do and VAIMH and the Endorsement provides you with the opportunity to build them with like-minded professionals while receiving information about best practices in the field. 


Science Spotlight

Child Maltreatment Report 2022

Jurisdictions provide the data for this report via the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). NCANDS was established as a voluntary, national data collection and analysis program to make available state child abuse and neglect information. For federal fiscal year (FFY) 2022, key findings in this report include:

  • Nationally during FFY 2022, 3,096,101 children received either an investigation response or alternative response at a rate of 42.4 children per 1,000 in the population.

  • For FFY 2022, 52 states reported 558,899 victims of child abuse and neglect. This is a national rate of 7.7 victims per 1,000 children in the population.

  • FFY 2022 data show 74.3 percent of victims experience neglect, 17.0 percent are physically abused, 10.6 percent are sexually abused, and 6.8 percent are psychologically maltreated.

  • A nationally estimated 1,990 children died from abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.73 per 100,000 children in the population.

Listen to the Whispers before They Become Screams: Addressing Black Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in the United States

Black women in the United States (U.S.) disproportionately experience adverse pregnancy outcomes, including maternal mortality, compared to women of other racial and ethnic groups. Historical legacies of institutionalized racism and bias in medicine compound this problem. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color may further worsen existing racial disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality. This paper discusses structural and social determinants of racial disparities with a focus on the Black maternal mortality crisis in the United States. We explore how racism contributes to a greater risk of adverse obstetric outcomes among Black women in the U.S. We also propose public health, healthcare systems, and community-engaged approaches to decrease racial disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality.

Rapid Autism Clinical Evaluation (RACE) Clinic

National statistics estimate that Black, Indigenous, and Latine children are more likely to receive diagnoses later in life relative to White peers. Additionally, minoritized children are more likely to be misdiagnosed with conduct and emotional disturbances. Thus, minoritized families' access to critical, quality early diagnosis and intervention supports remains an area of significant need. The state of Virginia ranks 39th in the country in efforts to serve people with disabilities, and 42nd in providing community-level support. The data report examines the efficacy of a culturally responsive rapid autism clinic to meet the needs of Virginia's growing developmental disability diagnostic waitlist.


Self-Care Through Play

Time for us to practice what we preach! It is easy to ignore our own needs in the context of busy lives, work, and our own parenting demands. We can't pour from an empty cup, so here are some ways to tap into our inner child this month as a way to take care of ourselves while we tackle this necessary and challenging work.

April Tip: Reconnect with Joy and Creativity

This month, let's embark on a playful self-care activity designed to reignite our joy and spart our imagination.

Activity: Messy Play Date

Create a dedicated time and space for a messy play date, where you can let go of inhibitions and immerse yourself in playful exploration. This activity is all about embracing the mess and embracing your inner child.

Materials Needed:

  • Tarp or plastic tablecloth to protect the floor

  • Washable paints or finger paints

  • Large sheets of paper or cardboard

  • Brushes, sponges, or other painting tools

  • Water buckets for rinsing

  • Old clothes or aprons

  • Optional: Play dough, clay, or other sculpting materials

  1. Set the Stage: Lay down the tarp or plastic tablecloth to create a designated messy play area. Make sure to protect the floor and any nearby surfaces.

  2. Get Creative with Paint: Dip your brushes, sponges, or fingers into the paint and let your creativity flow onto the paper or cardboard. Don't worry about making mistakes - this is all about embracing the process and having fun.

  3. Experiment and Explore: Try different painting techniques, mixing colors, and creating textures with your hands and painting tools. Allow yourself to be spontaneous and curious, just like the children we work with.

  4. Play with Sculpting Materials: If you have play dough, clay, or other sculpting materials on hand, take some time to mold and shape them into whatever comes to mind. Let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you.

  5. Embrace the Mess: Don't be afraid to get messy! Splatter paint, mix colors, and enjoy the sensory experience of playing with different materials. Remember, it's all part of the fun.

  6. Reflect and Reconnect: Take a moment to reflect on how you feel after engaging in this playful activity. Notice any changes in your mood, energy level, or sense of creativity. Allow yourself to savor the joy and freedom of play.

  7. Clean up with Gratitude: Once you're finished playing, take time to clean up your space with gratitude for the experience. Reflect on the memories you've created and carry the spirit of playfulness with you throughout your day. By embracing messy play, we can reconnect with the joy and creativity that are essential to our work as early childhood professionals. Let's make time for playful self-care and nurture our own sense of wonder and imagination. Have fun and enjoy the journey!


News and Upcoming Trainings

The Virginia Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative is excited to announce that registration for our virtual annual conference is live!

This year our conference theme is Compassionate Leadership-Leading From Where You Are. Join us May 14-16 from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM EST.

All sessions are recorded and will have American Sign Language interpretation. Please see our attached flyer for more information and to learn about our keynote presenters. Please share this with your networks!

Registration link


Copyright (C) 2024 VAIMH.  All rights reserved.

PO Box 3151

Glen Allen, VA 23058

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