The New Orleans Infant Mental Health Project

Funded by the 2018 NOLA Foundation, The New Orleans Infant Mental Health Project, seeks to meet the unique needs of children ages 0-5 in the context of their early childhood learning center environment. The project addresses these needs through a multi-system level approach comprised of interventions that work to improve early childhood education on a policy level, a community level and an interpersonal level. The project addresses barriers that impact the development and social-emotional well-being of children during the most critical time in their lives…when their brains and bodies are still developing and their experiences and interactions are cultivating internal working models that will shape the lens through which they see the world for the rest of their lives.

We work to advocate for policies that support early childhood education centers and their existing and prospective workforce through a collaborative comprised of organizations that serve youth between the ages of 0-5 and their families.

The New Orleans Infant Mental Health Project has existing partnerships with Total Community Action (11 Head Start Centers), Tulane School of Social Work, The Urban League of Louisiana, the John W. Hoffman Early Learning Center, New Orleans City Council President Jason Rogers Williams, and host of other community based organizations and schools.

Serving as the backbone organization and centralized infrastructure to the partnering organizations, Navigate NOLA will lead a needs assessment that will set local priorities for social and emotional development and the adoption of shared evaluation indicators for ages 0-5.

Through the New Orleans Infant Mental Health project, Navigate NOLA addresses a lack of equity in availability and quality of services for young children by directly providing those services as well as increasing the capacity of current and future providers. We provide Early Childhood Learning Centers with infant mental health consultation services, teacher support, school culture support and professional development and training.

To date, we have trained nearly 300 Early Childhood Educators across 12 Early Childhood Learning Center sites in the areas of 1.) Trauma and Toxic Stress, 2.) Social & Emotional Learning, 3.) Attachment Relationships, 4.) Brain Architecture, 5.) Compassion Fatigue and Teacher Burnout, 6.) Behavioral Interventions and 7.) Classroom Management.

Mental health and social and emotional wellbeing are key components of human resiliency in the face of environmental threats and stressors, and the youngest among us are often the most affected. Additionally, a city whose children have their emotional needs met and that protects them in the aftermath of toxic stress and trauma can expect safety and freedom for those same children. Navigate NOLA is proud to be doing this very important work.