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ACF Announces New Resources Focused on Behavioral Health Integration in Early Childhood Programs

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new policy guidance and resources for states, Tribes, territories and local early childhood programs to promote the mental health and wellness of children, families and the early care and education workforce. These materials support President Biden’s Unity Agenda priority to tackle the mental health crisis, and are in line with his strategy for transforming mental health in the United States.

“We are doing everything we can to support our nation’s children, their families, and early educators during the critical early years of development,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We know healthy social and emotional development in early childhood forms the foundation for lifelong mental health., These new resources will help early childhood programs to partner with families to create healthy and nurturing learning environments and prepare all children for success in school and life.”

These new resources are tailored to recipients of ACF’s four early childhood funding streams—the Child Care and Development Fund, the Head Start program, the Preschool Development Grants Birth through Five program and the Tribal Home Visiting Program. They provide a range of actionable recommendations, resources, and strategies to promote healthy child development and to integrate mental and behavioral health supports into early care and education programs where young children spend so much of their time.

The resources are aligned with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priority to address the mental health crisis, a key pillar of the Biden-Harris Unity Agenda. They further build upon the HHS Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration, which seeks to integrate the full spectrum of behavioral health care into early childhood systems to ensure all people have equitable access to evidence-based, culturally appropriate, person-centered care. They also build on recently proposed changes to the Head Start Program Performance Standards, which enhance existing requirements by better integrating mental health into every aspect of the program, and facilitate a proactive approach to supporting the overall well-being of children, families, and staff.

“We hear from families how important early childhood programs like child care, Head Start and home visiting are to fostering their children’s healthy development, and we know that supporting the well-being of families and the child care and home visiting workforce is absolutely critical to creating healthy environments for children to grow, learn and thrive,” said ACF Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jeff Hild.

ACF is committed to integrating behavioral health services and supports into existing federal programs and resources that children, youth and families rely on, including social services and early childhood programs. To learn more about ACF’s resources and efforts, visit: