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Looking after infant mental health: our case for change

A summary of research evidence

When a young child experiences abuse or neglect and ends up in care, their health and their future can be profoundly damaged. But, if they are given safety, stability and the right support early on, they can recover from this trauma and get back on track.

This document shares NSPCC’s ‘case for change’ about the importance of looking after infant mental health. We have drawn together a wide range of evidence from research and practice, from the UK and internationally, to tell what we hope is a compelling story.

It is not a simple or straightforward story: it has many different, interconnected parts which highlight a wide range of complex issues. These are issues facing young children and babies in care, their parents and foster carers, as well as other professionals working with children, the family courts and decision-makers in the wider health and social care system.

Across this wider system we have vastly under-estimated the importance of looking after infant mental health. We must rethink the way we work together – across disciplines and agencies – to put the health and well-being of young children in care and the quality of their future life outcomes at the heart of decision-making.

By highlighting the fundamental importance of looking after infant mental health, we want to build awareness and understanding, and to create change for the better. For our case for change to be effective, it has to provoke positive action. We want whoever reads it to take on board the key messages and the evidence, and to think about what they can do to change things for the better.