A Better Tomorrow Starts with Infant Mental Health - Yorktown Family Services
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A Better Tomorrow Starts with Infant Mental Health

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Mother holding cute newborn smiling child. Adorable african baby looking at camera on mom hands

Baby Love is a free, 12-week group-format, evidence-based preventive intervention program of attachment theory that supports parents and caregivers in strengthening their attachment relationship with their infants. The Hospital for Sick Children supports Yorktown’s delivery of Baby Love through staff training and program consultation.

For more information or to register for upcoming sessions, visit our Baby Love Program webpage. 

What is Baby Love?

The Baby Love program focuses on attachment; the specific aspect of the relationship between an infant and a parent/care giver that makes the infant feel safe, secure and protected. The 12 weekly sessions emphasize the importance of feelings of attachment, security, reflective capacity and sensitive caregiving behaviours. Baby Love is delivered to parents/care givers, and infants from birth to 14 months.

Yorktown invited Dr. Jean Wittenberg, head of the Infant Psychiatry Program at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, to provide training on the Baby Love Program to 12 Yorktown Therapists and Early Years Workers. Thanks to funding from the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, Yorktown began to deliver Baby Love in 2018 to meet the needs of the multi-ethnic and diverse communities we serve. “Baby Love is a program designed to be adapted to cultures around the world,” says Dr. Wittenberg, “The program helps parents and caregivers nurture their relationships with their infants as a way to regulate their stress levels. We know that stressful events in infancy have adverse impacts for the lifespan.  We know that Baby Love improves caregiver sensitivity to infant stress and is likely to reduce infant stress.”

In Spring of 2019, Yorktown, partnered with Adventure Place, Massey Centre, and The George Hull Centre to launch Infant Minds, a city-wide network to expand the delivery of Baby Love. Funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ontario Centre of Excellence enabled collaboration among child and youth mental health partners to form Infant Minds and deliver Baby Love city-wide. Infant Minds is a Community of Practice (CoP) that supports further development of community based infant health initiatives across the City of Toronto and links to provincial, national and international groups. The CoP enables knowledge exchange, knowledge mobilization and building of capacity to continue to expanded service across Toronto, ensuring equity of access. Baby Love has been delivered in conjunction with Toronto Western Family Health Teams, The 519 Church Street Community Centre with particular focus on LGBTQ2S+ parents and caregivers, as well as Centre Francophone.

As the Infant Minds collaborative gained momentum, Yorktown recognized the need to provide more individualized supports to parents and caregivers of children from birth to 6 years of age. As of October of 2019, a specialized Early Years service was introduced to our What’s Up Walk-in® clinic. This brief therapy service would be informed by infant and early years practices derived from the Baby Love model and other research.

By October of 2019, over 40 staff from 4 organizations across the city received Baby Love training creating access to infant mental health support for 163 new infants and caregivers as a direct result. In 2020/21 Yorktown will further expand the delivery of Baby Love by providing virtual one on one sessions for parents and care givers and bringing the program to pediatric care clinics in our neighborhoods.

“Yorktown has been a valued partner helping us carry the program out to the community.”

Dr. Jean-Victor P. Wittenberg, Staff Psychiatrist, Infant Psychiatry, Associate Professor, The Hospital for Sick Children

To register for the program or learn more, visit our Baby Love Program webpage. 

 

 

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