Georgia House Study Committee Releases Report on Infant & Toddler Social and Emotional Health

Author: Payson Schwin, Communications Director, GEEARS

ATLANTA – The Georgia House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health this week released their final report, which includes multiple recommendations to promote the wellbeing of Georgia’s infants and toddlers.

Proposals from the committee include creating a position to be housed at the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) focused on infant and toddler social and emotional health, ensuring Medicaid codes and diagnoses are appropriate for children under four, and creating a plan to promote a mental health workforce that supports young children. Additionally, the committee has called on child serving state agencies to create a leadership team focused on infant and toddler social emotional health.

Chaired by Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), the committee met five times over the course of Fall, 2019. Representatives appointed to the committee included Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers), Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), and Robert Dickey (R-Musella).

The Study Committee also recommended extending Medicaid for women up to twelve months postpartum, something the Maternal Mortality Study Committee, chaired by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), also recommended in their Final Report.

“We know the early years matter immensely to a child’s lifelong development, so we were encouraged that Representative Dempsey’s study committee created such broad and thoughtful recommendations,” said Mindy Binderman, Executive Director at GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, a non-profit advocacy organization that focuses on policies that impact children 0-5. “We look forward to working with legislators to implement these recommendations in the coming months and years.”

Callan Wells, Health Policy Manager at GEEARS, testified on behalf of the Georgia Infant-Toddler Coalition at the Study Committee’s third meeting.

The Study Committee focused on the emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, and their families. Over the course of the five meetings, members learned from national experts about how caretaker relationships and early experiences during the first three years of life can shape a child’s brain architecture, contributing to their ability to succeed in school, career, and future relationships.

Pediatricians, child care providers, and mental health specialists testified to the social-emotional issues they witness in young children and called on the members for state support. For example, they noted, preschool students are expelled at more than three times the rate of K-12 students.

The final testimony of the committee came from Dallas Rabig, with the state of Alabama where major steps have been taken to implement a statewide system that cares for the social-emotional needs of young children and their families.

About GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students
GEEARS is a nonprofit organization operating to inspire and provide leadership for a statewide movement on quality early learning and healthy development for all children ages birth through five. GEEARS was established in 2010 to help business, civic and government leaders maximize the economic return on the state’s investments in early care and learning.