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Indiana State Department of Health

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asdfThe Sunny Start: Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds initiative is a comprehensive, collaborative, statewide effort to implement a strategic plan to support a coordinated system of resources and supports for young children from birth through age five and their families in Indiana. With funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s (MCHB) Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant, the goal of the project is to ensure that Indiana’s children arrive at school healthy and ready to learn.

The first two years of the grant were dedicated to infrastructure building. Toward that goal, a Core Partners group (functioning as the steering committee) along with five subcommittees was convened. The subcommittees address: medical home issues; mental health and socio-emotional development; early care and education; parent education; and family support. Members included key stakeholders representing families, state agencies, professional trade associations, public and private early childhood providers, etc. They met regularly to develop a program vision and mission, as well as to address service standards, desired outcomes and issue identification. Community Dialogues were also conducted across the state.

In recent years, Sunny Start has supported:

  • asdfThe expansion of the Early Childhood Meeting Place website to provide families and early childhood providers with resource and support information.
  • A developmental calendar has been developed for families and providers which highlights important health and safety information such as infant and toddler’s nutritional needs, oral health issues, communication and gross motor development. The calendar is available in English and in Spanish.
  • A Wellness Passport for Indiana’s Kids, a personal healthcare record-keeping tool that allows parents to collect, track, store and access important information about their children’s growth and development – all in one easy-to-access location. The Wellness Passport is available in Spanish .  Also, an online tutorial about the passport is available.
  • A Special Health Care Needs Addendum to the Wellness Passport, providing additional sections for families raising children with disabilities and special healthcare needs. It is available in Spanish too.
  • Family Resource Fact Sheets, a series of fact sheets that highlight the basics of key resources available for Hoosier families. They are also available in Spanish.
  • The creation of the State of the Young Hoosier Child data report which focuses on physical health and well being, social and emotional development, school readiness, and family support.  County Data profiles of key indicators are available for each on Indiana’s counties
  • In recognition of the impact of the environment on young children and their families, the development of the State of the Young Hoosier Child Environmental Health Report, which includes advice to parents and caregivers on how to prevent and reduce common childhood exposures to environmental threats.

Social and emotional development in young children continues to be a focus of Sunny Start as the project supports the development of a highly qualified early childhood mental health workforce. Efforts supported include:

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  • A consensus statement regarding the content and core competencies for social-emotional training activities across all providers/caretakers of young children birth to age five has been developed.
  • A tool has been created in conjunction with the Consensus Statement that will help individuals assess the social and emotional competencies that their training addresses.
  • A white paper on the state of Infant and Toddler Mental Health in Indiana
  • A comprehensive one week Summer Institute in July 2007, which assisted mental health professionals in Indiana to build skills in the area of social and emotional development in young children, infants and toddlers.
  • In 2008, 2009, and 2010, the support for mental health professionals continued as Sunny Start sponsored additional training to help build competencies at the Indiana Infant and Toddler Mental Health Annual Conference.
  • In 2011, graduate level courses were taught on Infant and Toddler Mental Health at Indiana University and Purdue University at Indianapolis. Beginning in 2011, additional training was made available twice a year at early childhood conferences.
  • With the Head Start State Collaboration Office and the Department of Child Services, Indiana joined the League of States in support of an endorsement process which certifies and credentials professionals involved with infant and Toddler Mental Health services.

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The Sunny Start Core Partners and subcommittees continue to meet regularly. Over the current three-year grant cycle, the initiative has developed opportunities for family leadership, maintained and expanded the Early Childhood Meeting Place website, developed the "State of the Hoosier Child" reports, implemented a medical home learning collaborative and integrated activities related to parent education and medical home into the Early Care and Education efforts.

For more information, please contact:
Project Director:
Project Manager: Andrea L Wilkes
Grantee: Indiana State Department of Health
Address: 2 North Meridian St., 7E
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317/233-1246
Fax: 317/233-7001
E-mail Address: sunnystart@isdh.in.gov