Project ABC

“It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.” —Joyce Maynard

Project ABC is a collaborative partnership between professionals in Mental Health-LA County Department of Mental Health; Child Welfare-LA County Department of Children and Family Services; and Community Service Providers-Children’s Institute, Inc, For the Child, Pacific Asian Counseling Center and TIES for Families; designed to create a system of care for young children in the Los Angeles County area who would benefit from mental health services. With funding support from the SAMHSA, LADMH has taken the lead and has brought together the key partners from these varied disciplines to ensure that children birth through five have access to services that are family-centered, strength-based, and culturally competent.

“Family voice and choice is essential to everything we do and we are guided by the strengths of each family to plan and deliver services that will result in the best possible care for the children in our community.”

Community-based, infant/early childhood mental-health-treatment programs provide families with needed services and support when families identify challenges working through atypical behaviors in very young children or managing the after-effects of difficult family experiences or traumatic exposure.

What is Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health?

Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health is a comprehensive approach that refers to the social and emotional well being of very young children under the age of six. Positive relationships between young children and adults lay the foundation for healthy social and emotional development. This foundation allows children the freedom to:

  • Experience and manage a full range of emotions, cope with frustrations and regulate their behaviors
  • Develop supportive relationships with caregivers as well as other children
  • Safely and actively explore and learn from their environments, feel protected in the context of their families, neighborhoods, and cultures.

Project ABC’s History

In 2005 the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funded the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to develop Project ABC. In partnership with The Department of Children and Family Services,

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Children’s Institute, Inc., a system of care was developed in the Los Angeles County Metro region. This network of organizations provided professional training and consultation, leadership in relevant advocacy and policy changes and a wide array of educational and support materials for use by professionals as well as families with children birth to 5. The families also gained the benefit of a range of specialized and evidence-based services proven to strengthen infant-adult relationships and reduce the impact of traumatic exposure for children and their families. With the success of that partnership as our foundation, Project ABC has now redirected its efforts to focus on the South Bay, Long Beach and Inglewood communities and its partnership now includes For the Child, Pacific Asian Counseling Services and Ties for Families in addition to its on-going collaboration with DMH, DCFS, CII, and USC.

10 Simple Things to Help a Child’s Mental Health

1. Interaction – Spend time watching me and responding to my cues. It tells me I’m important and special to you.

2. Loving Touch – Cradle me, hold me. Give me lots of hugs. It keeps me calm and comforts me, and gives me courage to move on.

3. Stable Relationship – I need someone special to be there when I call. When I look around and see you, I know I can go far.

4. Safe, Healthy Environment – Plug the outlets, block the stairs. Keep lead away for sure! Make a safe, special place so I’m free to explore.

5. Self-Esteem – I can do it, yes I can, if you tell me. So pay attention, give me praise and watch me go, go, go!

6. Quality Child Care – When you’re gone I need to be with people you can trust to help me grow and teach me new, exciting stuff.

7. Communication – I may not talk, but don’t be fooled, I understand a lot. Our little conversations mean so very much!

8. Play – Play is fun, play is work, it’s how I learn the ropes. When we play together you help me more than you know.

9. Music – 1,2,3 sing to me and make up silly tunes. Music is special time that’s fun to share with you.

10. Reading – Read to me, show me books with lots of pretty pictures. Write my stories out in words. I’ll love to read forever.

Courtesy of Safe From The Start, California Attorney General’s


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