If infants and toddlers had the capacity to tell us their needs, what would they tell us? Young children are not directly in the courtrooms therefore their perspectives can be often ignored and unheard in legal proceedings. How do we know the decisions being made are in the best interest of the child?

As part of the Family Law Initiative, Infant Mental Health Promotion has created a video series focusing on understanding infant mental health within the judicial system. The video series was developed to inform judges, lawyers and other legal professionals working on cases involving child protection and/or divorce.


1. To increase knowledge about infant mental health including:

  • What is infant mental health
  • Factors that influence positive infant mental health
  • Factors that derail healthy development of mental health in the early years
  • Experiences that cause trauma for infants
  • The impact of poor infant mental health – short term and long term
  • How the presence or the absence of the attachment relationship can irreparably derail a child’s development

2. To understand the effect of neglect and/or maltreatment on child development – short term and long term such as:

  • The application of the science on brain development, epigenetics, toxic stress and attachment as it may apply to cases in which young children have experienced high conflict, exposure to violence, neglect or abuse
  • What situations may increase or decrease a child’s stress 

3. To identify Judicial options specific to infants and toddlers  who may be are at risk for poor mental health as a direct result of their early care giving experiences that may have included neglected, physical abuse, maltreatment, sexual abuse.

Produced by Infant Mental Health Promotion (IMHP), The Hospital for Sick Children and Fisheye Productions Online, Toronto, 2017

Panelists Include:

  • Cheryl Jackson – Host/ Journalist
  • Dr. Judy Cameron, Ph.D, Professor, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Clinical and Translational Science, Director of Science Outreach, University of Pittsburgh.
  • Jean M. Clinton, BMus, MD, FRCP(C), Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University.
  • Justice Andrea Moen, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
  • Justice June Maresca, Judge of the Ontario Court of Justice
  • Mary Rella, B.A., Dip.C.S., Manager, Clinical Services, Skylark
  • Brenda Packard, BSW, Supervisor, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
  • Donna J. Gray, LL.B., Senior Legal Counsel/ Manager, Legal Services, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
  • Dr. Jean Victor Wittenberg, MD, FRCP(C), Department of Psychiatry, The Hospital for Sick Children, Associate Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Toronto
  • Lisa Hayes, LL.B., Senior Community-based Family Lawyer

    Module 1 – Understanding Infant Mental Health

Module 1 - Transcript

Module 2 Part A – Understanding Infant Trauma

Module 2 Transcript

Module 2 Part B - Developmental and Psychosocial Consequences

Module 2 Transcript

Module 3 Part A – Options for Supporting Infant Mental Health

Module 3 Transcript

Module 3 Part B – Interventions


Module 3 Part C – Implications for Judicial Practice


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IMHP has developed the advocacy kit below to share this information forward.  Send the call to Action documents to your networks and partners and encourage them to submit a letter of endorsement. Share this information with your local MPs and Ministries that provide services for infants and families to encourage them to actively examine policy and practice. Together we can influence policy and practice to make positive changes for vulnerable babies.

Click HERE to Download the Call to Action
Download the Call to Action Executive Summary
Send it to your networks with an Advocacy Letter
Submit an official Letter of Endorsement to IMHP


IMHP has developed the following briefs to introduce key topics to inform practice in the field of infant mental health. 

More will be added over time. If there is a specific topic that you would find it beneficial to add to this collection, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Topic Brief: Infant Mental Health Summary of Development from Birth to Age 5