The importance of the first three years of life for children’s development and the consequences for their general health in adulthood have been widely documented in the international literature, including the benefits of early identification and intervention programs. Additionally, convergent research has highlighted wide-ranging negative trajectories attributable to both the short and long-term consequences of abuse and neglect and their neurobiological impact on health and development. However, formal identification processes and the use of standardised screening tools in child protection remain relatively rare despite the potential societal impact of child maltreatment in terms of public and economic health. Moreover, delays between the initial identification of mental health problems and health and developmental disorders, and the introduction of appropriate interventions persist. Abused and neglected infants risk an exacerbation of the consequences of early maltreatment due to insufficient access to prompt assessment and treatment, including appropriate responses to their health needs.
The aim of this article is to present the PEGASE program, an innovative French program for very young children in care, which is modelled on the care of premature babies. By setting up an early care pathway, it aims to ensure adequate medical follow-up – both somatic and psychiatric – through standardised examination and tailored interventions in order to limit the adverse health and developmental consequences of abuse. The presentation of the PEGASE program is supplemented by a case study.