HMG“Do you want to speak with a specialist about how your child is doing for his or her age?”

That’s the question every parent with a child age five or younger is asked when they call 211, a National free phone service, administered locally by the Contra Costa Crisis Center, linking callers to needed community services and support. Even if parents are calling about housing or child care needs, they all get the opportunity to speak to a child development specialist.

First 5 Contra Costa recently allocated $60,000 to the Contra Costa Crisis Center to implement the program and make the Crisis Center’s 211 program even more responsive to families with young children. By partnering in this way, it helps First 5 Contra Costa implement Help Me Grow, a national model that increases early detection of children’s developmental concerns and their ability to access early intervention services. A telephone line, such as 211, that seamlessly connects parents to information and resources is an essential component of the Help Me Grow system.

“Approximately 5,200 parents with children birth through age five call 211 in Contra Costa every year. With Help Me Grow, we can now reach families who are not in the system, children who are not yet diagnosed, and parents who want help boosting their child’s development,” said Kelly Scherer, the Contra Costa Crisis Center’s new Help Me Grow Specialist. “Our goals are to support parents and to catch developmental delays in children as early as possible.”

Scherer was hired in November 2014 and has been getting the Crisis Center’s Help Me Grow expansion off the ground by training 211 call specialists, reaching out to community programs, and assisting in the creation of a new, updated database to link families to existing programs. In the last three months, she served 105 parents, providing assistance with developmental screening services, referrals to community programs, and follow up to make sure parents accessed referred services.

Because most callers contact 211 for assistance with basic needs, such as housing or food resources, Scherer has learned that parents are most receptive to child development information once these basic needs are met. Then, she says, parents are more open to discussing developmental screening services, free parenting classes, or activities they can do to help their children learn and develop.

“The 211 Help Me Grow phone line helps minimize the frustration parents often feel when they can’t find the services they need,” said Scherer. “Now they can call 211, have their questions answered, learn about helpful community programs, and get child development information – all in one place.”

For more information, contact the Contra Costa Crisis Center by dialing 211 and ask for Kelly Scherer or the Help Me Grow Specialist.