It’s normal for parents to have questions about how their children are growing and developing. Some may wonder if they’re developing on track, are worried about children’s behavior, or might just need information about the best way to help their child develop and prepare for school.
For answers, parents can call 2-1-1 and ask for a Help Me Grow specialist. 2-1-1 child development specialists can answer everyday questions about early childhood development, provide tips and resources, help parents get free developmental screening for their children, and link them to services if their child has developmental concerns.
First 5 Contra Costa, with a grant from the Thomas J. Long Foundation, is implementing Help Me Grow in our county. HMG is a system based on a national model to streamline early identification and referral to help young children thrive, particularly those with developmental delays or concerns. Having a designated phone line, like 2-1-1, is an important component of the system.
So now, regardless of why people call 2-1-1, anyone with children under age five has the option to speak to a Help Me Grow child development specialist.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Jennifer called 2-1-1 requesting assistance paying her rent and her utility bill. When the 2-1-1 operator discovered that Jennifer had three children, including a one-year-old daughter, Jennifer was transferred to a Help Me Grow Specialist. After several calls together, the Specialist learned that Jennifer had just come out of a difficult and contentious custody battle with her ex-husband who was awaiting trial for allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. While she had concerns about her children’s well-being and emotional health, she didn’t think her youngest daughter needed support because she was “too young to know what was going on”.
The Help Me Grow specialist gently introduced the topic of trauma exposure and how trauma can effect early development in children. She then reviewed specific milestones to make sure Jennifer’s toddler was developing like other children her age. Concerns were flagged, but with the Specialist’s support, the family enrolled in a counseling center, which provided services for everyone, including early intervention services for the youngest child.