Seventy percent of children with developmental delays go undetected until kindergarten. Developmental screening can help detect delays much earlier, but too few California children receive them. AB11 will change that.

Introduced by Assembly Members Kevin McCarty and Rob Bonta and co-sponsored by the First 5 Association, AB11 would require pediatricians to provide babies and toddlers with routine developmental screening using a validated screening tool. The requirement would apply to children who receive health coverage through Medi-Cal.

According to Children Now, which graded California’s developmental screening practices a “C-“ in their 2018 California Children‘s Report Card, California ranks near the bottom among states for the rate of young kids who receive screening. Screening rates are even lower for children of color.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children receive developmental screening when they reach 9, 18, and 30 months old. California’s MediCal program has adopted these recommendations, but there is confusion in the medical field about developmental screening practices. Pediatricians often do not use a validated screening tool to identify children at risk for developmental delays, or use screening tools inconsistently.

First 5 Contra Costa has expanded developmental screening services locally in the last few years, screening about 3,000 low-income children every year. We’ve helped community and county health clinics and other pediatricians serving low-income kids adopt screening practices in line with AAP recommendations.

This is a great start, but ensuring all children get the screening and developmental services they need requires policy change. AB11 would provide explicit language requiring how and when pediatricians conduct developmental screening. This will help more young children access timely and effective intervention services and reach their greatest potential.