Last week, First 5 Contra Costa was thrilled to meet with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier for a tour of the East County First 5 Center in Pittsburg, and a discussion of our “Help Me Grow” program to improve early screening and intervention. Rep. DeSaulnier is carrying a bill this year that would significantly increase federal funding for developmental services, so children in our counties and others who need help are identified sooner, and helped faster.
Far too often, children arrive at their first day of kindergarten with signs of obvious developmental, behavioral or social challenges. In many cases, this can be prevented through timely developmental screening and early intervention, one of the most important things we can do to promote children’s health in their first years. Yet only 29% of California children receive timely developmental screenings.
First 5 Contra Costa has worked hard to ensure every pediatric provider in our county uses a standard developmental screening tool at recommended intervals. The County’s 211 information and referral service now has trained developmental specialists available to navigate parents to the programs and resources their child needs. And each of our five First 5 Centers—including the one Rep. DeSaulnier visited–has regular developmental playgroups for children with mild to moderate delays and their parents.
But children with more intensive conditions need more intensive services, and those remain harder to access. California’s Regional Center system and school districts are not sufficiently funded to meet the needs of children with autism and other significant developmental conditions. That’s why we’re so excited about Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill.
The bill—The Funding Early Intervention is the Right IDEA Act (HR4107)—would increase funding in two parts of existing law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA), over ten years. The IDEA makes free and appropriate education available to eligible children with disabilities from birth to 21 years of age. The DeSaulnier bill would increase funding for Part C of the IDEA, which gives states early intervention funds for infants and toddlers. It would also increase funding for preschool programs serving children with disabilities. Funding levels in both of these areas have eroded to the point that per-child spending is now only about 35% what it was more than two decades ago. Every year, 1 in 4 California children is at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral or social delays.
In Contra Costa we’re doing all we can to meet the needs of these children, their families and communities so that every child has their chance to develop to their full potential. But to do so, we’ll need help from our state and federal governments to ensure early childhood programs are fully funded. Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill is a strong step in the right direction.
For more information on Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, please visit:
For more information on the Help Me Grow program and early intervention and screening, please visit:
For more information on your local First 5 Center and upcoming programs and activities, please visit:
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.
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.
211 is a helpful service linking people with services and support. Are you using it?
On average, people looking for services will call up to eight places before finding the right one. Many give up before getting the help they need. 211, a national toll-free phone service, can alleviate this stress.
211 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a week to connect people to the help they need. Calls are answered by trained multilingual staff – human beings! – not an automated message. The Contra Costa Crisis Center is the designated 211 provider in Contra Costa County.
First 5 Contra Costa has funded 211 for several years, allocating about $128,000 annually.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book released in July, California fell to 41st out of 50 states in overall children’s well-being. When it comes to economic well-being, we’re 45th.
Children Now, a partner on the Data Book, reports that 36% of California’s children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment – a 20% increase since 2008. The recession has taken its toll, and many of these families have turned to the safety net for the first time.
The Contra Costa Crisis Center, the organization implementing Contra Costa County’s 211 phone referral service linking people to community programs, reports that their operators continually field calls from frustrated callers whose needs far outweigh the services available. The most common requests from callers looking for services last year were for shelter or subsidized housing, rental and utility bill assistance, general financial assistance, and food pantry/food resources.