All Parents Have Questions, Help Me Grow Has Answers!

HMG_brochure_proof_r4-1It’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.

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Call 211 with Questions About Your Child’s Development

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.

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Help is a Call Away with 211

211 is a helpful service linking people with services and support. Are you using it?

04-211-smOn 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.

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Strengthening Contra Costa’s Safety Net

Shelter, food, and financial assistance were the top requests 211 operators received last year.

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.

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