Early screening and intervention lead to the best outcomes for children with developmental concerns, but most delays aren’t identified until after children enter kindergarten. On top of that, when concerns are detected, families often have a challenging time finding the services they need. The Help Me Grow system aims to change that.
Help Me Grow (HMG) is a system to coordinate early detection, referral, and treatment for children with developmental or behavioral concerns. The system is used in more than 20 states, including California.
First 5 Contra Costa and partners have successfully led the effort for Contra Costa County to become a HMG affiliate, the eighth county in California to earn this distinction from the national Help Me Grow Center. As an affiliate, Contra Costa will receive training and technical assistance to build a more comprehensive early development system. We also gain access to best practices and research to replicate the HMG model locally.
We’ve been working to improve the developmental service system in Contra Costa County since 2011, forming the Early Learning Leadership Alliance (ECLA), a coalition of 30 dedicated children’s services agencies. Together, we started to expand developmental screening opportunities for low-income children. As new needs were identified, we created new developmental playgroups for children whose delays were not serious enough for state-funded services and funded the expansion of the 211 call center to more effectively help parents locate needed services.
Now, with the assistance of HMG National, we can take this system to the next level. Our goal over the next few years will be to implement the four components of the system, which include:
- Community outreach: Helping parents to understand why developmental screening is important and request it for their children.
- Health care provider outreach: Helping pediatricians to implement routine developmental screening and facilitate children’s access to developmental services.
- Centralized referral system: Continuing to build the capacity of 211 to provide support and linkages to developmental services.
- Identifying gaps and barriers: Collecting and analyzing data to more effectively connect families to community resources.
We’re excited, along with our partners in this effort, to bring Help Me Grow to Contra Costa County and help all children reach their optimal development.