Did you know that preschoolers are expelled from school at three times the rate of older children?
Getting kicked out of preschool can hinder children’s social-emotional development, disrupt continuity of care for children and parents, and delay children getting the services they need.
One way to reduce expulsions, as profiled in a recent New York Times article, is to connect child care providers to mental health consultation services and expertise in child development. Fortunately for children and child care providers in Contra Costa County, these services exist – they’re free and they’re working.
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. Continue reading
- Only 1 in 4 children in California who need mental health care receive treatment, despite the fact their families have health insurance to pay for it.
- Preschoolers who suffer from depression will likely continue to experience it throughout childhood; however spotting it early can make treatment more effective.
It can be hard to imagine young children having mental health issues, but they do just like the rest of us. For infants and toddlers, though, it’s easier to view mental health through the lens of social and emotional development. That’s because healthy social and emotional development in young children is dependent on their loving and supportive relationships with parents and other caregivers. When children are not receiving the loving care they need, and even worse, when they experience persistent trauma or abuse, they are likely to exhibit behaviors that might be perceived as mental health issues.
More than 4,400 children have received developmental screening since we began training our partners to provide this critical yet underutilized service three years ago. Developmental screening is an important first step in diagnosing children who have developmental delays or autism, yet many young children fail to receive it.
To address this need, we started training children’s services providers on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) in 2011. Since then, 280 providers from 58 agencies in Contra Costa County have been trained. Contra Costa County Public Health Nurses account for half of all providers trained.
The prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States and almost 1 in 42 boys, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest autism prevalence report released last month.
The report tracks autism rates in 11 communities in the U.S., representing about 9 percent of all eight-year-olds. None of the communities tracked are in California.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that occurs when the brain has trouble functioning properly. It affects a child’s ability to speak, learn, and communicate with others. While there is no cure for autism, early intervention can help. Children who are diagnosed at a young age and receive early intervention services show improvements in learning and communication skills. Continue reading
When Andre, a preschooler with Down syndrome and delayed communication skills, was struggling with outbursts and uncooperative behavior at his Head Start preschool program, his teachers turned to the Inclusion Program for support.
First 5 Contra Costa allocates $330,000 to the Inclusion Program, which is run by the Contra Costa Child Care Council and helps children with special needs succeed in typical child care settings. In the program, Inclusion Facilitators visit children in their child care setting and provide coaching, training, and specialized equipment for teachers. Parents also receive support to ensure consistency between home and early care settings. Continue reading
Called Triple P (or Positive Parenting Program), the program has been used throughout the world to improve parenting skills and prevent child abuse by fostering positive and nurturing relationships between parents and children. Triple P is also effective in helping parents to manage difficult child behavior.
We’re funding Triple P services in partnership with Contra Costa Health Services, Mental Health. We each allocate $75,000 for the program, with our funding used for parents with young children. The nonprofit C.O.P.E. Family Support Center provides some of the Triple P classes and trains organizations to implement the curriculum. To date, 62 providers have been trained. Classes take place throughout the county, including the First 5 Centers, family homeless shelters, and children’s mental health programs. Continue reading
The following is a letter sent to the Delta First 5 Center from a parent whose daughter benefited from developmental screening.
During the early stages of development of my daughter Evalyn Grace, I felt she was underdeveloped in her communication skills. Being a first time mother and hearing constantly, “every child is different” and “do not compare her to other kids,” I began to feel as if I was doing something wrong. I did feel she was different. She did not interact with others well. I did compare her to other kids her age; she was not talking like them.
I began to feel overwhelmed and alone towards my opinion of where my daughter should be developmentally. Her developmental growth was inconsistent. She would go months without trying a new word. I was later referred to First 5 for developmental screening shortly after Evalyn’s second birthday.
During her first screening, Ms Rhea (First 5 staff member) asked her to repeat a sound. After a few tries, Evalyn had a breakdown. As usual, when asked to make a sound or word she would start breathing heavily, turn red, and cry after not being able to speak.
We began attending classes at First 5 where Evalyn was able to be in an environment with more children her age. Ms. Rhea was able to refer us to the Lynn Center. I was happy to see improvement after attending First 5 for four months. It was a rough start, but I was finally seeing growth in her development in all aspects. After a year attending First 5, Evalyn was able to participate in group exercises and say her name during the introduction songs. Continue reading
Her ex-husband had recently started a life sentence in prison. A fire at her apartment complex, later followed by a flood, destroyed most of the family’s belongings. They were crammed into a two-bedroom apartment awaiting their next move. And her two-year-old son Malik was having signficant speech problems.
“I was so stressed and unorganized. I didn’t know what my next move was going to be,” she said.
The family was referred to the Early Childhood Mental Health Program (ECMHP) for wraparound mental health services, a team-based strategy to support families with complex needs. Wrap teams made up of service providers, a family advocate, and the parents’ friends, ministers, or family members help the family to set and meet goals. The idea is to reduce stress so parents can focus on developing healthy relationships with their children – the key to young children’s optimal social and emotional development.
In our first year implementing a new developmental screening program, we found that 20 percent of children screened had possible delays in their development. Developmental screening is an important first step in diagnosing children who might have developmental delays or autism, yet many young children fail to receive it.
“About one in five children face developmental disabilities or disabling behavioral problems before age 18, but only half are identified before age five,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Developmental screening increases the chances of identifying children with developmental concerns when they are very young – the time when intervention is most effective and least expensive.” Continue reading