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:
First 5 Contra Costa is pleased to announce our new campaign to help parents meet the everyday challenges of raising babies and toddlers and help more kids achieve healthy development. Called Help Me Grow, the campaign directs parents to a new website and 211 phone line where they can find answers to parenting questions and concerns, no matter how big or small. Services are free and confidential.
The campaign includes bilingual ads in English and Spanish and is sponsored by First 5 Alameda County, First 5 Contra Costa, and the Thomas J. Long Foundation.
“From the day they are born, babies are constantly changing. It’s exciting, and it can also be challenging for families to figure out what their baby or toddler needs next,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Help Me Grow support families through every stage of their baby’s development, from first smiles to the first day of school.”
Through its phone and texting services and website, Help Me Grow offers parents information about developmental milestones, what to do if they have concerns about their baby’s development, and where to find local services such as parenting classes, health clinics, or food banks. Help Me Grow also helps families find free developmental screening to check how babies are growing and developing; referrals for children to get evaluated if there are developmental concerns; and services for children who need to catch up on their development.
The advertising campaign will run through the summer and includes online ads, brochures and posters distributed through pediatric offices in the East Bay, and outdoor ads in Contra Costa County communities.
New bilingual brochures, postcards, and posters are available for Contra Costa organizations to distribute. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a supply.
Connect to Help Me Grow:
- Visit helpmegrowcoco.org
- Call 211 to speak to a HMG Specialist
- Text “hmg” to 898211
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.
Our Notable 2017 Accomplishments
2017 was another productive and effective year at First 5 Contra Costa!
Combined, our funded services and activities benefited more than 27,605 children, families, and providers. Here’s a snapshot of some of our notable accomplishments from 2017.
Reaching more families at First 5 Centers.
This resulted in a plan that will increase the number of families who benefit from these valuable services in East County. Over time, we will shift from funding three small sites to funding two large centers in Pittsburg and Antioch. Services will continue in East County throughout the transition. Look for routine updates on new sites and classes in East County here.
The First 5 Centers are a key resource for parents and communities, which is why we’ve committed to funding them long-term. Last year alone, the Centers reached 2,100 parents. Families who took parenting classes made significant improvements in their knowledge of child development, patience with children, and the amount of time they spent with their kids.
Child care quality is improving.
156 child care programs participated in Quality Matters, our Quality Rating & Improvement System. 110 of these programs have been rated, and about half are publicly funded programs serving low-income families. Nearly 90 percent of the rated programs meet or exceed quality benchmarks on criteria including providing positive, engaging teacher-child interactions and safe, healthy and stimulating environments, teacher training and qualifications, and ratio and class size.
Quality Matters programs are rated every two years and receive intensive coaching, training, financial incentives and support to maintain or improve ratings. Last year, 28 programs were re-rated. Thirty-nine percent increased their rating, and 57 percent maintained quality ratings. Only one site’s rating decreased.
In addition, more than 600 early childhood teachers increased their education through the Professional Development Program. The college support, tutoring, and training provided resulted in 26% of teachers earning a degree or higher level on the early childhood teachers’ credentials permit.
Children with developmental delays are getting help earlier.
We continued to expand the Help Me Grow system to support early screening and intervention for children with developmental needs.
More than 3,000 children in our funded programs and via public health nursing received developmental screening services. For children screened in our programs, half were on track with their development. Twenty-five percent of the children had mild to moderate delays and another 25% needed a more formal assessment for serious developmental concerns.
Nearly 300 children with moderate delays participated in Help Me Grow Developmental Playgroups at the First 5 Centers. About 25% of children screened after the eight-week playgroup no longer showed signs of delay.
First 5 Contra Costa had several policy victories.
The three Regional Groups of parent leaders we sponsor continued to rack up major victories. Using their assessments of 75 parks in 5 cities, these parent leaders have secured $2.5 million in funding. Four new playgrounds were installed in neglected parks this year alone. They also offered over 40 sports and exercise classes to improve safety and usage at the new playgrounds.
The Regional Groups fought hard for protections for immigrant families and racial justice. They pressed six school districts and cities to adopt sanctuary policies, and helped sway the County to approve funding for Contra Costa’s first rapid response network to support immigrant residents.
2017 also launched our new strategic information and policy department at First 5 Contra Costa. With new staff capacity, we created a policy protocol for the Commission to engage in advocacy work at the state and federal levels, and successfully co-sponsored legislation for the first time. AB435 will allow for greater local flexibility in the use of state funds for subsidized early learning in Contra Costa County, serve more children, and ensure allocated state funding is fully used.
Thank you to our many partners and contractors for another productive year. Onward to 2018!
We’ve made great progress in our second year implementing the Help Me Grow (HMG) model, a system to streamline early screening and intervention services for young children and families.
Screening young children for developmental delays and linking them to effective services provides immediate relief to concerned families and reduces the costs for special education or other services down the road. In California, most developmental concerns are not identified or addressed until children start kindergarten – missed opportunities to begin interventions early.
Contra Costa’s Help Me Grow system is working to change this in four effective ways:
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.
Expanding the number of pediatricians who routinely provide developmental screening services to infants and toddlers is one goal of Help Me Grow, the system we’re building to connect children to the early screening and community services they need to thrive. Thanks to a generous grant from the Thomas J. Long Foundation, providing this vital service to more children is becoming a reality.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screening for children at 9, 18 and 24 months, but research shows that only about half of pediatricians report routinely screening patients younger than 36 months. The sooner children with delays receive help, the better they do in life, so it is critical to identify concerns as early as possible.
When staff at the Bay Point First 5 Center observed that a two-year-old boy attending classes wasn’t speaking at all, they broached the subject with his mom. She quickly replied, “He’s fine. I know what he needs.”
Primary caregivers, such as parents, know their children best. Talking to a family member who is uncomfortable about getting developmental screening for their child can be a delicate dance. Here’s how staff at the First 5 Center approached it.
The First 5 team first acknowledged that the mother is the expert on her child. The staff explained that developmental screening is one way to help her learn more about her child’s development. They also suggested she enroll her son in a literacy and sign language class to boost his language and speech. She declined the screening but tried the class.
Earlier in my career, I worked as an applied behavior analyst for children with autism. Most of the families I assisted had waited to ask for help for their children for a variety of reasons. Cultural issues, stigma or fear, confusion, and lack of awareness were just a few.
But the waiting didn’t end there. Once receiving a formal diagnosis, children then had to wait to be assigned to a provider, and again for services to begin. Sometimes this took months and other times years. By the time everything fell into place, many children aged out of “Early Start,” California’s early intervention program for infants and toddlers.
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.