Toddler girl playing with colorful toy next to parent.

Screening and Connecting to Resources

First 5 Contra Costa operates the local Help Me Grow model which promotes regular developmental screenings of children and connects them with services they and their families need. Developmental screenings check all areas of child development, including moving, hearing, seeing, thinking, communicating, and social skills. Screening helps identify delays earlier in a child’s life – the time when intervention is most effective and least expensive.

Why are developmental screenings important?

Developmental screenings help identify developmental delays or behavioral or social-emotional concerns in young children. A developmental delay means a child does not meet age-appropriate milestones, such as a task or skill that most children can do at a certain age in their early development. Some children with developmental delays begin showing signs early on, while in other children it may be more difficult to detect concerns, which is why early and regular screenings are so important.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children under the age of three be screened routinely, yet data show that in 2020, only 23.7% of children enrolled in MediCal managed care in Contra Costa County received a developmental screening in the first three years of life. 

Identifying and treating developmental delays early can have a huge impact on children and their families. Children who are screened are more likely to receive early intervention services that help improve social and cognitive skills. Early intervention services can also reduce the need for special education services later in a child’s life.

Why Help Me Grow?

Help Me Grow is a national model that First 5 Contra Costa adopted for our county. This national model is used in more than half of California’s counties, and has a successful track record of connecting children to the early screening and community services they need to thrive. 

Help Me Grow Contra Costa improves families’ access to early intervention services by:

  • Raising awareness among families and service providers about the importance of routine developmental screenings
  • Training staff in pediatric offices, preschools, and child care programs about developmental screenings and the Help Me Grow model
  • Supporting an up-to-date database of support services for young children and their families that providers and families can access
  • Supporting dedicated personnel at the Contra Costa Crisis Center’s 211 program to support families’ understanding of the support services available to them and how to get their child screened
  • Creating and funding developmental playgroups for children whose developmental delays—while still significant—have not yet qualified for state-funded services. The playgroups help them catch up on their developmental milestones, and provide resources and tools for families.