On March 5, 2013, Joanna Bogin and I had the honor of representing the Help Me Grow National Center when federal officials came together with community leaders in Washington, D.C., at a meeting hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
The focus of the meeting, titled “Community-Based Assessment, Services and Supports for Young Children,” on community pathways for early identification, referral, and linkage to developmental services and supports for young children led to a lively, productive discussion. While we look forward to sharing with you a comprehensive review of the dialogue, two aspects of the session merit special attention.
Despite the convening of this meeting within a mere 4 days following the enactment of sequestration, the optimism expressed by federal agency leaders was palpable and so inspiring! Indeed, leaders from such agencies and organizations as the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Learn the Signs Act Early Campaign, the Department of Education (DOE) Office of Special Education, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Home Visiting and Children with Special Health Care Needs Programs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) were unanimous in their belief that “now is the time” to support children and their families to promote children’s optimal healthy development. We were so impressed and encouraged!
We were also pleased with the opportunity to share key concepts and principles informed by the Help Me Grow experience. Representatives from Orange and Alameda Counties (CA) and Palm Beach County (FL) shared lessons learned from their system building in local communities. We shared our experiences from the perspective of the National Center. Our points of emphasis included:
- The value of system building on the basis of a framework that integrates child health, early care and education, and family support services in cross-sector collaboration
- The central importance of care coordination in accessing services within and across sectors
- The imperative of focusing on children at-risk for adverse developmental and behavioral outcomes, as opposed to an exclusive focus on children with delays and disorder
- The role of the integrated process of developmental surveillance and screening in the early detection of children at-risk
- The imperative that early detection lead to assessment and intervention
- The benefits of linking to community-based programs and services, including the opportunity to enhance such interventions as home visiting through such linkages
- The critical importance of data collection in documenting gaps and capacity issues to inform advocacy and to emphasize the need to strengthen capacity in such activities as care coordination and mid-level assessment
- The need to demonstrate the efficacy of interventions and the opportunity to embrace the Protective Factors Framework of Strengthening Families as evidence of promoting children’s healthy development
- The expectation that cost savings be both short- and longer-term, and the opportunity to employ “demedicalization” and linkage to community-based programs and services to demonstrate real-time cost-effectiveness
We look forward to continuing the dialogue on system-building in support of young children’s healthy development. Our work together yields such important implications at both the state and federal levels.