Since January 2014, the First Connections initiative implements innovative approaches for community-based providers to embed developmental screening and strengthen referral processes within their practices. The goal is to better identify children with or at risk for developmental delays and connect them and their families to culturally and linguistically appropriate early intervention services and supports as early as possible. Given the success of the program, First Connections was extended to continue exploring promising practices and strong partnerships to inform other key systems delivering early identification and intervention (EII), including Help Me Grow LA (HMG LA). 

Click here to read about a mother’s brave step to enroll her children in early intervention services with the support of First Connections. The brief video below highlights the need for the First Connections program.  

Since the program’s launch, First Connections grantees have served more than 60,000 children and expanded services to more than 120 locations across six community-based organizations.   

Based on lessons learned from the program, the Early Screening, Better Outcomes: Developmental Screening & Referral Toolkits serve as a practical guide to support early childhood agencies and programs in implementing or refining high-quality developmental screening and linkage for young children.  

 An independent mixed methods evaluation conducted by Harder+Company Community Research in 2019-2020 examined family access, knowledge, and support; systems learnings and implications; and technical assistance and provider capacity. The full evaluation report documenting best practices and lessons learned can be found here

The toolkits and program evaluation findings were highlighted at a July 2020 forum with EII providers to highlight best practices from the First Connections program, as featured in the below video.

First 5 LA is working in partnership with six community-based organizations to increase timely access to developmental screenings and early intervention services. For implementation, these providers receive the support of a training and technical assistance provider. The success of the First Connections program is attributed to the following agencies’ commitment and dedication to testing and refining strategies that strengthen EII practices within their agencies.  

Allies for Every Child:  

Allies for Every Child (formerly Westside Children’s Center) provides thousands of at risk children and their families with critical, high-quality early education programs, interventions to strengthen families at risk of abusing or neglecting their children, foster care and adoption services, and a range of vital, integrated services, including developmental screenings/advocacy, parenting classes and pediatric health consultations.   

AltaMed Health Services Corporation:  

AltaMed Health Services Corporation provides pediatric care, developmental screening and referrals to regional centers and other community supports. AltaMed uses health information technology capabilities to prompt staff in implementing and tracking developmental screening results. Since the launch of the First Connections program in 2014, AltaMed has noted a dramatic increase in their screening rates. After implementing the Hablamos Juntos parent education program in 2017, AltaMed observed an increase in children’s language and communication skills.   

Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center:  

Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center is a community health center dedicated to improving the physical, social and emotional well-being of children and families within the communities they serve, regardless of income. Eisner provides several pediatric services including individual and family therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and parenting programs, among others.  

Foothill Family Services:  

Foothill Family Services supports the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona Valley with family centers in Pasadena, El Monte, South El Monte, West Covina, Duarte and Pomona. To meet the unique needs of this region, Foothill Family staff speak up to 13 languages and provide a diverse array of services for children prenatal to age 5 and their families. In addition to conducting developmental screenings, Foothill Family provides parent education, home visiting services and family therapy, among other services.  

Northeast Valley Health Corporation:  

Northeast Valley Health Corporation provides comprehensive primary health care to medically underserved residents of L.A. County, particularly in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. Northeast Valley provides primary and preventive health services to children, including developmental screening and age-specific education regarding child development and growth.  

South Central Los Angeles Family Resource Center:  

The South Central Los Angeles Family Resource Center supports families of children who are at risk for or have been diagnosed with a developmental disability. The family resource center provides a wide range of services including one-to-one peer counseling support for families and caregivers, ongoing outreach and public awareness in the community, parent support groups and a range of other services.  

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles:  

As the first and largest pediatric hospital in Southern California and a recognized leader in the field of developmental disabilities, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles provides training, education and technical assistance for the above First Connections grantees. 


Latinx Mothers’ Experiences with Linkage to Early Intervention (2022)

Policy and practice barriers to early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the California Early Intervention System (2021) 

Helping babies and young children involved with the child welfare system (2019)  

Innovations in cross-sector developmental screening: Developmental screening and linkage to early intervention helps children grow and families connect (2018)  

Broad developmental screening misses young children with social-emotional needs (2018)   

Developmental screening and referrals: Assessing the influence of provider specialty, training, and interagency communication (2017) 


Making the Connection: Testimonials, New Evaluation Report and Toolkits Reveal How First Connections Helps Families Access Early Intervention Services 

Feb 25, 2021 | Articles, First Connections  

First 5 LA Promotes Developmental Screenings with New Pediatrician Toolkit 

Jul 29, 2020 | Author: Christina Hoag, First Connections, News & Resources  

Q & A: The Importance of First Connections During the Pandemic & More 

Feb 25, 2021 | Articles, First Connections 

An Ally Through Adversity 

Dec 18, 2019 | Articles, Author: Jeff Schnaufer, First Connections, News & Resources 

First Connections Program Evaluation 

Nov 12, 2020 | Articles, Data / Reports, First Connections 

First 5 Explains: Developmental Screenings/Early Intervention 

May 1, 2018 | Articles, First Connections, Integrated Health, News & Resources