First Connections – A project of our Early Identification and Intervention strategy
Background: Initiated in January 2014, the First Connections program began as a three-year project to address system barriers and reduce disparities in screening young children for Autism Spectrum Disorder and developmental delays. Given the success of the program, First Connections was extended through June 2020 with promising practices and strong partnerships that continue to inform other key systems delivering early identification and intervention (EII), including Help Me Grow-Los Angeles (HMG-LA).
Because one in four children birth to age 5 is at risk for developmental and behavioral delays, it is not only crucial to have access to appropriate screenings and interventions but also to address any concerns as early as possible. Yet, fewer than one in three of California’s children under age 5 receive timely screenings.
Partnership Goals: First 5 LA is working in partnership with six community-based providers to increase timely access to developmental screenings and early intervention services. With the support of a training and technical assistance provider, First Connections grantees have piloted innovative approaches to strengthen, embed and expand EII practices within their agencies, including utilizing technology to embed developmental screening within provider workflows. Also central to this work is connecting families to appropriate early intervention services and equipping parents and caregivers with tools and information to support their child’s healthy development.
Since the program’s launch, First Connections grantees have served more than 54,572 children (as of March 2019) and expanded services to more than 120 locations. One grantee reported that First Connections resources and supports enabled them to raise their developmental screening rates from 26% to more than 95%.
Program Success Stories:
Click here to learn about a mother’s brave step to enroll her children in early intervention services with the support of First Connections.
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 (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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.