First Connections Program
The beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success later in school and in life. Research shows that 90 percent of a child’s brain develops during their first five years. During this period of rapid growth, it is crucial to determine if a child’s development is on track and to address any concerns as early as possible.
The reasons: one in four children under 5 years old are at risk for developmental and behavioral delays and would benefit from early intervention services and supports. Yet fewer than one in three young children ages 0 to 5 are receiving timely developmental and behavioral screenings in California.
For these reasons, First 5 LA recognizes the importance of timely developmental screenings and access to appropriate early intervention services and supports to have the greatest impact. First 5 LA’s First Connections Program is one of many approaches to connect children at risk or with developmental delays to culturally and linguistically appropriate early intervention services as soon as possible.
In January 2014, First 5 LA launched the First Connections Program to address system barriers and reduce disparities in screening for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and developmental delays. With the support of a technical assistance provider, First Connections grantees have piloted innovative approaches to strengthen, embed and expand early identification and intervention practices within their agencies, including utilizing technology to embed developmental screening within provider workflows. First Connections grantees also provide a range of early intervention services to help children develop physical, cognitive, and social-emotional skills.
Central to this work is also helping families navigate early identification and intervention systems. In addition to engaging parents and caregivers in discussions about healthy child development, First Connections grantees support families with navigating the transition between programs and services across sectors by connecting families to local regional centers, school districts, and local community supports.
Program Funding and Duration:
First Connections began as a 3-year, $2.5 million project in January 2014 and was extended in March 2016 for $1.25 million. Following the Help Me Grow-LA launch, it was extended once again for $1.9 million until June 2020, bringing the total funding allocation to $5.65 million.
Since the launch of the program in 2014, First Connections grantees have served more than 45,697 children and expanded services to more than 120 locations. One grantee reported that First Connections resources and support enabled them to raise their developmental screening rates from 26 percent to over 95 percent.
Program Success Stories:
A Mother’s Brave First Step (click here for link, scroll down to mid-article)
Click herefor a video of First Connections at work improving the life of an L.A. County family
The success of the First Connections Program is attributed to the following agencies’ commitment and dedication to testing and refining strategies to strengthen early identification and intervention services for young children in Los Angeles County.
First Connections Grantees:
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 to implement and track developmental screening results. Since the launch of the First Connections program in 2014, AltaMed has noted a dramatic increase in their screening rates. In 2017, AltaMed implemented the Hablamos Juntos parent education program and have observed an increase in children’s language and communication skills.
Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Centeris 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 a number of pediatric services including individual and family therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and parenting programs, among other services.
Foothill Family Servicessupports 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 speaks up to 13 languages and provide a diverse array of services for children prenatal to -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.
South Central Los Angeles Family Resource Center supports families of children who are at risk for or who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability. The family resource center provides a wide range of services, including one-to-one peer counseling support to families and caregivers, ongoing outreach and public awareness to the community, parent support groups, and a range of other services.
Westside Children’s Center provides thousands of at-risk children and their families with critical, high-quality early education programs, family strengthening interventions for 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.
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 First Connections grantees