To prevent the impacts of trauma exposure and developmental-behavioral delays, First 5 LA’s Connections Program prioritizes early screening and intervention for young children and connects them and their families with culturally and linguistically appropriate services as early as possible.
Background: Upon Commission approval, the initial three-year $2.5 million First Connections Program was launched in January 2014 to address system barriers and reduce disparities in screening young children for Autism Spectrum Disorder and developmental delays. The project was extended in March 2016 and granted an additional $1.25 million. Following the 2017 launch of Help Me Grow-LA(HMG), First Connections was extended until 2020 and received $1.9 million in additional funding, bringing the project’s total allocation to $5.65 million. HMG is a national effort that builds on existing resources at the local level to strengthen how systems work together to provide timely screenings for developmental and behavioral delays, effective care coordination and appropriate referrals to ensure young children have the support they need to thrive.
Partnership Goals:Because one in four children under age 5 is at risk for developmental and behavioral delays, it is not only crucial to have access to appropriate screenings and interventions but to also address any concerns as early as possible. Yet, fewer than one in three of California’s children 0-5 receive timely screenings.
Working in partnership with other organizations, government agencies and funders, we are helping to strengthen existing systems and build upon promising practices to reduce stigma, improve outcomes, and elevate the importance of early childhood development. 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.
Also central to this work is helping families navigate early identification and intervention systems. Included is engaging parents and caregivers in discussions about healthy child development, and First Connections grantees supporting families as they navigate transitions between programs and services across sectors by connecting them to local regional centers, school districts, and local community supports.
Since the program’s launch, 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 supports enabled them to raise their developmental screening rates from 26 percent to more than 95 percent.
Program Success Stories:
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