We have a critical window of time – prenatal to age 5 – to build the foundations every child needs to prepare for success in school and life. Research shows it is during this time that a child’s brain develops most rapidly. In fact, 90 percent of their brain is developed by age 5. It is crucial during these years to determine if a child’s development is on track and to address any concerns as early as possible to have the greatest possible impact.
First 5 LA prioritizes Integrated Health by advancing practice change across child and family serving systems to help all children in Los Angeles County achieve their optimal development. Our goal is to ensure early screening and intervention to prevent the impacts of trauma exposure and developmental-behavioral delays. Working in partnership with other organizations, government agencies and funders, First 5 LA seeks to strengthen existing systems and build upon promising practices to reduce stigma, improve outcomes, and elevate the importance of early childhood development.
First 5 LA is building out countywide system change efforts in two key areas to further strengthen the integration and coordination of health-related systems so that they appropriately respond and meet family needs.
- Early Identification and Intervention
- Trauma and Resiliency-Informed Care
Early Identification, which involves a combination of routine surveillance and screenings, greatly increases the likelihood that a young child with or at risk for developmental and behavioral delays will be identified and referred to prevention and early intervention services. Furthermore, 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. Navigating these services and the larger system, however, is difficult and complex for many families. For instance, families often encounter challenges accessing timely screenings and early intervention services because of a lack of system-level coordination, complex eligibility and referral processes and obstacles to data sharing, among other barriers. Breaking down these barriers is essential in helping families to successfully navigate and access the programs, services and systems that support children and families.
One of the most compounding and damaging factors in a child’s development is the impact of trauma and toxic stress, experiences that often result in children facing lifelong physical, behavioral and emotional challenges. However, research shows that intervening as early as possible can buffer the impact of trauma on brain development. To identify and respond appropriately to a child who has been exposed to trauma, it is critical to ensure child and family serving systems are equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide trauma-informed services. Further, to affect a culture of healing and wellbeing, it is essential to recognize that trauma intervention cannot rest solely on the abilities of child and family serving systems. Community change efforts focused on trauma and resiliency have the potential to positively impact the toxicity and stressors prevalent in our larger societal environment.