Help Me Grow Partners with the Build Initiative to Launch Project to Address Developmental Needs of Children in Early Learning Settings

For Immediate Release: February 7, 2018
Media Contact:

Monica Buchanan, Director of Community and Media Relations
(860) 837-5701

Debra Dudack, Communications Specialist
(860) 837-6225

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Help Me Grow National Center and two Help Me Grow (HMG) affiliates are partnering with the BUILD Initiative to enhance training opportunities for providers at home, family and center-based early learning settings to increase their capacity to screen children for developmental and behavioral concerns, share results with physicians, and refer families to resources that can address their needs.

The project is funded through a $600,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Project Description

During the initial phase of the grant, experts from the Help Me Grow National Center and the BUILD Initiative are working with Help Me Grow Orange County and Help Me Grow Vermont to disseminate two promising innovations to affiliates in the HMG network, which consists of more than 25 state affiliates that receive support from the Help Me Grow National Center to advance developmental promotion. Those innovations focus on 1) increasing developmental screenings in early learning settings using Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) developed at the state level; and 2) increasing referrals to centralized access points where HMG care coordinators connect children with developmental or behavioral concerns, or those who are at risk, to appropriate services to ensure concerns are properly addressed. The BUILD Initiative leads a national learning network to support states in exploring, piloting, or implementing QRIS; a partnership between HMG and the BUILD Initiative ensures these two innovations reach communities engaged in relevant QRIS efforts.

During the second phase of the grant, the Help Me Grow National Center and the BUILD Initiative will launch a cohort of three to six HMG affiliates across the country that will implement the innovations, using a QRIS framework as support. After receiving technical assistance and training, cohort participants will reach out to home- and center-based providers in their communities to offer the guidance and training needed for them to implement developmental screening and referral efforts in their settings, while sharing results with pediatric primary care providers.

“This grant allows us to address a pressing gap in early childhood systems by supporting early learning providers to screen young children for developmental and behavioral concerns,” said Kimberly Martini-Carvell, executive director of the Help Me Grow National Center. “Beyond implementing developmental screening, such providers will be able to refer families to an accessible hub of HMG care coordinators who can link them to community services before crucial time to address needs is lost.”

Currently, developmental screenings are conducted primarily in pediatric primary care offices. However, opportunity exists to expand screening beyond child health providers to ensure children receive screening at intervals recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Early learning settings provide natural locations for providers to identify developmental and behavioral concerns before conditions escalate to diagnosable levels so families can get help when interventions are most effective.

“Through this project, we are helping communities build effective and comprehensive early childhood systems to better serve children and families,” said Paul H. Dworkin, MD, executive vice president for community child health at Connecticut Children’s and founding director of the Help Me Grow National Center. “Building the capacity of early learning providers to screen and refer families to services maximizes the opportunity for vulnerable young children to reach their fullest developmental potential.”

Project Goals

The project seeks to 1) train early learning providers on promoting developmental surveillance and screening; 2) increase the number of developmental screenings offered in early learning settings; 3) ensure results of screenings are shared with child health providers; and 4) increase the degree to which early learning settings leverage HMG to connect families to community-based services.

As part of the project, the Help Me Grow National Center and the BUILD Initiative, in consultation with Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program, will develop a comprehensive set of tools and resources to provide training and guidance to cohort participants in adopting the innovations; offer a series of webinars and conference calls for cohort participants; support participants in ongoing data collection to evaluate project successes; and disseminate information about key lessons learned at the annual HMG and BUILD Initiative conferences.

“We are excited to participate in this project which strengthens the linkages among early learning programs, health providers, community-based services and families for the benefit of young children,” said Debi Mathias, the director of the QRIS National Learning Network at the BUILD Initiative.

Project Background

Both innovations disseminated in this project were among four finalists in the inaugural 10K Innovation Challenge at the Help Me Grow National Forum in 2017, which was also supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The goal of the challenge was to identify and support the growth and development of promising innovations from local success stories to those impacting families across the HMG affiliate network. HMG affiliates had the opportunity to learn about these innovations at last year’s forum; this year, they can join a community of practice to support them in adopting these innovations in their systems.

The Help Me Grow Orange County innovation effectively utilizes collaboration with Quality Start OC’s Quality Rating & Improvement System, linked technology, and the HMG system infrastructure to improve developmental screening rates for children in family child care settings. In this innovation, early learning providers distribute developmental screening questionnaires to parents electronically that are automatically scored using an online system. Results are imported into a Help Me Grow Orange County database used for intake, referrals and care coordination. All results are shared with families and pediatric primary care providers, and are also used by early learning providers. Children determined to be in the at-risk or monitoring categories receive follow-up from HMG staff who connect them to appropriate services.

“We are thrilled in Orange County, California to be a part of this new project to increase developmental screening in early learning settings, especially for hard to reach children in family child care homes,” said Rebecca Hernandez, program manager for Help Me Grow Orange County. “Our effort, in partnership with Quality Start OC, increased the number of children who are screened and referred for services using HMG care coordinators. We are honored to have an opportunity to refine our practices, heighten our technology and share lessons we have learned with other HMG affiliates.”

The Help Me Grow Vermont innovation provides training and coaching for child health and early learning providers to promote access to age-appropriate developmental surveillance and screening. When concerns are identified, providers link families to community resources through Help Me Grow Vermont’s centralized access point. Early learning providers are also trained to use Vermont’s new Universal Developmental Screening Registry, which is a statewide portal for results of developmental screenings. Technical assistance consists of in-person training and monthly coaching sessions focusing on developmental screening tools and strategies to enhance communication with families. Help Me Grow Vermont conducts outreach in partnership with The Vermont Child Health Improvement Program, a quality improvement program working to improve child health outcomes.

“This Kellogg grant opportunity will allow Vermont to strengthen partnerships and communication between child care providers and medical homes, which is essential to ensure children’s healthy development and long-term health outcomes in our small rural state,” said Janet Kilburn, the child development coordinator for the Vermont Department of Health.

Additional Background

The Help Me Grow National Center and Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program are part of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office) in Hartford, Connecticut. The Office strives to strengthen children, families, physician practices, and communities to promote children’s optimal healthy development in Connecticut and across the country through nationwide initiatives.

The Help Me Grow National Center offers technical assistance to new states and communities in order to advance existing early childhood systems through the implementation of the Help Me Grow system model. Additionally, the Help Me Grow National Center supports the identification and diffusion of system enhancement innovations across the National Affiliate Network, which acts as a poised community of practice operating refined early childhood systems that readily serve as a laboratory to test and perfect auspicious novel practices and strategies.

Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program offers individuals and organizations an opportunity to access guidance, key stakeholders, and technical assistance needed to make innovations promoting the optimal healthy development of children successful on a local, statewide, and even national level. The program also provides technical assistance to advance all Office-supported programs and innovations.

About Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is the only hospital in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation. With a medical staff of more than 1,000, Connecticut Children’s provides comprehensive, world-class health care in more than 30 pediatric specialties and subspecialties. Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is a not-for-profit organization, which serves as the primary pediatric teaching hospital for the UConn School of Medicine, has a teaching partnership with the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University and is a research partner of The Jackson Laboratory. Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health is a national leader in community-based prevention and wellness programs.

About the Build Initiative

BUILD Initiative is a national effort that helps advance state endeavors on behalf of young children (prenatal – 5), their families, and communities. BUILD Initiative partners with early childhood leaders focused on family support and engagement, early learning, health, mental health, and nutrition to create the infrastructure necessary for quality and equity. BUILD Initiative supports these leaders by providing consultation, learning opportunities, tools, cross-state peer-to-peer exchanges, and in-state planning and implementation assistance. These efforts help state leaders to increase quality, expand access, and promote equitable outcomes for our youngest children.

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