Communities Collaborating for Healthy Emotional Development
Fiscal Agent: Child Health & Development Institute of Connecticut, Inc. Research shows that ‘high-risk’ family environments (e.g., maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness) lead to levels of stress that are extremely harmful to a child’s developing brain. include decreased learning, behavioral and emotional problems, and poor health.
Child FIRST (Child and Family Interagency Resource, Support, and Training) is a model that treats not only the child, but the entire family. The theory behind Child FIRST is that by addressing a child’s whole environment, Child FIRST believes they can reduce the incidence of serious emotional disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among high-risk young children and families in Connecticut.
Working closely with communities and statewide organizations, Child FIRST identifies children in high-risk environments using:
- Comprehensive community-based services that focus providing training and mentoring to community providers (e.g., in early care, education, and pediatrics) to screen for mental health and/or developmental issues.
- Intensive home-based intervention that includes assessment, development of an integrated family-driven plan, and the implementation of home-based services.
- Care coordination that connects to community resources with similar early childhood intervention organizations to prevent duplication, gaps and inefficiencies.
Eager to support a new and innovative model for early childhood care, CT Health has provided a series of grants to support the Child FIRST initiatives, including:
- $200,000 in 2002 to seed the creation of Child FIRST, providing mental health consultation and early intervention to at-risk children.
- $25,000 in 2003 to develop Child FIRST’s long-term sustainability and improve clinical protocols.
- $100,000 awarded in 2005 to continue identifying and treating emotional and behavioral problems in very young children.
- $212,938 awarded in 2006 to expand staff capacity in order to integrate the model into the state’s system over two years.
“At the time Child FIRST started, most people didn’t even think about mental health problems in young children, but we knew if we could get to these families early, we could prevent some very major problems later on,” said Darcy Lowell, Executive Director of Child FIRST. “But CT Health was willing to take a risk and try out our new model, and as our first funder, they really put us on the road to success.”
In 2009, Child FIRST was able to leverage its early success into a $3.2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a $25,000 grant from CT Health to create a public-private partnership between the three organizations and CT state leadership. The goal of the partnership is to replicate the Child FIRST model in eight Connecticut cities to change state policy and practice for the most vulnerable young children and families.