California’s early identification and intervention (EII) system, which seeks to identify young children with developmental delays or behavioral concerns and route them to appropriate services, has longstanding, systemic flaws. These are critical services that can dramatically affect the trajectory of a child’s life.
Data shows that California has one of the lowest developmental screening and early intervention rates in the country. While 18% of the state’s children have a developmental delay or disability, only 3% of children receive early intervention by age three. Screening rates are a key sticking point: just 26% of children are screened three times before age three, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children of color and those living in low-income households are less like to be screened than white children and those living in higher income households.
Multiple factors prohibit children from being screened or connected to services in a timely way: providers have resource and time constraints; families are hesitant about screening and referral; and coordination among services providers is limited. Help Me Grow has led the charge to close the resulting developmental screening and service gaps, and to improve the functioning of the EII system in the 30 counties where it operates in California.
Drawing on the outcomes of their work, Help Me Grow leaders across California look at how to ensure a robust statewide EII system. These leaders advise that screening for developmental delays and behavioral concerns be encouraged both inside and outside the health care sector, and that care coordination be prioritized so children receive preventive services. In addition, the California’s system capacity should be enhanced to ensure universal screening and links to services when needed, as well as a universally linked data system for EII. Outreach and education should be conducted at both state and county levels, and every county should have a locally informed point of access for parents and families.
Help Me Grow California provides a bridge across county systems to deliver a unified message that California must do a better informing policy change to support the needs of young children and families.
At the National level, Help Me Grow California provides data that not only informs and enhances the goals and outcomes for the National Help Me Grow affiliate network, but provides data that can influence policy development and change in strengthening systems that support children and families living in the United States.