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Screening and Assessment

Key Features

  1. Use of valid screening tools and protocols
  2. Parent education regarding the imortance of screening and screening results
  3. Referral to appropriate services, follow-up, and ongoing care coordination
  4. Training for providers on screening and assessment using valid tools
  5. Systemic efforts to implement universal screening

Project LAUNCH is committed to the early identification of developmental and behavioral concerns in children from birth to age eight, and ensuring that screening is followed by appropriate referrals, follow-up, and ongoing care coordination. Project LAUNCH promotes the use of validated developmental and behavioral screening of infants and young children in a range of child-serving settings.

Project LAUNCH also supports the well-being of the whole family through efforts that may include screening to identify parental depression or stress, substance abuse, and domestic violence. In Project LAUNCH–supported settings, screening may be part of a comprehensive assessment process that also includes identifying child and family strengths and resources. Screening can be conducted in primary care, early care and education, school, home visiting, and community settings.

Early identification of developmental and behavioral issues and the provision of appropriate services are critical. By the time children reach school, many developmental delays or behavioral issues have not been identified or addressed. As a result, these children enter school at increased risk for significant academic, social, and emotional challenges.

Project LAUNCH grantees implement a number of activities within this strategy.

  • Promoting the use of valid screening tools and incorporating a social-emotional component to basic developmental screening protocols (e.g., in primary care and home visiting programs)
  • Providing parent education on developmental milestones and on the importance of screening
  • Ensuring appropriate referral and follow-up after screening
  • Supporting training for providers (beginning in medical schools or medical residencies) on screening and assessment that includes the administration of valid tools as well as the follow-up required
  • Implementing systemic efforts toward a universal system that uses consistent and shared screening information across early childhood providers and systems (e.g., Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children [WIC], early intervention, child welfare, preschool, Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP])

Project LAUNCH is connected and aligned with ongoing initiatives to promote the use of screening and assessment and to ensure that families can access appropriate resources.

For example, many Project LAUNCH grantees have partnered with Help Me Grow, a national effort to connect families with at-risk children to the programs and services they need through centralized information and referral centers.

In addition, the Project LAUNCH Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) staff worked with several federal agencies to develop Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!, which is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them. It includes guides tailored for providers in different child-serving systems (e.g., home visiting, early care and education, primary care, child welfare, behavioral health, early intervention, special education, housing agencies, and homeless shelters). These guides address the importance of developmental and behavioral screening, how to talk to parents, where to go for help, and how to select the most appropriate screening tool for the population served.

Grantee Highlights

  • Several Project LAUNCH grantees, such as Louisiana and Indiana, have partnered with state and local early intervention programs at the systems level to expand and enhance screening and assessment efforts, such as Part C (Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Part C requires states to develop statewide programs that include a comprehensive child find system for the purpose of identifying, locating, and evaluating as early as possible all infants and toddlers with disabilities, from birth to 3 years of age.
  • In Wisconsin, Project LAUNCH state- and local-level teams worked together to develop a screening toolkit that includes promotional materials such as the Well-Child Screening and Immunization Record, a portable record of immunizations and screenings.
  • New Jersey Project LAUNCH worked with its state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop a conference, “Building a Medical Home Neighborhood in Essex County,” and to integrate developmental screenings into the Essex Pregnancy & Parenting Connection central intake system. The grantee used a Help Me Grow systems approach to strengthen the connections among physicians, parents/families, and community providers to address the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of child development.
  • In El Paso, Texas, health care providers receive training and protocols to help them talk effectively with parents about screening results. In addition, El Paso Project LAUNCH created the Wellness Network Resource Directory as a mobile application in collaboration with 2-1-1 Texas and United Way. The purpose of the directory is to help El Paso residents and health professionals locate mental health and wellness services for adults, children, and families.
  • Tribal communities in Montana are integrating the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) screening into their communities.
  • New Mexico Project LAUNCH partnered with Envision New Mexico and Parents Reaching Out to print and distribute developmental screening record booklets in English and Spanish. These booklets, created by a developmental behavioral pediatrician, are intended to be a guide for parents to follow and talk about their child’s development with his or her provider.

Project LAUNCH Screening and Assessment Strategy Brief

This resource summarizes the LAUNCH screening and assessment strategy, including why both are important to support children’s well-being, and how Project LAUNCH grantees are implementing and promoting these activities. This document can be shared with stakeholders to provide a brief overview of the strategy, to build their understanding of the LAUNCH model.

Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive! Developmental and Behavioral Screening Initiative

Provides resources related to a public awareness campaign that was launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education. Targeted at numerous sectors (including early care and education, medical, primary health care, child welfare, and mental health), the campaign highlights the importance of universal developmental and behavioral screening and support within the context of normative child development.

Infant/Toddler Development, Screening, and Assessment

Supports consultants working in child care settings, especially those who have not had education or training specific to infants and toddlers in group care. These modules were designed to complement training offered to early childhood consultants through the National Training Institute at the Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Developmental and Behavioral Screening Initiative

Provides resources and a guide to a public awareness campaign that was launched by The Departments of Health and Human Services and Education which is targeted at numerous sectors (e.g. early care and education, medical, primary health care, child welfare, mental health) —highlighting the importance of universal developmental and behavioral screening and support within the context of normative child development.

SERIES: An Integrated Approach to support Child Development

Aims to promote a more coordinated approach to meeting children’s developmental needs by proposing the adoption of the SERIES paradigm of developmental screening in which each step—Screening, Early Identification, Referral, Intake, Evaluation, and  Services—is seen not as an isolated activity, but rather an integral component of a single process.  SERIES challenges all systems serving young children to broaden their focus to include practices that promote shared responsibility for ensuring that each child successfully completes the entire pathway from screening to services.

Effectiveness of Developmental Screening in an Urban Setting

Examines the effectiveness of developmental screening on the identification of developmental delays, early intervention (EI) referrals, and EI eligibility. Children who participated in a developmental screening program were more likely to be identified with developmental delays, referred to EI, and eligible for EI services in a timelier fashion than children who received surveillance alone. These results support policies endorsing developmental screening. 

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