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As a parent of a 13-month-old, my son is already the embodiment of what I hope for most; William is happiness and light personified. I am constantly amazed at how quickly he changes in appearance and ability. I know his father and I will support him as he endeavors to reach milestones throughout his young life and into adulthood. And I know we will celebrate these moments within the unique context that is William.

The Departments of Health and Human Services and Education have partnered to launch Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!, a coordinated effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them. Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! seeks to:

·         Celebrate milestones. Every family looks forward to seeing a child’s first smile, first step, and first words. Regular screenings with early childhood professionals help raise awareness of a child’s development, making it easier to expect and celebrate developmental milestones.

·         Promote universal screening. All of our children need support in the early years to make sure they stay healthy and happy. Just like hearing and vision screenings assure that children can hear and see clearly, developmental and behavioral screenings assure that children are making developmental progress, in areas such as language, social, or motor development. Screening is a regular part of growing up.

·         Identify possible delays and concerns early. Screenings can help kids succeed in and beyond their school years. With regular screenings, families, teachers, and other professionals can assure that young children get the services and supports they need, as early as possible to help them thrive alongside their peers. More than 50 million children are currently enrolled in public health insurance programs, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), to support families in paying for these services and more. Medicaid requires states to provide comprehensive health and developmental history and physical examinations of children at regular intervals, based on state-specific periodicity schedules, under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. CHIP programs are also required to cover screening services, including developmental and behavioral screening.

·         Enhance developmental supports. Families are children’s first and most important teachers. Combining the love and knowledge families have of their children with tools, guidance, and tips recommended by experts, can help optimize the developmental support children receive. 

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! supports the implementation of these core missions by releasing:

1.      A compendium of research-based screening tools

To elevate the importance of quality, standardized tools, we are releasing a compendium of first line screening tools for young children that can serve as a reference for multiple early childhood sectors. Pertinent information includes cost, administration time, quality level, training required, and age range covered.

2.      “User’s Guides” for multiple audiences

This package of Guides describes the importance of developmental and behavioral screening, how to talk to parents, where to go for help, and how to select the most appropriate tool for the population served as well as the provider implementing the screen. There is also a Guide for communities to foster early childhood systems that support developmental and behavioral screening, follow up, referral, and closing the loop.

3.      An electronic package of resources for follow-up and support

This collection of resources includes materials, information, and contact information from each partner agency and relevant grantees, that will bring awareness to parents and providers about general early child development, how and where to get help if a concern exists, tips and techniques to help children with disabilities, concerns or delays, and free online training modules on a range of topics. While we are building upon and complementing current federal resources like Learn the Signs, Act Early and Bright Futures, we also have developed new resources such as a Screening Passport for Families and Everyday Tips for Early Care and Education Providers to Support Child Development.

Visit www.hhs.gov/WatchMeThrive. To learn more about Medicaid and CHIP and how to enroll, visit your state’s Medicaid agency or HealthCare.gov. Or call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669).

Katherine Beckmann, PhD, MPH, Senior Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Health and Development, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Interdepartmental Liaison for Early Childhood Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 


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