Child First, Inc.

At a Glance

National Office: 
35 Nutmeg Drive Suite 385
Trumbull, CT 06611
Phone: 203-538-5222

Darcy Lowell
People Served: 
1,200
Year Founded: 
2001
Tax ID: 
46-1272768

Focus area(s):

Early Education
Maternal & Child Health
Mental Health

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Description

Child First helps struggling families build strong, nurturing relationships that heal and protect young children from the devastating impact of trauma and adversity. We use a two-pronged approach based on scientific research: (1) providing parent-child psychotherapeutic intervention, which protects the developing brain from damage, and (2) connecting children and families with community-based services, in order to decrease chronic stress and facilitate healthy child and family growth and development.

The goal is to intervene at the earliest possible time, to prevent serious mental health, learning, and developmental problems, as well as child abuse and neglect. Child First works in the home with families facing multiple challenges, including poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness.Research shows that our two-generation intervention stabilizes families and improves the health and wellbeing of both parents and children.

Impact and Outcomes

The Child First intervention was evaluated with a very vulnerable population of young children and families. A randomized controlled trial, published in 2011, demonstrated that the Child First Intervention was both statistically significant and clinically effective when compared to Usual Care controls at 12 month follow-up. We specifically improved outcomes in child behavior, child language, maternal mental health, and child welfare involvement. Child First has been designated an “evidence-based home visiting models” by Health and Human Services.
Child First is different in that we focus on children and families with the greatest challenges, get to the underlying root of their problems, and intervene at that level. By facilitating responsive, nurturing parent-child relationships, children feel safe and secure. They explore, play, learn, and grow. Parents feel emotionally supported, begin to resolve old traumas, develop emotional regulation, and grow their capacity for executive functioning. We have seen families’ lives change. Our goal is to break the cycle of trauma and adversity, so that children grow to become healthy, joyful, and productive adults.

Mission & Goals

Child First helps to heal and protect young children (prenatal through age five years) and their families from the damaging effects of trauma and chronic stress by fostering the development of strong, nurturing, caregiver-child relationships, promoting adult and child executive functioning, and connecting families with needed services and supports.

Child First is based on scientific research that demonstrates that environments in which there is major adversity - like maternal depression, domestic violence, homelessness, and substance abuse - lead to levels of stress that are toxic to the developing brain of the young child. However, a strong, nurturing parent-child relationship protects the brain from damage and prevents lifelong problems in mental health, cognition, and physical health.

Child First works collaboratively with community providers, identifying children from challenging environments or showing early signs of behavioral or developmental problems. This intensive home-based model connects the family to comprehensive community-based resources, while providing a two-generation, psychotherapeutic intervention. Together, stress is decreased, the brain is protected, and growth is enhanced.

Program

Child First is an evidence-based intervention that addresses the most challenged, hard to reach, and underserved families with young children, prenatal through age five. This includes families experiencing poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, homelessness, and substance use.  Child First works with parents and young children together in their homes because that provides the best opportunity to engage and strengthen families.

Child First promotes strong collaboration among community providers (including pediatrics, early care and education, child welfare, early intervention, adult mental health, domestic violence, shelters, and others) recognizing that creating an early childhood system of care is necessary both to identify children and families in need and to connect them to the services and supports necessary for their long-term success. Children are frequently referred for behavioral problems, developmental concerns, and abuse and neglect.

Based on the latest scientific research, Child First uses a two-pronged, team approach:

  • A Masters-level Mental Health/Developmental Clinician provides a two-generation psychotherapeutic intervention to create a protective, nurturing relationship; and
  • A Bachelors-level Care Coordinator connects both children and their families with comprehensive community-based services, while enhancing parental executive functioning.

This results in strong positive outcomes in child language, child and maternal mental health, abuse and neglect, healthcare utilization, and service access.

Given the complexity of this work, Child First clinical teams have intense training through a year-long Child First Learning Collaborative, special training in trauma-informed Child-Parent Psychotherapy, and Distance Learning. They are further supported by intensive, reflective, clinical supervision; clinical consultation; technical assistance; and ongoing professional development. The program has developed its own electronic health record and is data-driven, with continuous quality improvement to insure fidelity.

Impact

The Child First intervention was evaluated with a randomized controlled trial. Children six to thirty-six months of age were identified through screening for both social-emotional concerns and familial psycho-social risk in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A twelve month follow-up demonstrated very strong, statistically and clinically significant outcomes for families randomized into the Child First Intervention in contrast to the Usual Care Control group:

  • Child First children were 68% less likely to have language problems.
  • Child First children were 42% less likely to have aggressive and defiant behaviors.
  • Child First mothers had 64% lower levels of depression and/or mental health problems.
  • Child First families were 39% less likely to be involved with child protective services, sustained at 33% at 3 year follow-up.
  • Child First family members had a 98% increase in access to community services and supports. 

These results were published in the prestigious journal Child Development in 2011. A careful review of the research led the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to designate Child First as one of the national “evidence-based home visiting models.” The Coalition of Evidence-Based Policy determined that Child First is Near Top Tier, one of only three early childhood interventions highlighted at that level.

Replication of Child First across Connecticut has continued to demonstrate highly statistically and clinically significant findings, with 81% of children and families showing improvement (by 8% or more) in one or more areas, including emotional and behavioral problems (71%), social competence (85%), language development (78%), and maternal depression (69%).  (Data from FY15)

Growth Plan

Child First services are available in several states:

  • In Connecticut there is a statewide network of 14 affiliate agencies with a capacity to serve over 1,000 children and their families a year.  Although Child First has an affiliate agency working in each of the 15 CT Department of Children and Families’ “areas,” demand for Child First services far exceeds the numbers we can serve.  We continue to work on multiple strategies to increase staffing and capacity in all of our Child First affiliate agencies to meet that demand. Current funding comes from the Department of Children and Families, federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting funds, and philanthropy.
  • In Florida Child First started in 2015 to train teams at three affiliate agencies in Palm Beach County with a capacity to serve over 200 children and families per year. The Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County is funding current services and have plans to expand services in Palm Beach County over the next few years. 
  • In North Carolina, Child First started in 2016 to train teams at four affiliate agencies that will have a capacity to serve over 500 children and families per year in the 24 eastern counties. Replication in eastern NC has been funded by Trillium Health Services, through Medicaid.

We expect further expansion in both Florida and North Carolina, and are exploring replication in new states that have expressed a strong need for Child First services and have a strategy for long term sustainability of services.  

Location of Sites

National Office: 
35 Nutmeg Drive Suite 385
Trumbull, CT 06611
Phone: 203-538-5222
List of locations

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Locations in the following states:

Connecticut

Financials

Most Recent Budget

Year Ended:

2016

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$0
Foundation Grants: 
$1,614,687
Government Funding: 
$3,793,596
Contributions from Individuals: 
$71,000
Special Events: 
$0
Program Services Fees: 
$1,047,063
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$0
Total Revenue: 
$6,526,346

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$2,026,552
Occupancy: 
$60,382
Travel & Entertainment: 
$171,903
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$37,976
Telephone & Communications: 
$66,269
Payments to Affiliates: 
$3,192,357
Other Expenses: 
$859,543
Other Expenses (Description): 

Training of staff at affiliate sites, database hosting and maintenance, back office support contract. 

Total Expenses: 
$6,414,982

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain/Loss: 
$111,364

Prior Year Actuals

Year Ended:

2015

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$0
Foundation Grants: 
$681,243
Government Funding: 
$3,745,013
Contributions from Individuals: 
$5,781
Program Services Fees: 
$305,183
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$124,229
Special Events: 
$0
Total Revenue: 
$4,861,449

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$1,087,336
Occupancy: 
$40,748
Travel & Entertainment: 
$114,355
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$15,228
Telephone & Communication: 
$53,264
Payments to Affiliates: 
$3,149,823
Other Expenses: 
$259,956
Total Expenses: 
$4,720,710

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain / Loss: 
$140,739

Major Funders

Philanthropy

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Grossman Family Foundation

William C. Bullitt Foundation

Viking Global

The Ritter Family Foundation

Commonweal Foundation

Lone Pine Foundation

Smith Family Foundation

Bank of America Charitable Gift - General Fund

Child Health & Development Institute of Connecticut

 

Government Grants & Contracts

CT Department of Public Health and the CT Office of Early Childhood
(funded by the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program -
MIECHV, from the US Department of Health and Human Services)

CT Department of Children and Families

The Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County (FL)

Trillium Health Services (NC)