FOR RELEASE: 11/23/2011Contact: John Cappiello, (203) 384-3637

Child FIRST program achieves national status

Child FIRST (Family Interagency Resources, Support and Training), founded in 1998 by Bridgeport Hospital pediatrician Darcy Lowell, MD, has been designated as one of only nine national evidence-based home visiting models for maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

Child FIRST is an early child intervention program that works to decrease the incidence of serious emotional disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among high-risk young children and families. A team consisting of a master's degree-level mental health/developmental clinician and care coordinator provide comprehensive in-home assessments of child and family needs, observation and consultation in early care and education settings, parent-child mental health intervention, development of a child and family plan of care, and care coordination/case management.

“We know that families want to do their best for their children,” says Dr. Lowell. “We can dramatically improve the outcomes not only for the child but for the whole family if we intervene at the earliest possible time. This is critical to creating healthy, successful learners and closing the achievement gap.”

The HRSA/ACF designation is based on a comprehensive review of a randomized controlled trial conducted by Child FIRST and reviewed by Mathematica, a national policy research firm dedicated to improving public well-being through quality data collection and analysis. Child FIRST families showed significant improvement in child emotional and behavioral problems, child language development, maternal depression and stress, involvement by protective services, and access to community-based services and supports.

Child FIRST received the 2007 Community Service Award from the state Department of Public Health and Connecticut Hospital Association for its efforts to improve the health of at-risk children. Last year, the program expanded to the Hartford, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, New Britain and Waterbury areas. The state Department of Children and Families (DCF) has incorporated Child FIRST into its early childhood system with a plan to expand statewide into all 15 DCF regional service areas.

Child FIRST receives funding support from multiple local, state and federal organizations concerned with the welfare of young children and their families. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the largest health philanthropy in the nation, has provided $5.5 million along with 18 other matching philanthropic partners toward statewide replication of the program. The new HRSA/ACF designation will help replicate Child FIRST on a national level.

For more information, call Child FIRST at 203-384-3626.

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Part of Yale New Haven Health System, Bridgeport Hospital is a 383-bed acute care hospital (plus 42 beds licensed to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital) serving parts of Fairfield and New Haven counties. The hospital admits more than 18,000 patients and receives more than 240,000 outpatient visits annually.