Help Me Grow Adoption in Lamoille County & Beyond
In the Lamoille Valley Region, we’ve been excited to assist with community outreach for Help Me Grow VT (HMG VT). Help Me Grow is an effort, led by the Vermont Department of Health, to ensure all children in Vermont are screened for developmental concerns and to ensure that all kids and young families have the resources they need to grow and thrive. We know that there are children and families who would benefit from support, but who slip through the cracks and don’t get the help that could benefit them during early childhood – when support and interventions are most effective.
There are many parts to Help Me Grow: some are geared directly towards parents, and some towards health care and child care providers, community service providers, and educators.
For parents, there is a HMG contact center staffed by child development specialists at Vermont 2-1-1, a program of the United Ways of Vermont. HMG specialists answer parents’ and caregiver’s questions about a child’s development and behavior and assist families and professionals in connecting children to appropriate community based services. HMG specialists can be reached by dialing 2-1-1 ext. 6 Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org [Read more about the contact center below]. There is also a parents’ section on the HelpMeGrowVT.org website, where they can learn all about child development, social and emotional growth, and effective ways to manage behavior.
For providers of services to families (health care, child care, educators and community service providers), there are two goals: Increase developmental monitoring and screening by child care and health care providers, and increase referrals and collaboration among community providers and service agencies. These are accomplished through training and outreach partnerships with the BBF Councils and numerous other partners. Information on HMG partners and trainings can be found at the HelpMeGrowVT.org website.
Developmental monitoring and developmental screening, using a formal screening tool, is helpful to support parents, caregivers, or child care providers who work with children because early detection and connection to services ensures that children get the help they need as soon as possible so they can learn and adapt very early in their lives and grow and thrive to their full potential. .
HMG Vermont has added a Developmental Screening section to the State’s Immunization Registry so that a child’s physician can see the results of a screen and review it without re-screening if the screen was conducted by a child care provider or educator. HMG VT is also partnering with the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP) to train both health care providers and child care providers in developmental screening and monitoring, as well as use of the Universal Developmental Screening Registry. This is a great example of making the system of supports more efficient and less duplicative.
Together with my Council, the Maternal Child Health Team, and other partners, we’ve been spreading the word about the availability of early childhood support, including anonymous parenting support, through the Help Me Grow contact center (dial 2-1-1 x6).
Vermont 2-1-1 is already the program that supports families to find out about hundreds of important community resources, like emergency food and shelter, disability services, counseling, senior services, health care, child care, drug and alcohol programs, legal assistance, transportation agencies, educational and volunteer opportunities, and now early childhood development – and it’s free and confidential.
As mentioned before, Help Me Grow now hosts a contact center within Vermont 2-1-1 that proactively addresses a family’s concerns about their child’s behavior and development by providing specialists at the other end of an anonymous phone line. These child development specialists make connections when needed to existing community-based services and parent education resources. For example, a young family looking for child care, a playgroup, or advice on how to handle a rambunctious two-year-old will find help and solutions with a call to Help Me Grow. By strengthening connections and providing resources for families in this way, HMG supports caregivers in promoting their child’s social end emotional well-being.
I’ve been psyched to help the Department of Health spread the word about Help Me Grow, to help develop their website, and bring to life various tools to measure how effective the HMG VT contact center is. A team from the Vermont Department of Health and Building Bright Futures was fortunate to be able to attend the Help Me Grow 2017 National Conference as well, where we learned about successful aspects of implementation by regions and States from every corner of the country.
One of the key components of Help Me Grow affiliate states around the country and here in Vermont is the ability for the team to share anonymous contact center data with partners. For us in the Lamoille Valley, this data sharing allows our Regional Council to get a better sense of what young families are struggling with and resources they are connected to. We get quarterly reports from Help Me Grow about what areas of concerns folks are calling in about. This allows us to identify gaps in support and work with partners to address those gaps.
Each of these types of activities strengthen kids and families and the fabric of support that we have all built for our neighbors and fellow citizens. It’s a wonderful time to be a kid in Vermont!