Putting Children First

    • September 5, 2012

Child First, an innovative, evidence-based home-visiting program, helps to stabilize vulnerable families with very young children who are exhibiting behavioral or developmental problems, connect them with social services, and help develop and support nurturing, responsive caregivers. The program has shown results in buffering the developing brain from the damaging effects of exposure to toxic stress.

Children exposed to severe stressors—like maternal depression, domestic violence, extreme poverty, or substance abuse—can suffer damage to their emotional development and mental health. Child First is a home-visiting program working with families across the state of Connecticut who have very young children showing signs of severe developmental, emotional, and behavioral problems.

Child First partners with providers all across the community—including doctors, day care providers, and social workers—who touch these families’ lives. If a provider sees a problem, she alerts Child First, which then arranges a home visit with a team of trained specialists, including a masters-level mental health clinician. That team helps the family deal directly with the source of stress: from basic needs like food and housing to issues like depression or alcoholism.

Ultimately, the goal is to foster strong, stable, nurturing relationships between parents and children and also create a safer and healthier overall environment for the child. Child First effectively helps to buffer the developing brains of these young children from the damage caused by repeated exposure to toxic stress, and sets the families on a course toward stability and better health.