A Randomized Controlled Trial of Child FIRST

A Comprehensive Home-Based Intervention Translating Research Into Early Childhood Practice


Twelve months after their families received the Child First (Child and Family Interagency, Resource, Support, and Training) intervention, children showed significant improvement in social-emotional and behavioral areas.

Child First is a family intervention focused on preventing mental health problems in mothers and young children. Child First integrates systems of care, psychotherapeutic strategies, and home visitations. The participation of all active caregivers in a child’s life creates a network of support for the primary parent. Child First assigns a clinical team to each family. The intervention’s goal is to foster sensitive, responsive and secure parent-child relationships.

This article discusses the first randomized controlled trial of Child First. Recruitment occurred at two sites in impoverished, inner city Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Key Findings

  • Mothers in Child First reported significantly lower (relative to a control group) parenting stress six months after the intervention.

  • Child First decreased (relative to control) families’ involvement with Child Protective Services 36 months after the intervention started.

Child First helps parents empathize with their child’s experiences. The intervention explores connections between the parents’ past and current relationships and feelings toward their child. The results of the trial reported here suggest that Child First counteracts risk factors for emotional disturbance, developmental and learning disabilities, abuse and neglect.