Developmental Screening for All: Leading with Equity

This post was originally published to the Best Starts for Kids blog.

This is the second post in our blog series “Developmental Screening for All.” You can read the first post HERE. For the past year, Best Starts for Kids has been gathering feedback from community members and partners to better understand the successes, gaps and disparities related to developmental screening, referral and connection to services in King County. We are so excited to now share back what we heard in a blog series. Whether you are simply curious to know what developmental screening is or contributed to our information gathering, we want to share our findings with you in a transparent way to help lay the groundwork for our way forward.

Goal 2: Leading with Equity

Knowing there are families that need supports right now, Best Starts invested in nine innovative projects. These partners are piloting cultural and linguistic adaptations to screening tools, practices and provider trainings to ensure more children are getting the right supports.

One of our partners, Mother Africa, pairs families with a staff screener that shares the same language and/or culture. The following story shows why this matters.

A mother from Mali, West Africa joined our screening program in March. Our French speaking screener outreached to her as they live in the same apartment complex in Kent. When she went to talk to the mom she learned that the mom was so worried about her son’s fine motor skills, especially when he wants to eat or do anything using his hands. We learned that she had advocated for her son with their primary care doctor before, but he told her that physically he is fine. She was still worried about her son but wasn’t sure what to do next.

When our French Screener met this mom and talked with her about the Flourishing and Resilient Children Program and the benefits of the developmental screening, the mom got so excited to do the screening immediately!  She said she really wanted to help her son and to see if he has any delay with his fine motor development.  After the screener did the screening, the results showed that he does have a delay in his motor skills. We then spoke with the mom about his development from when he was born until now.

Once we talked with her about this, we referred her son to play and learn sessions and the home visiting program. The mom went to the play and learn session for a couple of weeks and she told us “I can see the difference now in my son. He loves the group.  Also, my son is now feeling so confident and proud sitting with other kids and coloring”.  Finally, we referred the son to Kent School District and now he will attend school this year. The mom was so thankful that she did the screening and was able to make a plan to support her son’s development. She now has more resources and information to support him.”

In our efforts to connect with individuals about developmental screening in King County, Best Starts heard from hundreds of parents, caregivers and service providers that work directly with families with young children.

One of the things we heard loud and clear is the need for more investments in equitable screening, referral and service practices.

Specifically, providers and caregivers emphasized a need for a community-centered system that is accessible to all young children and families, highlighting the desire for culturally and linguistically relevant tools and services.

A community survey conducted by Best Starts in fall 2018, revealed that fewer than half of King County primary care providers surveyed reported offering screening in Spanish and only 19% reported offering screening in a language other than English or Spanish. Along the same lines, a caregiver of a young child shared during a focus group,

“Racial equity issues are real when trying to utilize the services. There is a feeling that the services are being provided differently to children of color.”

In response, Best Starts is developing a Developmental Screening and Referral Strategic Plan that will emphasize strategies to drive equity in screening practices and developmental supports.

Investing in programs that can serve the cultural needs of families is critical for ensuring children and families have access to the developmental supports they need throughout early childhood. Stay tuned for more details about our Strategic Plan for this strategy, which will be released at the end of 2019! Follow our blog as we continue to share more goals to achieve our vision of developmental screening and referrals for all kids and families in King County.