Developmental Screening for All: Building an Equitable System for Developmental Screening, Referral, and Connection

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

This is the third post in our blog series “Developmental Screening for All.” 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 week long 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. You can find the first two posts here and here. Today we look at how we are building an equitable system to connect all the dots.

Goal 3: Equitable Systems Coordination

We learned from the Developmental Screening Landscape Analysis that 2 in 3 parents and caregivers have good or excellent experiences regarding coordination of the developmental screening and referral system. At the same time, 1 in 3 parents and caregivers reported having poor experiences. Similarly, about half of the policymakers and administrators who participated in the Landscape Analysis perceive the quality of coordination between sectors that support families with screening, referral, and connection to services as poor or fair.

Best Starts is focused on making sure ALL families have positive experiences and will outline the steps to this in an upcoming Developmental Screening and Referral Strategic Plan.

Currently, Best Starts is working to ensure King County families will have access to services that continually respond to family needs within a coordinated, dynamic, and equitable system that integrates early care, education, and healthcare.

Best Starts calls this system “Help Me Grow”. Help Me Grow King County (HMG KC) strives todemystify developmental screening andconnect families to the right resources at the right time.  Best Starts is working to scale up this system equitablyin partnership with diverse communities in King County.  The vision for a comprehensive system of screening and referral is shared across Best Starts and aligns with recommendations we heard from a recent series of Community Cafes with 13 culturally and linguistically specific communities of families.

A Community Cafe with the Somali community

Across Cafes, families shared desires for greater coordination and centralization, including:

  • Access to information and resources
  • A clear screening and services process map
  • Cross-sector communication and service provision
  • A seamless transition out of Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT, also known as early intervention or birth-to-three services)

Further, parents, caregivers and families shared their desire to have trusted, community champions who can connect them to providers and resources. A number of groups pinpointed the importance of access to information and resources through a trusted organization, specifically one that can authentically speak to the cultural needs of that community. A real person, and most importantly, one who looks like the community they are serving.

“Create a trustworthy network with people that look like us; people we can go to get help in the system, information and resources.  That we have relationship with.” 

African American Café participant

Families at the African American Café emphasized their leadership and community agency, advising HMG KC to respect the community’s “expertise and build relationship, decision-making conversations…support building our community; let us help define what success for our child looks like.”  Parents and caregivers at the Chinese Café said they wanted “to connect with other cultures and other communities” and others at the Asian Indian Café mentioned wanting to “bring other cultures together.”  

If you want to go far, go together

The HMG KC team endeavors to live the famous African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together”. As part of this, Best Starts is striving to continuously provide safe spaces to listen and learn from communities, and share information back and forth, as opposed to one-time opportunities designed only to gather information.

Thanks to the generous input provided by community members, there are now multiple efforts underway to invest in improving the communication and information sharing systems used across sectors.  HMG KC is engaging with partners leading these efforts to prevent siloed solutions and ensure the needs of all families are held front and center.