A Plan for Universal Developmental Screening

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

At Mursel’s 12-month doctor’s visit, his dad completed a short developmental screening questionnaire about different activities he was able to engage in. The doctor reviewed the questionnaire and determined that Mursel wasn’t meeting some of the expected milestones for his age. The doctor talked with Mursel’s dad about the results, referred the family for further evaluation and recommended some community services that may benefit the family. When Mursel returned for his 18-month visit, he was screened again for developmental progress. Again, the doctor identified areas of delay. When she spoke with Mursel’s dad about this, she was surprised to learn that Mursel and his family were not able to access the services she had recommended. She found herself asking, “What happened?”

We hear stories like Mursel’s story time and time and again as we talk to families and providers about developmental screening, referrals, and services. To learn more about these experiences and so many others, Best Starts engaged in a year-long Landscape Analysis. For more about what we found, please check out this earlier blog series.

Following the Landscape Analysis, we worked with a group of 12 community experts who guided the development of a Strategic Plan on developmental screening and referral. We hosted three community conversations, one webinar, and 12 focus groups with parents, caregivers and early-childhood providers to draft, re-work and finalize our Strategic Plan. Through this community-guided process, we identified four primary goals for our Strategic Plan:  

Ensure coordination of early care, education, and healthcare systems so they quickly respond to families’ needs

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. This system is Help Me Grow King County, which strives to demystify developmental screening and connect families to the right resources at the right time.  Best Starts is working to scale up this system equitably in partnership with diverse communities in King County.

Strengthen the child services workforce through training and transforming organizations and systems

Best Starts is assessing the best approaches to training, coaching, and evaluating providers and interpreters on skills to support delivery of high-quality services, including cultural humility, implicit bias, trauma-informed care, and strengths-based counseling. Additionally, Best Starts will continue to build capacity for grantees to enhance workplace equity, including recruitment and mentoring of community members with resonant lived and living experiences to join the child services workforce in leadership roles.

Make developmental screening and services that celebrate developmental progress available and accessible to all families

Communities told us that we need to create more avenues to screening and also build knowledge about child development, screening, and services. One of the biggest barriers for families in accessing screening and services is difficulty finding screening and services in their language and culture. Best Starts has invested in nine innovative projects to test out cultural and linguistic adaptations to screening tools and practices and provider trainings to make sure more families are getting the right supports.

Drive equity by enhancing screening tools, practices, referrals, and services that meet families where they are.

While equity is foundational to each of our Strategic Plan goals, our community experts recommended that we also highlight equity as its own goal to ensure accountability. The strategies under this goal are central to all other efforts. For example, Best Starts will invest in programs that expand navigation supports for families in their language and culture, as well as efforts to create useful and easy-to-use resources for families and their providers so everyone has access to the same comprehensive information in their own language.

For a snapshot of what we’ve learned throughout our engagement with communities, please check out our infographic here:


And for more specifics about our plan, you can view the full Strategic Plan here.

In 2020, King County will make funding available for community agencies to develop innovative plans to implement these ideas. Please keep checking the Best Starts for Kids Blog for more details about an upcoming RFP!