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Learning from Three Years of Developmental Screening Data in Boston
In 2014, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley launched DRIVE: Data & Resources Investing in Vital Early Education. The initiative seeks to achieve universal child development screening for young children ages 0-5, supporting both early care and education providers and parent screeners to conduct assessments and gather data linked to predictive indicators of child developmental progress and well-being.
DRIVE is the first effort in the state to collect, aggregate and analyze developmental screening data across diverse programs over time. More than 4,000 screenings have been conducted so far. As the data accrues, the findings become more reliable, and United Way is able to look at trends over time and work with early care and education programs to adjust their programming in response to those findings.
How reliable data impacts child development citywide
Program Manager Alyssa Lowell described some of the actionable findings thus far. For example, children in Boston were showing delays related to fine motor skills at a higher rate than the national average. In response, United Way supported programs to design and distribute fine motor toolkits to families and to develop professional development workshops focused on fine motor skills for their communities.
DRIVE has also shown that girls are more likely than boys to be on track developmentally, leading United Way to work with providers to explore why that might be.
"While the data doesn't give us answers to all the questions it raises, it gives us questions to raise with providers," explained Lowell. In this case, the DRIVE findings opened up a conversation about whether female teachers were using strategies that are more effective with girls than with boys, or what else might be contributing to the difference.
How DRIVE data uncovers unmet child needs
The data is also useful at the program level. At one location, program staff found that several children had delays related to gross motor skills. Reflecting on this data, the staff realized that they hadn't been providing enough outdoor playtime while their playground was under construction, and it was affecting the children.
"Programs want this kind of data," said Lowell. "They can use it to improve their programming, or to seek funding. They just haven't always had the capacity to collect it themselves."
Both for programs and for the city of Boston, the DRIVE data represent an opportunity to better understand and respond to the developmental needs of young children. With a recent expansion into other communities in Massachusetts, DRIVE will continue to inform state and local efforts to support universal school readiness.
NEW FROM CSSP
Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences with HOPE (Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences)
A new paper from CSSP Senior Fellow Dr. Bob Sege and colleagues reports on four recent, population-level surveys that demonstrate the effect of positive experiences in childhood on health outcomes in adulthood. The Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences (HOPE) framework is beginning to quantify the positive experiences and relationships that build resilience, promote healthy outcomes and counteract risk and adversity that children may face. The paper and accompanying blog post may inspire and guide system builders who work to help families build protective factors and provide their children with those positive experiences.
Strengths-Based Screening for Health-Related Social Needs
The conceptual commitment to systematic screening of patient-families for Health-Related Social Needs (HRSN) is near universal, with particular innovations in the field of pediatrics. At the same time, the challenges to operationalizing a truly strengths-based screening strategy as opposed to a conventional risk-driven approach - are significant.
For funders.The new Matrix of Evidence-Based Practice from the FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention allows funders to assess evidence-based prevention programs via ratings in various registries, such as the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, SAMHSA National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices and more.
Early Childhood-LINC is a learning and innovation network developed by and for communities.
Our mission is to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country with a focus on accelerating the development of effective, integrated, local early childhood systems. We are currently made up of 10 member communities across the country.