By: Steve Ames
Here in the Lamoille Valley Region, we’ve been excited to assist with the rollout of the Help Me Grow call center and other components of the Help Me Grow project. Together with my council, the Maternal Child Health Team, and other partners, we’ve been spreading the word about the availability of anonymous early childhood support from the Vermont Department of Health.
Help Me Grow is a new part of the Vermont Department of Health’s effort to ensure all children in Vermont are screened for developmental delays and to ensure that all kids and young families have the resources they need to grow and thrive. It’s part of the State’s 2-1-1 information center.
Vermont 2-1-1 is the number to dial to find out about hundreds of important community resources, like emergency food and shelter, disability services, counseling, senior services, health care, child care, drug and alcohol programs, legal assistance, transportation agencies, educational and volunteer opportunities, and now early childhood development. It’s free and confidential for all callers to use.
There are many kids and families who would benefit from support, but who slip through the cracks. They don’t get the help that could benefit them during early childhood – when support is most effective.
Help Me Grow proactively addresses a family’s concerns about their child’s behavior and development by providing an early childhood specialist at the other end of an anonymous phone line (2-1-1 extension 6) and making connections when needed to existing community-based services and high quality parent education resources. For example, a young family looking for child care, a playgroup, or advice on how to handle a rambunctious two year old will find help and solutions with a call. By strengthening connections and providing resources for families in this way, Help Me Grow supports caregivers to promote their child’s social and emotional well-being.
When parents, caregivers or child care providers work with children, a screening tool helps kids learn and adapt very early in their lives, allowing them to develop appropriately and get the help they need, when they need it, early on.
The Help Me Grow project has added a Developmental Screening section to the State’s Immunization Registry so that a child’s physician can see results of a screen and review it without re-screening if the screen was conducted by a child care provider or educator. It’s a great example of making the system of supports more efficient and less duplicative.
Additionally, Help Me Grow now has two Child Development specialists at the 2-1-1 call center that can help anyone with child-related questions. Parents and caregivers can call 2-1-1 x6 anytime and get answers to challenging questions about their kids.
I’ve been psyched to help the Department of Health spread the word about Help Me Grow, and to help develop the website and various tools to measure how effective the 2-1-1 line is. In addition, at our Regional Council meetings, we’ve been sharing call center data to track the development of any gaps in the systems of support for kids and young families.
A team from the Vermont Department of Health and Building Bright Futures was fortunate to be able to attend the Help Me Grow National Conference as well, where we learned about successful aspects of implementation by regions and States from every corner of the Country.
One of the key components of Help Me Grow around the country and here in Vermont is the ability of the team to share anonymous call data with partners and others. For us in the Lamoille Valley, this data sharing allows the Regional Council to get a better sense of what young families are struggling with. We get quarterly reports from Help Me Grow about what areas of concerns folks are calling in about. That allows us to identify gaps in support and work with partners to address those gaps.
Each of these types of activities strengthens kids and families, and the fabric of support that we have all built for our neighbors and fellow citizens. It’s a wonderful time to be a kid in Vermont!
As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.