Last updated: 2011
Child First intervenes with vulnerable young children and families at the earliest possible time to prevent and heal the effects of trauma and adversity. The goal is to decrease the incidence of emotional and behavioral disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among high-risk young children and their families. The Child First model is based on brain development research, which shows that extremely high-stress environments (including poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, abuse and neglect, substance abuse, and homelessness) are toxic to the developing brain of the young child. Child First aims to build a nurturing, consistent, and responsive parent-child relationship, which buffers and protects the child’s brain from these stressors. In addition, the model is designed to stabilize and decrease the multiple concrete challenges in the family’s life.
Child First serves pregnant women and families with children from birth through age 5 years in which (1) children have emotional, behavioral, or developmental difficulties; or (2) the family faces multiple environmental and psychosocial challenges (which Child First views as social determinants of health) that may lead to negative parent and child outcomes, such as maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, or abuse and neglect. Families are served without regard for their legal status or the number of children in the family.