Developmental Delays occur at a rate 4 to 5 times higher for children in foster care than for children in the general population. Frequent placements and attachment disruptions which plague the foster care system can hinder development and lessen the resiliency of children. With children under 5 being the fastest growing age group entering care, the need to identify and address developmental issues early is vital. Research demonstrates that early intervention achieves immediate and long term benefits for children experiencing delays. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children at 9, 18, 24, and/or 30 months using a standardized screening tool because of the demonstrated improvement in early identification. Child Welfare and Foster Parents play a critical role in identifying and linking to services some of the most vulnerable children.
What is Child Welfare’s Role in Securing Developmental Screens and Referring Children to Early Intervention Servicers?
The Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 amended the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). It requires states to refer children younger than 3 who are involved in a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect to early intervention services funded under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parallel language also appears in the 2004 IDEA application requirements.
Since 2006, CDSS has required counties to ensure policies and procedures are in place to refer children, birth to three, to early intervention services using multiple strategies. Counties are encouraged to identify these children by screening for delays using reliable screening tool, but a validated tool is highly recommended.
Social workers responding to referrals of maltreatment and foster parents caring for very young children are uniquely positioned to identify delays and engage parents about age appropriate development. Infants and toddlers who are identified for protection are at a critical period. These early years are significant in determining a child’s physical, cognitive and emotional growth. Child welfare may be the first contact with the opportunity to influence an assessment of a child’s development. Screening tools to assess delays involve caretaker assessments and can be used as a resource to engage parents and educate them on age appropriate milestones and care.
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