The field of early care and education is promoting developmental screening more widely as a best practice for young children and their families. Many prominent early care and education training, advocacy and policy entities promote developmental screening. The accreditation process for early childhood programs by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) includes criteria for conducting developmental screening as part of a program’s assessment plan. In addition, a number of local child care quality rating programs in California include developmental screening as part of their assessment of program quality.
A major goal is to encourage a conversation about development between the teacher/provider and the parent. Sharing perspectives on a child’s development has a range of benefits. These include a shared recognition of a child’s strengths, areas to watch carefully, discussion of what parents can do at home to optimize a child’s learning and development, and planning for any accommodations that a child care program could make to support the individual child. Developmental screening is an important part of inclusive child care. It is important for early intervention in early care and education settings.
Programs that are required to conduct developmental screening include Head Start, some child development centers, and university-based child care centers. Head Start and Early Head Start program performance standards require the use of a validated developmental screening tool as part of the holistic assessment of children in care in these settings. National, state and local regulations for child care programs are not yet requiring developmental screening for every type of early care and education program.
Unlike developmental screening in primary care, for which there is a national recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics of developmental surveillance at all well child visits as well as structured screening at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 month well child visits, there is no single national standard or recommendation for the timing of developmental screening in ECE settings. Head Start programs have an annual requirement. [[Maybe list the requirement for Head Start and Early Head Start only?]]
A number of resources are available for early care and education settings that want to incorporate developmental screening into their programs. These resources include suggestions for how to implement screening in a way that helps teachers and parents discuss and respond to children’s needs. Many of these resources emphasize that reflecting on the goals and process of screening is important so that teachers and providers alike are prepared for the conversation.