CFA’s Program – Child FIRST

CFA’s Program – Child FIRST

Home -based programs are one way Child and Family Agency clinicians provide mental health services to the children and their families in the community.  Child FIRST (Child and Family Interagency Resource, Support, and Training) is a home-based early childhood intervention model that works with the most vulnerable young children and families in Connecticut to decrease serious emotional disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect. Our outreach population is pregnant women or children birth through five years of age; children with behavioral or developmental problems, and families with multiple challenges (like extreme poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence,
substance use, homelessness, abuse and neglect, and isolation).

Children that live in environments with extreme poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness experience “toxic stress” that poisons the young, developing brain. Disruption of brain architecture during this critical period leads to major problems in mental health, learning, and physical health (including heart disease and diabetes) throughout the lifespan.

Early, intensive intervention can both decrease this environmental stress and build strong, nurturing relationships that have been proven to prevent damage to the growing brain. This promotes healthy emotional, cognitive, and physical development.

Our clinicians have intensive outreach to engage hard-to reach families, while also providing a comprehensive assessment of the child and all members of the family.  We partner with the family to develop a well-coordinated, comprehensive family-driven plan of supports and services for all family members.  Where necessary, we consult in the early care and school settings for children with challenging behaviors.

We provide home-based parent guidance and psychotherapeutic intervention by a team of a Master’s level mental health clinician and care coordinator, especially for families with multiple challenges like depression, domestic violence, and abuse and neglect.  We also provide coordinated, hands-on assistance to connect with community services and supports

Child FIRST collaborates with a broad group of child and adult providers throughout the community in an “early childhood system of care.” Our partners help identify and refer children growing up in challenging environments or who show the earliest signs of emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems. In turn, Child FIRST refers children and families to these community-based resources to facilitate their health and development.

A client whose family has benefitted from our Child FIRST program shares her story.