Katie Naman Prince, Alabama Partnership for Children / Help Me Grow Alabama
Katie Naman Prince works with the Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) (Smart Start®) as the director of Help Me Grow Alabama. APC became an affiliate of the Help Me Grow (HMG) National Network in 2011. HMG is a free information and referral line that connects families of children birth to age eight to health and developmental resources in their community.
How did you first begin promoting ASQ screening?
In 2008, a statewide planning group made standardized developmental screening a best practice in Alabama and selected ASQ as its screener of choice. Pediatric practices and early childhood programs soon adopted the tool, paving the way for Help Me Grow (HMG) Alabama to begin promoting the use of developmental screening with both families and providers. The appeal of having aggregate data statewide, the incentives and technical support provided, and the collaboration across multiple early childhood systems moved us toward widespread use of the tool.
A major initiative of ours launched in 2014, when the Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) began working with community partners to host statewide events called “Books, Balls, and Blocks.” These events, which support the core components of the HMG model, are a free, fun, family event for children ages 0–5 in which children can engage in developmentally appropriate play at 16 activity stations while their parents complete an ASQ-3 questionnaire. The concept and application of Books, Balls, and Blocks events were created by our partner affiliate, Help Me Grow Utah. We borrowed and adapted the events for use in Alabama.
In 2015, we really began promoting developmental monitoring as a benefit of enrolling in HMG Alabama. Through the purchase of both a family tracking database system as well as the ASQ Enterprise, we were able to ensure that we would not only send parents one screening to complete for their child, but we would continue to send the next developmental screening to parents within the appropriate timeline to help track their child’s development. Through the annual Project LAUNCH Professional Development Institute and other statewide conferences and training events, we have promoted ASQ, provided kits for partners to implement, and offered free access to the ASQ Enterprise across all early childhood systems.
What are some of the methods you’ve used to get the word out about ASQ?
In 2016, HMG expanded statewide to begin serving all 67 counties through a partnership with 2-1-1 Connects Alabama call centers. Any time Help Me Grow is promoted, the message of the importance of using a valid, reliable screening tool to identify concerns and connect children to services as early as possible is part of that message.
We deliver this message through Facebook, HMG Alabama’s website, conference presentations and exhibit tables, and other outreach events. In addition, one of HMG’s main goals is to educate providers and early care and education professionals on the importance of using a reliable, valid screening tool. At the end of 2016, HMG received funding from the Alabama Department of Human Resources to target child care providers about the importance of early detection and how ASQ can be a helpful tool to not only identify those concerns, but to also communicate those concerns with parents.
HMG partners with Regional Quality Contractors to train child care providers on these tools—including how to utilize and interpret ASQ-3 and ASQ:SE-2, as well as discuss results and next steps with families. Program staff also receives training on how to access and utilize HMG services when concerns are identified on the parent-completed questionnaires.
In addition, HMG Alabama has adopted the ASQ Enterprise system to better coordinate and track statewide developmental screening efforts and to aid or enhance early care and education programs that have incorporated the ASQ into their programs. We support these programs by offering access to the system, and by providing program setup, staff training, and technical assistance.
Help Me Grow Alabama uses ASQ Online, specifically Family Access. How has this service helped advance your screening initiative throughout the state?
Family Access has been very helpful to our care coordinators by not only decreasing time for data entry and preparing mail-outs to send the ASQ to families, but it has also decreased paper and mailing costs for families who have Internet and/or a smart phone. It also is very helpful in cases where screenings must be resent electronically—for example, if parents did not receive it by mail, or if we need to resend the link after a delay leads to the age interval no longer being valid.
Family Access has also helped increase outside providers and programs’ interest in becoming users in the ASQ Enterprise system. For example, we have three pediatric practices utilizing our ASQ Enterprise system and the Family Access component by having parents complete ASQ using iPads in the waiting room before their child’s well checkup. Pediatricians and office staff have expressed that this has helped workflow immensely, and one practice has even began facilitating an additional screening interval because of the time savings.
What challenges did you face while promoting your program, and how did you overcome them?
It was and still is very important to make sure the messaging is very clear when discussing and training on ASQ that this is not a “test” or something that children will pass or fail, but instead a parent-completed tool to help both providers and families identify concerns, communicate those concerns, and begin building the relationship to ensure professionals and parents are working together for what’s best for their child.
In addition, we have had to review staff capacity along the way to ensure we were not only screening but connecting families to supports when concerns were identified. For example, before expanding statewide with full care coordination implemented, we made sure to always invite community partners to set up resource tables at Books, Balls, and Blocks events to help facilitate connections on site with Early Intervention, Special Education, and other local programs. As we continue to grow, we have also begun to explore the increase use of volunteers and other ideas learned from other HMG state affiliates and partners.
What has been your greatest success?
In 2016, HMG helped facilitate 14,600 screens, a 4,365% increase from the previous year! This was in large part due to the participation of all First Class Pre-K classrooms, Alabama’s state pre-K program, which used the ASQ Enterprise to screen all children at program entry.
What general advice would you give to others who want to begin promoting a screening program?
What has contributed to our success—and I’d advise other programs to consider this—is that we try to be very strategic and find ways to embed HMG and developmental screening in existing opportunities—to enhance systems instead of duplicating efforts. This is an especially vital strategy in a low resourced state. For example, Alabama received the Project LAUNCH grant through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, and HMG was written into that grant to help fulfill one of the project’s core objectives focused on screening and assessment.