Children 1st is the entry point into all public health programs and services for children, birth – 5 years old. Children 1st screens children and families who may be at risk for poor developmental outcomes and need additional support to thrive. All referrals are made in an effort to help the child grow up healthy and provide the family with the necessary tools to be successful.
Look up your Children 1st Coordinator or call the North Georgia Health District's Children 1st office in Dalton at (706) 529-5763
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Children 1st facilitates early identification of at-risk children and links them with early interventions services, as well as other public health services and community based resources. Children who do not present risk factors severe enough to qualify for an early intervention program remain in Children 1st where they are linked directly to a medical home and monitored to ensure that if sufficient risk factors do arise, the identification, screening, and placement in an early intervention program can occur as quickly as possible.
How are screenings done?
Children 1st has several points of contact with families. During each point of contact, screenings are performed to ensure all of the child’s needs are identified and the child is linked to services that will best meet his or her needs as well as the needs of the family.
- Electronic Birth Certificates: All birth certificates for children born in Georgia are downloaded and screened for risk factors. If a risk is identified, Children 1st will be notified to follow-up with the family directly.
- Phone screens: Children 1st coordinators may call families to determine the needs of the child and family over the phone. Responses during this call will help indicate the types of services, if any, that will most benefit the child and his or her family.
- Home visits: A Children 1st coordinator will arrange a time to visit the child in his or her home. During the visit, the coordinator will administer a questionnaire to the guardian and observe how the child moves and interacts with others in the home. Based on these observations, the child will be linked to the services that will best address his or her needs.
Reasons for referral
Any child in Georgia can be referred to Children 1st; however, Children 1st is especially interested in referrals for children with the following factors:
How is eligibility determined?
Children 1st screens children and families who may be at-risk for poor developmental outcomes and need additional support to thrive. All referrals are made in an effort to help the child grow up healthy and provide the family with the necessary tools to be successful.
- At birth, children are screened to identify heritable and congenital disorders. If any of these screenings are positive, the child will automatically be referred to the Children 1st program.
- During well child visits, a pediatrician screens children for significant developmental milestones. The pediatrician may refer a child to Children 1st if he/she is not meeting significant milestones or presents other risk factors.
- Parents, family members, educators, or friends can refer a child to Children 1st if they have concerns about the child’s growth, development, or environment.
- Department of Family and Children may refer children, as they deem necessary.
Why is the program important?
Early identification of, and intervention for, children with risk factors is a critical component of a child’s achievements across a lifetime. However, fewer than half of all children with developmental delay or severe behavior problems are identified before they start school. Delayed interventions are typically more costly and less effective than those interventions started early in life.
Through early identification, Children 1st makes it more likely that children are linked to important interventions as early as possible. This early linkage may have lasting effects on the child’s development.
Where are services located?
Children 1st can be found in every county in Georgia. As part of the Children 1st process, children can receive a developmental screening and/or families can receive a family assessment to determine risk factors. These screenings can be administered over the phone, in the home, or in your local health department.
Make a referral
Hospitals, providers, and Division of Family and Children Services personnel can refer a child via the Screening and Referral Form to the Children 1st office in your Local Health District. Please include a complete diagnosis and any accompanying notes, as appropriate.
Parents may call in a referral toll-free at (888) 276-1558.