Model Description

Child First (Child and Family Interagency Resource, Support, and Training) is an innovative, home-based, early childhood intervention, embedded in a system of care that works to decrease the incidence of serious emotional disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among the most vulnerable young children and families.

Theory of Change

The Child First model is based on the most current research on brain development, which shows that extremely high stress environments (e.g., poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, abuse and neglect, substance abuse, homelessness) are “toxic” to the developing brain of the young child. The presence of a nurturing, consistent, and contingent parent-child relationship is able to buffer and protect the brain from these damaging insults.

Therefore, Child First uses two complementary strategies or a two-pronged approach:

  • A system of care approach that provides comprehensive, integrated services and supports (e.g., domestic violence intervention, early education, housing) for the child and family to decrease environmental stressors and facilitate healthy growth and development.
  • A psychotherapeutic relationship-based approach that enhances nurturing, responsive parent-child interactions and promotes positive social-emotional and cognitive development.

The Child First Home Visiting Team

There are two members of the home visiting team:

  • A Master’s level Mental Health/Developmental Clinician, who provides a dyadic, two-generation psychotherapeutic intervention and parent guidance,
  • A Bachelor’s level Care Coordinator who connects children and families with comprehensive community-based services and supports.

Summary of Program Components

The Child First intervention consists of the following components:

  • Intensive outreach to engage hard-to reach families
  • Comprehensive assessment of the child and all members of the family
  • Partnership with the family to develop a well-coordinated, comprehensive family-driven plan of supports and services for all family members
  • Home-based parent guidance and psychotherapeutic intervention using Child-Parent Psychotherapy, especially for families with multiple challenges, like depression, domestic violence, and abuse and neglect
  • Consultation in the early care and school settings for children with challenging behaviors
  • Care coordination and case management to provide hands-on assistance connecting all family members with community-based services and supports

With funding from: