Child First is a two-generation home-based mental health intervention for young children (prenatal through age five) and their families. Target populations include children who exhibit emotional/behavioral or developmental/learning challenges and families experiencing challenges, such as extreme poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, substance use, homelessness, abuse and neglect, incarceration, and isolation. Child First aims to reduce and mitigate stress, violence, and trauma by improving child development, developing strong parent-child relationships, and facilitating connections to needed services and programs. Participants receive three and a half hours of home visits each week for six to 12 months where the clinician and care coordinator provide mental health support, child development education, and parenting support.
Child First strengthens and improves family and child health. Mothers in the program have lower levels of mental health problems and families are less likely to experience parent stress and be involved with child protective services. Children in the program are less likely to demonstrate aggressive behaviors and have language problems. Child First may also serve as a preventative and protective factor against lasting trauma. Participating children demonstrated a significant decrease in the number of traumatic events, a decrease in post-traumatic stress, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance behaviors.