Assessing a Child Can Make All the Difference

The Family Center is proud of our commitment to research and evaluation.  Only by learning how our programs truly help vulnerable children and families can we refine our services to maximize their impact.

The Family Center launched Early Support for Lifelong Success (ESLS) in 2008 when we received funding from the federal Abandoned Infants Assistance Program (AIA). Our goal:  to assess the mental and emotional health of children exposed to HIV in-utero and provide them the services they need.  Twenty other programs throughout America are working towards the same goal: Ensuring the safe, healthy development of children born to HIV-positive and/ or substance-abusing mothers.

Research is a key component of ESLS. Recently, our Research & Evaluation Manager, Warren Reich, Ph.D. collaborated with a research team at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, including: Kathy Fuger, Ph.D.; Mike Abel, MA; Dawana Stephens; and Waheeda Hossain, MD.  Together, they discovered an interesting trend in the data collected from these early childhood programs across the country:

While services provided to these children and families affected by HIV and substance abuse are critical, the mere act of assessing a child is the single most significant predictor of the child’s placement with the biological mother in a safe, secure and stable home.

The Family Center is excited about this finding for several reasons.  First, it is rarely mentioned in the professional and research literature. While we have always considered assessments necessary, we have come to regard this process as an important bridge between a mother and professional staff whose focus is on the well-being of her child.

Secondly, The Family Center assesses children and families constantly.  Thanks to the generosity of the Deerfield Partnership Foundation and other private funders, The Family Center has expanded beyond assessing the mental and emotional health of children in ESLS, to develop and implement ways to assess their physical health.  We now know that our assessing an HIV-affected child for various risks itself helps that child grow and develop appropriately in a healthy, supportive household.  This finding supports our continued commitment to provide quality assessment to infants, toddlers and children in every family we serve.