LEWISTON – Families in Niagara and Erie counties may benefit from a $2.1 million federal grant to bolster the screening of children’s developmental skills and women for maternal depression, according to a Niagara University assistant dean.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this month announced the five-year grant earmarked for the Western New York and Long Island regions, with a portion of the funding to go to Help Me Grow Western New York, an organization that provides free child development services to area families.
The state’s Council on Children and Families will partner with state and local agencies like Help Me Grow WNY to develop a statewide model for screening children earlier for developmental delays, screening their mothers for depression and to provide needed services sooner to promote long-term success, Cuomo’s office said.
“This funding allows Help Me Grow Western New York to enhance developmental screenings, care coordination and early interventions to a statewide level by working with our colleagues in the New York State Council of Children and Families, the Department of Health, and Docs for Tots in Long Island,” said Patricia Wrobel, assistant dean at Niagara University’s College of Education. “It affords opportunities to reach children and families through a comprehensive statewide system.”
Wrobel serves on the 15-member board of directors of Help Me Grow WNY, a Buffalo-based organization that was launched in 2011 and relaunched in 2013. Wrobel and Lynn Pullano, director of Help Me Grow WNY, worked with downstate colleagues to draft the federal grant proposal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for developmental delays and disabilities at 9, 18, 24 and 30 months of age. In Erie and Niagara counties, only about 40 percent of children receive standardized screenings for developmental delays and only one in five with an identified developmental delay actually receives services.
Help Me Grow Western New York will receive a portion of the funding to further cultivate a centralized comprehensive online database of community-based resources and services that can help connect families with service providers.
Help Me Grow offers information on general child development and parenting topics, as well as referrals to community resources, such as early intervention agencies, family therapy, literacy support, mentoring and tutoring programs, parenting classes and recreational opportunities. It also offers developmental screening questionnaires for children up to 5 years old, personalized care coordination to ensure that families successfully connect with resources, and developmental activities for parents to use at home.
The state Education Department reports that New York ranks 49th in the country in terms of the number of developmental screenings of children up to 5 years old.
Help Me Grow WNY complements the NU College of Education’s grant-funded Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project, as well as the Positive Emotional Development and Learning Skills (PEDALS), another early childhood development program supported by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.
To learn more about Help Me Grow Western New York, visit www.helpmegrowny.org.