Supporting Families and Systems that Serve Young Children through the Act Early Response to COVID-19

January 11, 2021

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) has expanded its National Center on Disability in Public Health efforts with an investment of over $4M in the Act Early Network through an Act Early Network-wide Response to COVID-19 made possible by a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

43 State and Territorial Act Early COVID-19 Response Teams were awarded a one-year (September 2020-August 2021) grant opportunity for Support for Early Childhood State Systems Through the Act Early Network. This nationwide initiative is focused on support for early childhood state systems through the Act Early Network to support recovery and strengthen resilience skills, behaviors, and resources of children, families, and communities. This support opportunity is expected to bolster and evaluate the integration of parent-engaged developmental monitoring using "Learn the Signs. Act Early." (LTSAE) in at least one high-reach statewide program serving families with young children (birth to age 5), as well as advance the promotion and distribution of relevant, existing tools, materials, and programs to improve resiliency among families with young children during COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts.

The Act Early Response to COVID-19 is being led by Act Early Ambassadors who have engaged their teams in conducting a needs assessment to identify current barriers and opportunities in their region related to the four steps of early identification (parent-engaged developmental monitoring, general developmental and autism screening, referral for early intervention services, receipt of early intervention services for children birth to 5). AUCD/CDC is currently analyzing needs assessment data and reviewing summaries completed by states/territories to identify overall strengths, needs, barriers, and opportunities across states and territories and highlight current COVID-19 needs. As teams enter the second half of the project year, they will be using this information to further refine their work plans as they move toward implementation and evaluation of efforts to address the identified barriers and realize the identified opportunities related to these steps. Teams have also been asked to identify, implement, and evaluate strategies to improve the resiliency of very young children (birth to age 5) and their families.

To ensure that the sharing and promotion of best practices, resources, and information related to improving early identification and developmental delays is also reaching the thirteen states and territories not represented by Act Early COVID-19 Response Teams, AUCD has also engaged a communications consultancy specializing in strategic thinking for printed and digital communications to develop and place social media messages. They will also be using the Act Early Network of Ambassadors and close partners to share developmental monitoring and COVID-19 recovery information targeting Black/Latino communities.

Act Early COVID-19 Response Teams are engaging UCEDD, LEND, IDDRC, and DBP programs across the country through their work with this project. AUCD Network Centers have a strong history of collaborating to achieve common goals alongside Act Early Ambassadors and the Act Early Network. Many Centers have found creative ways to engage trainees/fellows with the work of their state/territory's Act Early Ambassador.

We hope you will follow along with the progress of the
Act Early Response to COVID-19 and reach out to Danielle Webber for any additional information about this effort.