Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.1 Program of Developmental Activities

2.1.1 General Program Activities Monitoring Children’s Development/Obtaining Consent for Screening

Child care settings provide daily indoor and outdoor opportunities for promoting and monitoring children’s development. Caregivers/teachers should monitor the children’s development, share observations with parents/guardians, and provide resource information as needed for screenings, evaluations, and early intervention and treatment. Caregivers/teachers should work in collaboration to monitor a child’s development with parents/guardians and in conjunction with the child’s primary care provider and health, education, mental health, and early intervention consultants. Caregivers/teachers should utilize the services of health and safety, education, mental health, and early intervention consultants to strengthen their observation skills, collaborate with families, and be knowledgeable of community resources.

Programs should have a formalized system of developmental screening with all children that can be used near the beginning of a child’s placement in the program, at least yearly thereafter, and as developmental concerns become apparent to staff and/or parents/guardians. The use of authentic assessment and curricular-based assessments should be an ongoing part of the services provided to all children (5-9). The facility’s formalized system should include a process for determining when a health or developmental screening or evaluation for a child is necessary. This process should include parental/guardian consent and participation.

Parents/guardians should be explicitly invited to:

  1. Discuss reasons for a health or developmental assessment;
  2. Participate in discussions of the results of their child’s evaluations and the relationship of their child’s needs to the caregivers’/teachers’ ability to serve that child appropriately;
  3. Give alternative perspectives;
  4. Share their expectations and goals for their child and have these expectations and goals integrated with any plan for their child;
  5. Explore community resources and supports that might assist in meeting any identified needs that child care centers and family child care homes can provide;
  6. Give written permission to share health information with primary health care professionals (medical home), child care health consultants and other professionals as appropriate;

The facility should document parents’/guardians’ presence at these meetings and invitations to attend.

If the parents/guardians do not attend the screening, the caregiver/teacher should inform the parents/guardians of the results, and offer an opportunity for discussion. Efforts should be made to provide notification of meetings in the primary language of the parents/guardians. Formal evaluations of a child’s health or development should also be shared with the child’s medical home with parent/guardian consent.

Programs are encouraged to utilize validated screening tools to monitor children’s development, as well as various measures that may inform their work facilitating children’s development and providing an enriching indoor and outdoor environment, such as authentic-based assessment, work sampling methods, observational assessments, and assessments intended to support curricular implementation (5,9). Programs should have clear policies for using reliable and valid methods of developmental screening with all children and for making referrals for diagnostic assessment and possible intervention for children who screen positive. All programs should use methods of ongoing developmental assessment that inform the curricular approaches used by the staff. Care must be taken in communicating the results. Screening is a way to identify a child at risk of a developmental delay or disorder. It is not a diagnosis.

If the screening or any observation of the child results in any concern about the child’s development, after consultation with the parents/guardians, the child should be referred to his or her primary care provider (medical home), or to an appropriate specialist or clinic for further evaluation. In some situations, a direct referral to the Early Intervention System in the respective state may also be required.

Seventy percent of children with developmental disabilities and mental health problems are not identified until school entry (10). Daily interaction with children and families in early care and education settings offers an important opportunity for promoting children’s development as well as monitoring developmental milestones and early signs of delay (1-3). Caregivers/teachers play an essential role in the early identification and treatment of children with developmental concerns and disabilities (6-8) because of their knowledge in child development principles and milestones and relationship with families (4). Coordination of observation findings and services with children’s primary care providers in collaboration with families will enhance children’s outcomes (6).
Parents/guardians need to be included in the process of considering, identifying and shaping decisions about their children, (e.g., adding, deleting, or changing a service). To provide services effectively, facilities must recognize parents’/guardians’ observations and reports about the child and their expectations for the child, as well as the family’s need of child care services. A marked discrepancy between professional and parent/guardian observations of, or expectations for, a child necessitates further discussion and development of a consensus on a plan of action.

Consideration should be given to utilizing parent/guardian-completed screening tools, such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) (for a list of validated developmental screening tools, see the American Academy of Pediatric’s [AAP] list of developmental screening tools at http://www
grid.pdf). The caregiver/teacher should explain the results to parents/guardians honestly, with sensitivity, and without using technical jargon (11).

Resources for implementing a program that involves a formalized system of developmental screening are available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at and the AAP at

Scheduling meetings at times convenient for parent/guardian participation is optimal. Those conducting an evaluation, and when subsequently discussing the findings with the family, should consider parents’/guardians’ input. Parents/guardians have both the motive and the legal right to be included in decision-making and to seek other opinions.

A second, independent opinion could be provided by the program’s child care health consultant or the child’s primary care provider.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Additional Qualifications for Caregivers/Teachers Serving Children Three to Five Years of Age Qualifications and Responsibilities for Health Advocates Unscheduled Access to Rest Areas Written Policy on Confidentiality of Records
  1. Copple, C., S. Bredekamp. 2009. Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children at birth through age 8. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
  2. Dworkin, P. H. 1989. British and American recommendations for developmental monitoring: The role of surveillance. Pediatrics 84:1000-1010.
  3. Brothers, K. l., F. Glascoe, N. Robertshaw. 2008. PEDS: Developmental milestones - An accurate brief tool for surveillance and screening. Clinical Pediatrics 47:271-79.
  4. Kostelnik, M. J., A. K. Soderman, A. P. Whiren. 2006. Developmentally appropriate curriculum best practices in early childhood education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  5. Squires, J., D. Bricker. 2009. Ages and stages questionnaires. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn the signs. Act early.
  7. American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Children With Disabilities, Section on Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Bright Futures Steering Committee and Medical Home Initiatives for Children With Special Needs Project Advisory Committee. 2006. Identifying infants and young children with developmental disorders in the medical home: An alogorithm for developmental surveillance and screening. Pediatrics 118:405-20.
  8. Hagan, J. F., J. S. Shaw, P. M. Duncan, eds. 2008. Bright futures: Guidelines for health supervision of infants, children, and adolescents. 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  9. Gilliam, W. S., S. Meisels, L. Mayes. 2005. Screening and surveillance in early intervention systems. In A developmental systems approach to early intervention: National and international perspectives, ed. M. J. Guralnick, 73-98. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
  10. Glascoe, F. P. 2005. Screening for developmental and behavioral problems. Mental Retardation Develop Disabilities 11:173-79.
  11. O’Connor, S., et al. 1996. ASQ: Assessing school age child care quality. Wellesly, MA: Center for Research on Women.