Children 1st

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What is Children 1st?

Children 1st collaborates with families, healthcare providers, schools, and other agencies to identify children, birth - 5 years old,  who may be at risk for poor health outcomes and developmental delay. Children 1st links eligible children to early intervention services, as well as other public health programs and community-based resources. 

Children 1st is the single point of entry for all DPH Child Health programs and services for children, from birth - 5 years old. All referrals made to DPH Child Health programs including Babies Can’t Wait (BCW), Children’s Medical Services (CMS), Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), and 1st Care must be made through Children 1st. 

When should I make a referral to Children 1st? What are some risk factors?

If your child or a child in your care is between the ages of birth - 5 years old, and you have any concerns about the child’s growth and development, contact the Children 1st program for more information. Some children have medical conditions and environmental concerns that place them at greater risk for developmental delay. These risk conditions may include but are not limited to the following:

Socio-Environmental Risk Conditions (Three or more present)

Medical Conditions (One or more present)

Lack of Housing

Developmental speech or language disorder

Legal Circumstances (Parental Incarceration)

Cleft Palate/Lip

Insufficient Prenatal Care (Little or no prenatal care)

NICU Stay > 5 days

Maternal Age < 18 Years


Parental Unemployment

Very Low Birth Weight (< 1500 grams)

Education Circumstances (Maternal Education <12 years)


Note: This list does not include all child health eligible risk conditions. Contact your local Children 1st Coordinator to learn more about your child’s eligibility for programs and services.

Who should make referrals to Children 1st?

  • Parents/Family Members
  • Regional Perinatal Centers
  • Birthing Hospitals Programs
  • Newborn Screening (Metabolic & Hearing)
  • Physicians
  • Public Health Programs
  • Daycares/Head Start Centers

Anyone can refer children to Children 1st if there are concerns about the child’s growth and development.

How do I make a referral to Children 1st or other Child Health programs?

Maternal and Child Health Services Locator

Use this tool to find your local Children 1st Coordinator. 

  1. Complete the Download this pdf file. Children 1st Screening and Referral Form ;
  2. Find your local Children 1st Coordinator using the Maternal and Child Health Services Locator ;
  3. Mail or fax the Children 1st Screening and Referral Form to the local Children 1st Coordinator; or
  4. Call your local Children 1st Coordinator and complete the Children 1st Screening and Referral Form by phone. 

What happens after a child is referred to Children 1st?

After contacting Children 1st, the local Children 1st Coordinator will schedule a home visit or clinic appointment with you. During the visit, a developmental screening and family needs assessment will be conducted to determine if your child should be referred to programs such as Babies Can’t Wait, Children’s Medical Services, Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, 1st Care, or other community-based programs and resources.

Children 1st COVID-19 Update

The Children 1st Program is dedicated to providing families with resources and services to support healthy growth and development in children birth – 5 years of age. As the CDC and DPH recommend social distancing in response to COVID-19, Children 1st will offer developmental screening, education, and linkage to services and resources over the phone. 

Page last updated 6/27/2022