Help Me Grow Western New York expands to Chautauqua County

BUFFALO – Help Me Grow WNY, a regional initiative that seeks to measurably improve the developmental skills and well-being of young children, announced today that Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition will serve as its lead entity in Chautauqua County.

In partnership with the Connections Children’s Coalition, Help Me Grow WNY will bring to Chautauqua County an array of early childhood resources that are available free of charge for families and caregivers of infants, toddlers, and children up to the age of 6. These resources include no-fee access to developmental questionnaires that are approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, available online at helpmegrowny.org. In addition, Help Me Grow WNY will make available a Child Development Information Line staffed by early childhood specialists to answer questions or address concerns about young children. Help Me Grow WNY also offers suggestions for activities that can be done to foster young children’s physical, social, emotional, mental, and behavioral progress as well as ongoing service coordination if children or families need linkage to services. The initiative began in Erie and Niagara counties in 2011. Expansion of Help Me Grow into Chautauqua and other WNY counties is funded by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Foundation.

Help Me Grow WNY’s work is based on the evidence-informed national Help Me Grow model that is currently implemented in 28 states and endorsed by the U.S. Health & Human Services Administration and Department of Education. This model advances child development, school preparedness, health, and well-being through universal access to early childhood resources, developmental screenings, linkage to services, and ongoing follow-up. The Help Me Grow approach complements and strengthens–but does not duplicate or compete with–existing local resources while helping to identify critical points of advocacy for communities in supporting child development.

“All Western New York children deserve the best start in life, and this includes those in Chautauqua County,” commented Lynn Pullano, Help Me Grow WNY Executive Director. “Help Me Grow WNY is delighted to bring additional resources to support the Coalition in making a positive impact on children during the first five years of life, when 85 percent of brain and personality development occur. We look forward to working with the county’s community leaders and families in creating experiences and environments that will provide the brightest future possible for Chautauqua’s 8,500 young children.”

The Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition is in its fifth year of existence and falls under the direction of Chautauqua Connections Inc., a member corporation of The Resource Center. Patrick Smeraldo, who serves as an Independent Service Coordinator for Chautauqua Connections Inc. and oversees the operations of the Children’s Coalition, said “A quality model like Help Me Grow aligns perfectly with our mission of collaborating to build partnerships and foster communication to better serve children birth to five and their families in Chautauqua County. Help Me Grow will directly impact the young children and families of Chautauqua County and assist in closing gaps in needed services.”

Help Me Grow WNY has been working with Connections Children’s Coalition leaders over the past year to analyze the strengths and challenges inherent in the county’s early childhood service landscape. Chautauqua County partners will begin planning by June, 2018 to implement four core components of the Help Me Grow national model: a centralized access point for early childhood services; family and community outreach; health care provider outreach; and data collection and analysis. The goal is to formulate and carry out action steps that result in identifiable improvement in the well-being of Chautauqua’s children, supported by a rich set of local data on child development and needs.

To find out more about Help Me Grow WNY, families, caregivers, health care providers, and social services agencies can visit helpmegrowny.org or call 2-1-1.

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