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Establishing a Continuum of Care
Families interact with a number of social service, health, and educational systems during a child's early years. Most families receive pre-natal and new baby support through the private or community health care system. As their children grow, families often build relationships with child care or preschool programs such as Head Start, state-funded pre-K or private nursery programs. As children graduate from early childhood programs, families' interactions focus around local elementary schools. However, transitions between these systems have historically focused on the child -- and not on the family in which the child is growing up. This focus may miss an important opportunity to provide on-going support to families in need during these critical early years.

The implementation of a continuum of care for families of young children is intended to build relationships between the environments with whom families have contact in order to provide consistent help to those families identified as needing support. While simple in principle, a continuum of care can often prove difficult to implement -- especially when systems are traditionally structured to be child rather than family-focused. Partnerships with community-based agencies capable of meeting social service or mental health needs are often required to augment the core functions of educational institutions. A willingness to think flexibly and negotiate turf issues is critical. Efforts to develop a continuum of care can also often illuminate local service gaps (where families are no longer eligible for some services, but not yet eligible for others), which need to be addressed in order to reduce disruption of support.

Click below for information on additional resources.



Establishing a Continuum of Care Strategies

General
  Starting Early, Starting Smart (SESS)



 

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Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.