Alaska is fortunate to have many services to support families and children. Sometimes, however, the services a family needs are not available or, if they are, access to them can often be challenging. This can be an extremely frustrating and an exasperating barrier for families trying to do their best raising happy, healthy kids.
For the last three years, a diverse group of professionals from the field of early childhood and pediatrics have worked together to find a solution, a “glue” if you will, that connects providers, community-based services, and families to ensure easier access and to help guide what new services still need to be created or expanded. That glue is a system called Help Me Grow, and we are excited to announce that it is finally available for families here in Alaska, and thread is proud to begin providing Help Me Grow Alaska call center services.
What is Help Me Grow Alaska?
Help Me Grow Alaska (HMG-AK) is a resource and referral system that provides care coordination services and links families in Kodiak, Mat-Su, and Norton Sound with services and supports (eventually this will be offered throughout the state). HMG-AK is based on a national model developed in Connecticut in 2005 out of a need for a better way to connect families with community-based resources. HMG-AK is not an agency designed to offer more services, but it is intended to connect families with the resources that are already in place in communities across the state, and to help identify where more services are needed. Help Me Grow’s mission is to identify children who are at risk for developmental delays and/or behavioral problems, and then to link these children and their families to community-based and statewide resources.
Why would a family call the Help Me Grow Alaska call center?
HMG-AK is designed to assist families with young children looking for a broad range of support. This could be anything from questions or concerns about their child’s development or behavior to helping a family who recently moved to a community find a medical provider and social supports and community activities such as parenting groups or organized play time for kids. The care coordination model is set up to help families navigate complex situations through follow up and continued support to ensure the family feels comfortable and confident in the next steps for their child and themselves.
Why do families need to be connected to developmental screenings?
As part of its mission, the Help Me Grow system promotes and provides a standardized tool to screen children ages 0-5 for developmental delays or disabilities. Periodical developmental screening monitors a child’s developmental milestones, such as walking, using words, expressing emotions, playing with peers, etc. Answers to the screening questions show what the child’s strengths are and will identify any areas where the child may need support or extra practice. The screening tool is easy to complete and can offer fun ideas for interacting with children in an age-appropriate way. HMG-AK provides families with free access to this developmental screening tool on paper or online, and the care coordinators work with the family to connect them to further evaluation, should there be any concerns of a developmental delay. When reviewing the screening results together with the parent, the care coordinator will also provide additional activities to do at home to help support the child’s healthy development while enjoying fun, free and good quality time with the child. A child does not need to have a delay or disability to receive services or activity ideas from a Help Me Grow coordinator. The service is available and free to all families with children.
How do people access HMG-AK?
During phase I, HMG-AK is available to anyone raising a child as well as medical providers, childcare providers, and community members in Kodiak, Mat-Su, and Norton Sound. They can access the call center through its dedicated toll-free line 1-833-464-2527 or 1-833-HMGAlaska.
When will HMG-AK be available in my community?
Help Me Grow Alaska is currently in the very beginning phase of launching in Alaska and still has a lot of work to do. The first phase is focused on three regions: Norton Sound, Kodiak and Mat-Su. HMG-AK is working hard and putting a lot of effort and thought into the planning, and hope to expand the program statewide soon. Stay tuned through the Help Me Grow mailing list for updates!
Adapted from a blog by: Rachel Boudreau, intern with Help Me Grow Alaska & the All Alaska Pediatric Partnership