United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

DRIVE: An Innovative New Approach to Improving School Readiness with Child Development Screening

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A scalable early childhood model that is data-powered and insight-driven.

DRIVE is a groundbreaking initiative for achieving universal child development screening for young children. But it has the power to achieve much more.

Understanding children’s developmental progress creates opportunities for prevention and intervention in the critical “brain building” phase of a child’s life, when services are more effective and less costly.

The data collected through DRIVE – a first-of its kind effort, supported by the Private Equity / Venture Capital industry – allows families, teachers, health providers, and community leaders to take a data-driven approach to early childhood, making informed, strategic decisions to tailor supports and resources to children and ensure they enter school ready to learn.

Goals

  • Support Children & Families: Build community capacity to understand and identify children’s developmental needs as soon as possible, get them the supports they need to succeed, and engage families in their child’s learning and development.
  • Drive Policy & Systems Change: Create a universal screening system in order to gain a better understanding of the developmental progress of young children to inform funding and policy decisions. Early education providers can use their data to identify areas where they can improve or fine-tune their programming and resources to help more children stay on track.

How It Works

DRIVE uses the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) to screen young children in two settings:

  • Early Education and Care Providers – DRIVE partners with early education and care providers to gather and aggregate data from ASQ screening conducted in their programs. Through their involvement, early education programs are utilizing data to improve program quality and using the screening process to engage families in supporting their children’s learning and development.
  • Peer-to-Peer Parent Screeners – United Way created an innovative peer-to-peer model, hiring and training local parents to become parent screeners who connect to families in their communities, conduct the ASQ screening during home visits or in neighborhood-based settings, and offer resources and information for families based on screening results. Parent screeners represent multiple cultures and languages creating connections for isolated families and ensuring all children, whether enrolled in formal early education and care or not, are screened. This model is being replicated in other states.

Creating Transformative Change

Since 2014, DRIVE has:

  • Collected developmental screening data from over 6,000 children ages 0-5. Among children re-screened after one year, over 72% progressed from showing strong or potential concern to developing on track.
  • Trained and supported 20 parent screeners and partnered with 25 early education and community-based programs across 60 sites in Greater Boston to build the infrastructure for collecting screening data.
  • Formed a learning community to utilize and leverage data and maximize the use of ASQ screening as a family engagement and program improvement opportunity and to ensure that children and families’ needs are met.
  • Developed a technology platform to aggregate data and generate program, neighborhood, and community-level data reports.
  • Influenced the activities and opportunities that community-based organizations are providing for families with young children.
    • South Boston Neighborhood House and the Dorchester Family Engagement Network held family events geared at activities to foster fine motor skill development among children and distributed “Fine Motor Kits” to give to parents.
    • Action for Boston Community Development’s Head Start program, which serves over 2,400 low-income children ages 0-5 throughout the city, identified and fulfilled a need for new playground equipment at many of their sites to support gross motor development.
  • Expanded to communities outside of Boston, including Lawrence, Chelsea, and Springfield.
  • Informed statewide efforts to improve data collection and infrastructure for screening young children.

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For more information, contact Alyssa Lowell, Director – Educational Success, United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley at alowell@supportunitedway.org or 617-624-8005