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Newsletter September 2022 | Supporting Infant Mental Health

Summer fun is wrapping up and fall is almost here! That means change is in the air, and even the youngest among us are very attuned to it. As so many rich conversations about mental health are expanding, it is important that we take special care to include infants in that conversation!

Read stories from CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse), about how children heal from traumas, find out about screenings children should receive to ensure that they get what they need in kindergarten, how to advance equity in developmental screenings, and more.

Read more in our September 2022 Newsletter.


I Screen, You Screen: Getting to know your child through screening tools

When you’re a parent, you may not know what you don’t know. Children are complicated! If you feel like you have questions about your child’s behavior–a screening can help. 

What is a Screening?

Screenings can be a great way to ensure that your child is on track socially, emotionally, developmentally, and physically. The process can help identify potential areas for support, and it is a great way to get connected to expert help. 

Screenings ask specific questions about what your child can do. They give you a detailed look at your child’s development. Screenings are a great way to identify your child’s strengths. They can also highlight areas where your child may need more practice or support.

Sometimes, it can feel like there is a lot of stigma around mental health support or special education needs. The truth is that these things are just a part of life. By completing a screening, you can connect with doctors and specialists who are experts in these kinds of resources. It is so common for your child to need some developmental support early in their life to set them up for future success. When you screen early, your child can be supported effectively and sustainably before they start kindergarten.

What Happens After a Screening?

After you complete the screening, you may have questions. One in six children has developmental concerns that would benefit from follow-up, and research has shown that the sooner developmental services begin, the better the outcome. Services like speech therapy, physical therapy, and developmentally appropriate social activities can all help prepare a child for kindergarten and for life.

How to Get Free Health Screenings

Online screenings are FREE for parents in San Mateo County, and thanks to First 5 San Mateo County and our partners they are easily accessible. 

At the end of the day, developmental screenings are about ensuring that your child has all of the resources that they need to thrive in school and beyond.

How Screenings Can Help Answer Common Parenting Questions:

Next time you take your child to the doctor, consider asking for the following three screenings:

1. Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3)

Is My Child on Track?

The Ages & Stages Questionnaire is a developmental screening tool that your pediatrician or child care provider might give you. You are the expert on your child, and this easy-to-use questionnaire captures a snapshot of your child that doctors are able to use to catch delays and celebrate milestones.

This questionnaire helps you assess your child’s communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social skills. You can expect questions like, 

Does your child point to, pat, or try to pick up pictures in a book?

Does your child stand up in the middle of the floor by himself and take several steps forward?

Does your child get your attention or try to show you something by

pulling on your hand or clothes?

Questions like these, believe it or not, can share a lot about the way your child’s brain is working and can help doctors, childcare providers, and you take stock of how they are doing. 

This screening is available free online, and once you fill it out, you can ask your doctor or childcare provider if you have any further questions. 

2. Social-Emotional Screening (ASQ-SE)

How Does My Child Make Friends?

Children’s ability to regulate their emotions and skillfully manage social interactions is critical to their healthy development and future success. If social-emotional problems are identified and addressed early, children are less likely to be placed in special education programs—and later in life, they’re also less likely to experience school failure, unemployment, and incarceration.

Social-emotional screening can detect and monitor signals that indicate whether a young child may be delayed in aspects of social-emotional development, like communication, autonomy, affect, and interaction with people. You can expect questions like,

Does your child like to be hugged or cuddled?

When upset, can your child calm down within 15 minutes?

Does your child like to be around other children? For example, does she move close to or look at other children?

Now, these screening results are not a diagnosis for your child—but they can help you decide on meaningful next steps if your child needs them. Typically, in many cases, the act of screening rules out the need for deeper assessment.

This screening is also available free online, and once you fill it out, you can ask your doctor or childcare provider if you have any further questions. 

3. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Does My Child Have Trauma?

Important research has shown that traumatic or adverse experiences in childhood can have long-term effects on someone’s physical and mental health. Screening for ACEs helps doctors ensure that you and your family have effective ways to deal with toxic stressors if you need them. 

ACEs screenings will ask about things that your child and your family may have been through to figure out if those experiences have continued impacting your child. You can expect questions like, 

Did your child live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

Did a household member go to prison?

Has your child ever had to wear dirty clothes or go without food during mealtimes?

Even if it seems like a child might be too young to remember, it’s important to get to the bottom of experiences like this, because they can have long-lasting effects even if they are not consciously aware of them. 

What’s next for my child?

To receive an ACEs Screening, ask your doctor! Doctors in San Mateo County are excited to have the opportunity to provide your family with the most complete care possible. They can help you get connected to any available resources that will help you navigate your next steps. 

Now that you know about all these screenings, you can get all the information about your child’s healthy development. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to Help Me Grow San Mateo County for more information and additional support! 


Where Parenting and Community Leadership Meet: A Q&A with Rosanne Foust

As the President & CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA), Ms. Foust is a leading voice of the business community in San Mateo County and across the Bay Area on issues important to maintaining a strong local and regional economy, attracting and retaining major employers and good jobs, and creating partnerships between business and government to address the critical issues of affordable housing, mobility improvements, and maintaining a good quality of life.

Throughout her career, Ms. Foust has been dedicated to supporting children in their early years. When her own child needed early intervention, she saw firsthand how important and impactful it is to have high-quality services available for parents throughout the county. 

Now, as the chair of the Commission, we are excited to hear about her story, what she is working on, and her vision for First 5 San Mateo County.  

  1. Tell me about your experiences with First 5 as a parent and as a commissioner. What have you learned?

Rosanne Foust: First 5 makes an impact and changes lives. Its focus on success for every child is at the forefront of the Staff and Commission’s work. We hear stories from partners and grantees about how early screening, early intervention, and quality childcare set those 0-5 children on a journey to an equitable and stable future.

As a parent, I am grateful for the quality childcare my daughters received. I will never forget the center director identifying a possible hearing issue with my youngest when she was 4. His intervention and outreach to us, and empathetic and caring approach, without a doubt, changed the trajectory for my daughter and set her up for future success. Her type of hearing loss often went undiagnosed and his quality training and awareness made it possible for us to find the services needed. I want this for all families.

  1. Why is it important that First 5 San Mateo County provides families with early childhood services?

RF: Early intervention and quality care are critical. Every study, whether it is local, regional, state, or national, points to 0-5 as the most critical years in a child’s development. First 5 funds programs in all areas including health, early learning, intervention, assessments, and quality standards, and creates opportunities that give those in our most underserved communities access and tools to these services. First 5’s focus on equity and reaching our most vulnerable in this high-cost county is something I am most proud of as a Commissioner.

  1. What do you hope for the future of First 5? How do you see your work with and for children and families continuing in the near future?

RF: The work of First 5 must continue. Its impact is seen now and will be seen even more by future generations as the seeds we have planted for 0-5-year-olds continue to grow and blossom. I am concerned with the decline in the tobacco tax revenue that supports the work of First 5–and I also see the irony in that statement. Other funding streams are being discussed and my continued work with First 5 will focus on not losing the gains we have made and finding ways to broaden our efforts.

4. What questions have you been grappling with over the past year in your parent-centered work with First 5?

RF: I think the question that I have been struggling with the most is how we support more children and families that need our services. The challenges that families face, with the high cost of housing, transportation, and childcare, weigh so heavily that sometimes adding something else, even though it is wanted and needed, adds to their stress. Finding ways that we can mitigate these challenges is one of the keys we need to unlock.

If you are interested in getting in contact with the First 5 San Mateo County Commission, reach out at!