ChildReach Program in Pierce County

Margi Rudy, Family Educator for Pierce County in the Community Connections Department, explained what the ChildReach Program is: “In a nutshell, it’s a free mobile developmental education and information program for families with children from birth to age three. Technically the program can screen from birth to age 6, but the priority is from birth until their third birthday.

We perform developmental screening such as: developmental language, large and small muscle, early learning, social, self help, and behavior.

We perform first step screening. We are educating and informing children about their developmental concerns. We encourage families to participate in this as it’s really good information for everybody to have families that may not know to be concerned.

There is no evaluation, assessment, or labeling on children after screening.

The typical developmental guidelines show how children are doing. Those families would be given referral identification of speech delay, motor concern, or developmental concern, if there’s a concern.

There is a variety of funding for the program. We try to target low income, and those that are in rural areas lacking in support, but encourage anybody to come through.”

Although the ChildReach Program is located at: 3602 Pacific Avenue Tacoma, WA 98418, Margi explained that almost all screenings take place at community sites all over Pierce County.

Those that are interested in having their child have a screening, may call: 253 798-3822. Families can choose to go to a number of different site locations, depending on what’s convenient for them. Margi stated: “We are really trying to target low income families so they do not have to travel across town. We try to make it as convenient as possible. We use public libraries for screenings as well as community centers and family support centers.”

Margi explained the history of the program: “We started in 1987 and came about as a group throughout the community tallying about concern showing up at school age with developmental concerns. Where were they during the earlier years and why didn’t they get help? The program developed out of those discussions, and our goal was to be an outreach program for developmental questions or concerns.

We try to emphasize developmental in general, not concerns in general. Parents can learn about typical developmental activities and information so that people that don’t have to be concerned, worried, or have a stigma about their child, we’re just there for families.”

Margi commented on what she thought of the ChildReach Program: “I think it’s wonderful. It’s a great program a really unique opportunity to ask questions, get information, and just hopefully walk away with a better understanding of how children are doing or how to work with children. Anybody can find ways to help improve their child’s learning; you do not need special skills or guidelines. Parents need to ask the question: what can be helpful for your child and what are the things you can start doing?”

Margi discussed the best thing about the program, “I think it really goes out to communities and really makes it available for families. Hopefully families will be comfortable coming and collaborating. Libraries are comfortable and free to us to use for our screenings and the parents get to know the library’s resources as well. The library is a really nice partnership, with early literacy programs; they are a real community program.”

It was interesting to find from Margi that, “Every child that goes through our screening (except the child’s sibling) gets a free book. It’s an opportunity to have something when they leave and promotes early literacy, a developmental tool that’s really rich. There are so many free programs at libraries for children. We encourage families to take advantage of those activities because they’re awesome.”

Those that are interested in wanting to help out, Margi stated: “We do always look for any interest in people wanting to get books for our program. Borders Bookstore was generous and supplied us books for years. Half Price Books also donates. We are looking for those that want to schedule a book drive. If interested in this opportunity, please call: 253 798-3698 or email: mrudy@co.pierce.wa.us.”

For more information or to schedule a screening, please email: ahardes@co.pierce.wa.us. “We just encourage families to take advantage of the service to know they can self refer themselves, they do not need a referral or prescription from a doctor. Most kids are referred by doctors and most people are surprised. Families with questions or concerns about their development, we can take a good look at. A family can just pick up phone or email us. If we’re not the service, we are committed to giving families information and can ensure they are connected to who they need,” Margi concluded.

By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com