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Access to Screening, Diagnosis and Services for Healthy Child Development

Many children have special needs, temporarily or throughout their lives. Others at risk can avoid permanent disability if helped early. Information and support – online, by phone and in the community – are needed to help parents through these challenges. Unfortunately, many do not know how or where to find help. Together, we must put this information at parents’ fingertips if there’s reason to be concerned.

Florida’s future depends on its children, and so we have an obligation to help them develop to their full potential. Unfortunately, the approach to helping children with special needs is inadequate.

This failure to assist those children adds to the economic burden on Florida’s families. These costs will only grow in the future, when today’s children may fail to develop into successful adults.

Untreated special needs also incur long-term costs. Children who do not receive early identification and intervention have more difficulty succeeding in life and are more likely to get into trouble. Estimates indicate that early screening and treatment of special needs can save $30,000 to $100,000 per child over the long run.

Research by The Washington Economics Group shows that every dollar spent by the state to improve the health and well-being of children creates an aggregate total of $4.55 in economic output. That is a return of 455 percent on investment.

We must expand the availability of services such as Early Steps, Child Find and Help Me Grow to prevent children from slipping through the cracks. Florida must address these persistent issues: The absence of statewide coordination of services and funding. The failure to share best interventions. Service gaps. No assurance of timely access to service. Insufficient high-quality data to evaluate outcomes.

We must create a single entity that represents parents, state agencies, child development experts and providers and that works to develop a database of best interventions, existing services and eligibility, geographic coverage and evaluation data.

With common-sense investment, Florida can transform itself into a state that leads the nation in promoting healthy children, giving them the tools they need and deserve to achieve success in life.