Help Me Grow works to connect education, health care for children

By Kyle Peveto

Advocate staff writer

available to talk to about all the issues (families) are dealing with.”

Help Me Grow was founded in the 1990s in Hartford, Conn., a “poor city in a wealthy state,” said Dworkin. It grew from the explosion of research into the development of children’s brains.

“We assumed that young children with behavioral and developmental issues were escaping early detection,” he said. “You only had to walk into a kindergarten or first-grade classroom to see that.”

A wide range of programs existed to assist families with their children’s development, but Dworkin and his colleagues found that those in need were not aware of the programs and never knew where to look for help.

In Connecticut a study found it took seven and a half contacts to connect parents to the right resources for their children, Dworkin said.

“So these care coordinators need to be extraordinarily resourceful and engaging,” he said.

Dworkin remembers when he was a practicing pediatrician and he assembled a blue binder full of resources and services for parents who needed help with their children. Those binders quickly became out of date as services closed their doors or had no vacancies.

“Now when we go into practices, and they proudly bring out their blue binders of resources, we politely tell them to throw them away,” Dworkin said. “They are more likely to lead to frustration. Instead we point out this dynamic, real-time inventory.”

Help Me Grow is now in 17 states, Dworkin said, and it has been welcomed by nonprofit organizations and pediatricians, he said.

“It’s not about detracting from or intruding on any of these community-based services,” Dworkin said. “It’s all about linking parents and children to those community-based services so they can be as effective as possible.”