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Improve healthy development of infants and young children and 3 more... less...


Improve access to effective and equitable healthcare

Increase screening and preventive care among children and youth

Increase protective behaviors impacting children

% of children who had a developmental screening in the first 3 years of life

Current Value




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Story Behind the Curve

Updated: February, 2024

Author: Early Childhood Program, Vermont Department of Health

This indicator, or population measure, is part of our Healthy Vermonters 2030 data set. Read more about how this data helps us understand and improve the well-being of people in Vermont on the Healthy Vermonters 2030 webpage.

Because this data is meant to show how the health of our state changes during the decade from 2020-2030, some indicators may have very few data points for now. Keep checking back to see the progress our public health system and partners are making.

We want to see the percent of children who receive a developmental screening in the first three years of life increase to 65% or higher by 2030.

The percent of developmental screening has significantly increased from 46% in 2015 to 59% in 2021 (see Notes on Methodology section for changes in data reporting). This improved trend is a result of considerable work that has occurred in Vermont to advance developmental screening across early care, education, and medical home settings.

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Why Is This Important?

Developmental screening is a whole-population strategy to promote healthy development and ensure early identification of children at risk for developmental delays. Mandated by several federal entities, it requires implementation across early childhood settings including early care and education, Head Start, IDEA Part C Early Intervention, IDEA Part B Prekindergarten, Children with Special Health Needs, pediatric health care, early childhood mental health, home visiting and family support services.

Developmental and behavioral screening is an integral function of the primary care medical home and a quality measure (NCQA HEDIS Core-8): The percentage of children screened for risk of developmental, behavioral, and social delays using a standardized screening tool in the first three years of life, that includes three, age-specific indicators assessing whether children are screened by 12 months of age, by 24 months of age and by 36 months of age. It is a priority indicator across Vermont’s Blueprint for Health, OneCare Vermont (ACO), and national entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Bright Futures Guidelines, Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, Early, Periodic, Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Medicaid benefit, and Help Me Grow. Developmental screening is now a required component of Vermont's Quality Recognition and Improvement System (STARS) for childcare, preschool and afterschool programs. 

This data informs multiple state action plans including the State Health Improvement Plan, Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan, the Building Bright Futures Strategic Plan, and the Family and Child Health Strategic Plan.

Equity and Impact

Early childhood is a critical time that provides the greatest opportunities to influence the trajectory of a child’s life. With 90% of brain development occurring in the first five years of life, early experiences, relationships, and environments have a deep and lasting impact on development and lifelong health. When parents struggle to meet basic needs, their stress can affect their child’s emotional and physical health. Growing research shows that children who grow up with prolonged, or toxic, stress face significant health, wellbeing, and economic challenges as adults.(1) In Vermont, seven out of every ten children have one or more factors that place them at risk for a developmental or behavioral delay (risk factors include maternal depression, parental stress, linguistic and cultural diversity, poverty, and rural isolation, etc.).(2) Early and universal screening can identify children with behavioral and developmental concerns who need a more comprehensive evaluation and linkage to developmental services. Timely evaluation and follow up can identify concerns that can be addressed early in the child’s development, leading to better long-term outcomes for the child.

The ability to break out data by different demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, immigration/citizenship will help us to learn more about different outcomes in Vermont, and where resources may be applied to historically marginalized communities.

Significant current racial disparities exist nationally in the referral of children for developmental screening. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) children, specifically Black and Asian, are less likely to be diagnosed by their pediatric provider and less likely to receive developmental services after diagnosis.

  1. First 5 Association of California (2017). Family Strengthening Fact Sheet.
  2. Barry, SE, et al. (2012). Final Report: Developmental and Autism Screening in Primary Care. Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP), University of Vermont, College of Medicine.

How We Can Improve

To help reach our target of screening all children for development at recommended intervals, Help Me Grow hosts the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) Online system for free to all Vermont providers/educators. For each positive screen, the closed loop referral process will ensure that families are aware of, and have access to IDEA services, resources, and supports. You can find the new 2020-2021 Annual Report on the Help Me Grow website.

Notes on Methodology

Our current data source is the Vermont Health Care Uniform Reporting and Evaluation System (VHCURES), Vermont's all-payer medical claims database. Since mid-2016, VHCURES contains an estimated 75% of Vermonters’ medical claims.

This indicator will soon reflect a new data source, the Universal Developmental Screening Registry (USDR). This is a data collection and communication system to improve early identification across sectors. Use of USDR data for the Healthy Vermonters 2030 indicator will provide a more accurate and comprehensive measure of screening rates across providers. The USDR also offers a population measure of child wellbeing. There are currently over 20,000 screening results in the ASQ Online system that are being integrated with the USDR.

Clear Impact Suite is an easy-to-use, web-based software platform that helps your staff collaborate with external stakeholders and community partners by utilizing the combination of data collection, performance reporting, and program planning.

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