Child First

Child First is a national, two-generation model that works with very challenged young children and families, providing intensive, mental-health, home-visiting services. When young children grow up in environments where there is violence, neglect, mental illness, or substance abuse, the stress can be toxic to their developing brains. Child First believes, we can intervene to prevent this damage. Scientific research demonstrates that we can make a difference if we:

  • Work to connect families to needed community-based services to decrease the stress, and
  • Build strong, loving, parent-child relationships that protect and heal the brain from trauma and stress. Our goal is a young brain focused on learning rather than a brain focused on survival.

Child First includes home-based intervention as well as community collaboration. Child First is a program that helps families build strong, loving relationships with their young children so they are protected from the many stresses and traumas in their lives.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

For Children:

  • Decreased problem behaviors
  • Improved social-emotional regulation and well-being
  • Improved communication and cognition
For Parents/Caregivers:
  • Decreased child abuse and neglect
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved executive functioning
For Families:
  • Increased nurturing, responsive, and protective parent-child relationships
  • Increased stabilization and connection to needed services and supports

Continuum of Care:

Topic Areas:
Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Disruptive Behaviors, Trauma

Childhood (4-12), Early Childhood (0-3)

Geographic Locations:

Delivery Settings:

Cultural Considerations:
A balanced amount of the research involved diverse populations

Pregnant women or families with a child from birth through five years of age. Children who have behavioral problems or delays in their development or learning (such as anger, sadness, risk of being expelled from childcare, or language delays). Families with multiple challenges or stresses (such as not enough income, feeling alone or hopeless, not able to meet your needs or the needs of your child, fighting in the home, drug use, homelessness, or involvement with the child welfare agency).

Master's level or higher, licensed, with at least three years' experience in early childhood mental health and development


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
The Child First National Program Office (NPO) oversees replication of the model

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Lowell, D. I., Carter, A. S., Godoy, L., Paulicin, B., & Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (2011). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Child FIRST: A Comprehensive Home-Based Intervention Translating Research Into Early Childhood Practice. Child Development, 82(1), 193–208.

Additional Sources:

Promising rating

WV Rating:
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

Child First has a One published, peer reviewed, RCT (without Classroom Consultation for Early Childhood Educators component of the current model) that reported small to medium effects sizes. The current data listed on the Child first website reports data (2019) with medium (communication skills) to large effect sizes (Social Skills, Child Problem Behavior, Caregiver Depression, Parenting Stress and Parent-Child Relationship). The most significant impact within the RCT was access to desired community services, 91% for treatment compared to 33% for usual care. Several clearinghouses which have evaluated Child First regard it is a Promising or Supported by Evidence but absent of replication. The program is currently being replicated in Florida and North Carolina, therefore additional data should be forthcoming. The Child First program requires a Community Advisory Board (Parents, Pediatricians, Community Stakeholders), a Clinical Director (supervising up to 6 clinical teams) and a Clinical Team (Master’s Level Mental Health Clinician and a Bachelor’s Level Care Coordinator) which may serve 12-16 families over 6-12 months. Implementation of Child First requires a yearlong training process and annual licensing fees for all staff members, performed by the State Clinical Director or Senior Clinical Consultants.

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Supported by Research Evidence

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Not On Registry

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Found on the registry. See link for more information.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Registry Link: