Child First

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. But, Child First, a nationally evidence-based program, is now available here to prevent this damage.

Child First works to decrease the incidence of serious emotional disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among high-risk young children and families. It provides services to families with children birth to age 6 in which the child has emotional, behavioral, or developmental concerns or the family faces multiple barriers. A clinician and care coordinator provide services that include comprehensive assessment of child and family needs, observation and consultation in early care and education settings, parent-child mental health intervention, development of a family and a child plan of care, and care coordination/case management.

Our goal is a young brain focused on learning rather than a brain focused on survival. Even in the face of extreme challenges, our children and families are making incredible progress.

Overcoming “Toxic” Stress

The Challenge

Scientific research in brain development clearly shows that high-risk environments (e.g., where there is maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, or homelessness) lead to levels of stress that can be “toxic” to the young, developing brain. Without the buffer of strong, nurturing relationships, the results are long-term damage with significant emotional/behavioral, learning, and health problems.

Evidence-Based and Recognition

Child First Accomplishments and Impact

Child First has been designated by HHS as “evidence-based” under the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

Child First now serves families in Palm Beach County, Florida and throughout Connecticut and North Carolina.

Child First’s cost effective intervention is projected to prevent the need for physical and psychiatric hospitalization, foster care, special education, and incarceration.

Child First has been recognized by the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, Social Impact Exchange, Harvard Center on the Developing Child, Pew Home Visiting Campaign, Zero to Three, National Conference of State Legislators, and Connecticut and American Hospital Associations.



Project Outcomes

In 2020, 99 Families were served with children birth to 5 years old.

98.4% of children enrolled did not have a verified finding of maltreatment after 60 days of service, and 96% of children ages 0 to 5 enrolled in Child First did not have a DCF verified finding of maltreatment within 365 days of program discharge. 

This program also received two national accreditations from Child First and the Council on Accreditation (COA) for children and families. 

Learn More

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Our Funders


Let Us Help You


If you would like to learn more about Child First, please call Melissa Wijngaarde, LCSW, Program Director:


Additional Resources

If you are now pregnant, call Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies at 561-623-2800.

If you are concerned about the behavior, learning, or development of your young child, call HomeSafe at 561-383-9800 extension 1702.

If you would like to learn more about Child First, please call CHILD FIRST OFFICE:

12300 South Shore Blvd., Unit 210
Wellington, FL 33414

Mary Mitchell, MSW, LCSW, said this about the program: “My professional mission has always been to help children and parents cope with trauma and to help mitigate its adverse effects on mental and physical health and brain development. Child First has been highly successful in doing just that.”

How You Can Help


Our programs rely on contributions from our community.

If you are able to donate to Families First, please contribute here.

If you are able to volunteer at our programs or events, contact us here.

Thank you!