Department of Pediatrics ‘Families First’ Program Wins Excellence Award

The ‘Families First Network,’ a Department of Pediatrics program that’s funded by The Children’s Trust and uses extensive community-based partnerships to serve families with young children, was awarded the 2009 Excellence Award for Early Childhood Programming “for providing exemplary culturally competent, interactive and strength-based curriculum and services to a broad and diverse population of children ages birth to 5.”

Department of Pediatrics research associate professor Connie E. Morrow, Ph.D., principal investigator of Families First, and Elana Mansoor, Psy.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and program coordinator, collected the award, which was presented by The Children’s Trust at its fifth annual Champions for Children ceremony held at Jungle Island on November 13.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity The Children’s Trust has given us to serve the children and families of Miami-Dade County,” said Dr. Mansoor. “It is truly an honor to receive this award and we thank The Children’s Trust, our dedicated staff, committed collaborators, and the amazing children and families of Miami-Dade County for the success of our program.”

Families First works with Miami-Dade County families to help them improve their system of care and helps to build resources for parents, strengthen families, and promote optimal child health and development, while ensuring the activities are sensitive and culturally competent. The various programs under the Families First umbrella include community seminars, individualized developmental consultations, and two parenting groups: ‘Baby and Me,’ focused on mothers with infants, and ‘Strengthening Multi-ethnic Families and Communities,’ a broadly focused initiative for parents with young children.

“The Families First program is an example of the Department of Pediatrics using high-quality evidence-based research to improve parenting skills and build family bonds with the goal of maximizing child development and family dynamics within our community at many agencies, child care facilities, and health care sites,” said Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chairman of pediatrics and associate executive dean for child health at the Miller School.

“Families First is a differential screening and triage program that focuses on parents who may be at higher risk for inadequate parenting skills in our community. We appreciate The Children’s Trust’s recognition of this program, particularly Drs. Morrow and Mansoor and their colleagues, for how this program improves families and child development in our community. This is an outreach program of the Mailman Center for Child Development and has also had leadership from Emmalee Bandstra, M.D., professor of pediatrics.”

Under the direction of Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., the Mailman Center is one of the top and largest programs in the United States for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and chronic illnesses. In 2008 the center’s Debbie School was ranked first among all programs in South Florida for children with developmental disabilities by South Florida Parenting magazine.

Founded in 1971, the Mailman Center and its Debbie School are where more than 19,000 children are seen each year for complex, interdisciplinary care. The center provides education to many advanced trainees in pediatrics, psychology, nursing, social work, nutrition, audiology, speech and language pathology, bioethics, early childhood education and special education, genetics, dentistry, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and health administration who then go out and serve our community.

“We are so proud of the tireless efforts of our teams, including the Families First program, that try to improve early childhood development and parenting skills where the needs are greatest in our community,” Dr. Lipshultz said.

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