Delaware Children’s Department Awarded $4M Federal LAUNCH Grant

Grant will address child mental/behavioral health needs in Wilmington at-risk communities

Wilmington, DE A partnership of government, education, and health care leaders has been awarded a $4 million federal grant that will build on Governor Jack Markell’s push to improve opportunities for some of Delaware’s most disadvantaged youth.

Awarded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (The Children’s Department), the funding will help address the physical, social, emotional, mental and behavioral needs of young children, from birth to age eight, who reside in several high risk communities in Wilmington.

The new resources will support Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health), an initiative led by the Children’s Department that uses a public health approach, including a home visitation program, to improve collaboration and coordination across child-serving systems and promote social and emotional success in specific high-needs communities.

Today’s announcement follows the initiative unveiled earlier this month by Governor Markell and the Department of Education (DOE) to improve education opportunities for children attending the six lowest performing schools in the state, all of which serve disadvantaged youth in Wilmington.

“This grant builds on our state’s commitment to invest in the future of our most at-risk children in Wilmington,” said Governor Markell. “Project LAUNCH’s work serves as a model for how we support the health and well-being of children growing up in struggling communities. Along with our recent announcement to invest in their schools, this grant will help provide the resources to meet the needs of these kids. I thank all of the government, education, and health care leaders who have come together in a critical part of our state’s comprehensive effort to address the needs of these children. We owe all of our youth a fair chance to fulfill their great potential.”

Communities served by the SAMHSA grant encompass neighborhoods where children traditionally attend Warner Elementary School and Shortlidge Academy, both of which are also receiving additional support through the DOE initiative.

These neighborhoods have long been identified as having multiple environmental risk factors and gaps in services/supports for young children and their families. These communities are areas of high poverty, high crime and violence that also need additional high quality early care and education programs. More than ninety percent of the students at Warner and Shortlidge live in households that experience poverty. One hundred percent benefit from free and reduced lunch programs.

“We’re excited for the chance to work collaboratively with such a wide variety of partners,” said Children’s Department Secretary Jennifer Ranji. “We believe the combined infusion of resources will allow us to address some of these children’s significant unmet needs and help them to succeed – particularly educationally – in ways that were not possible before.”

Other Project LAUNCH partners include: the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services (PBHS), the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health (DPH), Red Clay Consolidated School District, Nemours Children’s Health System, the Office of Early Learning, and early learning/child care programs within the identified communities.

Delaware’s Congressional delegation, which has supported SAMHSA funding, applauded the grant.

“Children need access to quality healthcare and a world-class education — keys to happy, productive lives,” said Senator Tom Carper, Senator Chris Coons, and Congressman John Carney. “Ensuring at-risk youth equal opportunities to succeed requires a coordinated approach among families, federal and state government, private organizations, and non-profits. These federal resources will help bring together just such a partnership, and we’re encouraged by the impact it will have on these young people’s lives.”

Project LAUNCH will receive $800,000 per year over five years to support the identified communities through efforts such as:

  • Increased developmental screening at the St. Francis and Jessup Street clinics operated by the Nemours/AI duPont Hospital for Children, and enhancing the integration of behavioral health services into physical health at the clinics.
  • Providing additional supports to parents and families offered through the DHSS/Division of Public Health’s 211 system.
  • Adding a contracted Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant for several small childcare settings used by families in these communities.
  • Collaborating with the Office of Early Learning to increase provider participation in the state’s STARS Early Childhood program, and working to enhance programs already participating in STARS.
  • Providing a curriculum on social/emotional wellness to early education centers and the two identified elementary schools.
  • Contracting for Intensive Family Consultation to augment the work of state funded Family Crisis Therapists who offer case management in each of these schools.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure children are thriving in safe, supportive environments and entering school ready to learn,” said Susan Cycyk, Director of the Division of PBHS.

More Reaction from Project LAUNCH Partners

“Nemours has a longstanding commitment to improving the health and well-being of young children in Delaware, and we are pleased to be an active partner with Project LAUNCH,” said Mary Kat Mouser, Executive Director of Nemours Health & Prevention Services. “Through our collective work, this initiative will better organize child-serving systems to provide holistic care for children and give families the support they need to raise healthy children who are ready to learn.”

“We are really excited about the program,” said Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty. “These are additional services for our students, their families, and the neighborhoods. It is a great partnership that will benefit not just our students, but the whole community.”

“This grant will further support the physical and behavioral health needs of children who come from at-risk neighborhoods and too often experience trauma in their young lives,” said Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services. “Building off the success of the state’s home visitation program for first-time moms and babies from low-income families, this will be another step forward in raising healthy Delaware children who can reach for their dreams.”

“The Delaware Division of Public Health has seen great success with home visiting & intensive wrap around services,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health Director at the Department of Health and Social Services. “The public health approach is about serving the whole child & not viewing his or her needs in pieces. We look forward to working with the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families on this exciting new program.”

“We have seen dramatic increases in the number of low-income Delaware children with access to high quality early childhood programs, but we know that the highest-risk kids, who have the greatest challenges, are the hardest to reach,” said Nancy Widdoes, Deputy Director of the Office of Early Learning. “The success of Project Launch is critical in our efforts to support these children and this grant provides an exciting opportunity to help them get off to a great start.”