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Best practices have become the driving force behind child welfare philosophy and practice. Current best practice research has pointed to the positive effects of early intervention in the lives of young children at risk for developmental delays due to environmental factors such as poverty, abuse, and neglect.

In 2003, amendments were made to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). CAPTA is the primary federal law which sanctions the work of child welfare. The amendments included provisions to enhance linkages between child protective service agencies and public health, mental health, and developmental disabilities agencies. To comply with this regulation, in September of 2008 Pennsylvania began statewide developmental and social-emotional screening using the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth & Families issued bulletin # 3490-08-01 which established the Ages & Stages Questionnaires® as the screening tool for Pennsylvania’s County Children and Youth Agencies. In 2010, this bulletin was replaced and rescinded by bulletin # 3490-10-01 which expands the populations of children receiving services from county children and youth agencies who must be referred or screened for possible early intervention (EI) services. This new policy goes beyond the CAPTA obligations and now requires children under three who are homeless or living in residential treatment facilities to be referred or screened.

The bulletin establishes the guidelines for screening Pennsylvania’s children which include:

  • All children under the age of 3 who are subjects of a substantiated report are screened until they turn 5.
  • A recommendation that follow-up screenings be conducted on all open cases until the children turn 5.
  • If initial or follow-up screening results indicate a qualifying score, then a referral to early intervention is required.
  • All children under the age of 3 who are placed by a County Children and Youth Agency in a residential treatment facility which specializes in serving children with developmental delays, disabilities, or other serious health conditions.
  • All children under the age of 3 who are homeless and whose family is receiving county children and youth services.
  • Additional screening procedures are also outlined for substantiated cases where the initial screening did not mandate a referral for EI services.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are conducting a study of this initiative and children’s developmental needs. This 3-year study began in June 2009, and involves interviews with child welfare and early intervention agencies across the state, a database of children screened, and interviews with children’s caregivers. The study has been approved by the University of Pittsburgh’s Institutional Review Board.

For more information, please contact Rachel Winters at

Ages & Stages Questionnaires® (ASQ™): A Parent-Completed, Child-Monitoring System, Second Edition, Bricker and Squires. Copyright © 1999 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. Ages & Stages Questionnaires is a registered trademark and ASQ and the ASQ logo are trademarks of Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Ages & Stages Questionnaires®, Social-Emotional (ASQ:SE™): A Parent-Completed, Child-Monitoring System for Social-Emotional Behaviors, Squires, Bricker, & Twombly. Copyright © 2002 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. Ages & Stages Questionnaires is a registered trademark and the ASQ:SE logo is a trademark of Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.