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The Power of Universal Social and Emotional Screening

May 15, 2023
By Susan Damico, M.A.
I believe that children are our future. Is Whitney Houston’s smash hit, “Greatest Love of All,” playing in your head? Well, while we all know that children are the future, we must also recognize that the future could and should be a lot brighter for many children.

Consider these sobering statistics:

  • 8-10% of children under the age of 5 demonstrate clinically significant social, emotional and behavioral problems
  • Approximately 8,700 children are expelled from state-funded preschool or prekindergarten classrooms each year (three times the rate of K-12 students)
  • Limited resources prevent far too many children from receiving services to address their social, emotional and behavioral problems, which then lead to ongoing challenges throughout their entire school experience and lifetime
These statistics feel daunting. Children are suffering, and their parents and the professionals working to support them are suffering too. These statistics are not new and despite the efforts of so many committed and caring individuals, we have not been able to move the needle to improve them in recent years.

We must continue to find solutions that protect and strengthen children and families. Universal social and emotional screening in early care and education settings is one such solution. This process of systematically and reliably identifying those children who need attention offers a tremendous opportunity to intervene early and before the problems escalate further. And, based on a recently released review of 18 such screening tools, the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) received the highest scores of technical adequacy and usability within early childhood settings. To see this review, click here.

Children are our future and their future happiness and success hinges on acquiring strong social and emotional skills. Using the DECA to determine a child’s social and emotional needs and strengths helps parents and teachers target areas that need attention, as well as areas that are strong and should be celebrated. To learn more about the DECA and how you can use it to support the health and happiness of the children you serve, click here.

Susan is the director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. She joined Devereux in 1996, and since then, she has worked in collaboration with team members creating research- and strength-based resources that promote the resilience of children and the adults who care for them. Susan was instrumental in the publication of the suite of Devereux resources, including the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment Program for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers.

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