Support Children's Mental Health (Child First)

The Need

The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency created many opportunities for children to experience stress, anxiety and trauma, making the investment in proven strategies to prevent long-term negative outcomes essential. The Child First program helps protect young children from the devastating impacts of trauma and toxic stress while also increasing adult self-regulation and executive functioning, resulting in long-term positive outcomes for children and families.

The Strategy

This activity aims to enhance the mental health and development of caregivers and young children. Child First combines two complementary approaches to healing from trauma and adversity: 

  • Decreasing the stressors experienced by the family by connecting them to needed services and supports, and 
  • Facilitating a nurturing, responsive caregiver-child relationship by providing psychotherapeutic intervention for the caregiver and child. 

Funds will expand the number of counties served by the program and support established organizations doing this work. This funding stream was created by HB22-1369: Children's Mental Health Programs. Invest in Kids also receives funding from the Behavioral Health Administration Block Grant ($1.5 million) and Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting American Rescue Plan Grant ($1 million).

Key Outcomes and Learnings


Year 1 ($25,576, October 2022 to June 2023): 

  • Support training and onboarding at Solvista Health, the fifth Child First site in Colorado, to serve Lake, Chaffee, Fremont and Custer counties. 

Year 2 ($718, 352, July 2023 to June 2024): 

  • Onboarding and training at Paragon Behavioral Health, the sixth Child First site, to serve Bent, Crowley, Moffat, Otero, Routt and Weld counties. 
  • Ongoing implementation support and gap funding for current sites. 

Solvista has hired some of their staff and began serving families in August of 2023. Paragon Behavioral Health has one complete team that will begin serving families in the near future. Both sites continue to hire for open clinician and family service provider positions. 

Progress toward 2026 targets, as of December 2023: 

  • Child First has expanded to 10 new counties (2026 target: 12). 
  • 19 program staff have been trained in the components necessary to deliver Child First (2026 target: 46). 
  • The program intermediary, Invest in Kids has provided 256 hours of consultation to Child First implementation sites (2026 target: 800). This includes support during the start-up phase of a new agency, hiring and onboarding new staff, as well as ongoing support to ensure that programs have the tools needed to hit their benchmarks. 
  • 254 children were served by the Child First program (2026 target: 1,600). This intervention takes place over a 6 to 12 month timeframe, and federal reporting began in July 2023. Quarterly reporting has previously included the total number of children served that quarter, which could include duplicated children. 


Child First is a relatively new program, with initial program replication beginning in 2009. Many of the implementation sites in the six other states delivering Child First are urban, along with the majority of Colorado‚Äôs first implementation cohort. As we implement in more rural locations, programs have needed a longer timeline for building relationships and referral partners. 

In addition to this SLFRF funding, Child First is receiving funding from the Behavioral Health Administration and one-time Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation (MIECHV) American Rescue Plan capacity building funds. While we use timesheets and other measures to ensure there is no duplication of benefits, the data system cannot track children served by a particular funding stream.

plum-colored gear graphic with the words family strengthening


Amount: $2,000,000 

Source: State and Local Federal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) 

Expiration: December 31, 2026

Next Steps


  • Paragon Behavioral Health Connections has begun to serve families in Moffat and Routt counties and is doing active outreach and community education in Otero, Crowley and Bent counties.
  • All sites (with the exception of San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group) are hiring to get teams to full staff capacity. In response to these challenges, IIK is investing time and effort into short- and long-term solutions for early childhood mental health workforce challenges. 
  • Colorado Affiliate Agencies support long term program sustainability through engagement with Local Implementation Teams. All affiliate agencies will meet with their internal team in the month of January 2024. 

Long Term 

  • Contracting through December 31, 2026, to identify additional sites and fund the gap between program costs and Medicaid reimbursement.

Current Service Area and Agencies


colorado map depicting county-level service areas of child first providers