Addressing mental health and healing trauma for children and families. 

For the first time since 2003, we’ve added a new program to our statewide portfolio: Child First. Our goal at Invest in Kids is to offer a menu of evidence-based programs that provide sustainable and long-term impacts on Colorado families - because we know that healthier families lead to healthier communities.

The adoption of Child First supports our partners statewide to heal both children and families—and further protect them from the impacts of poverty and stress.



Child First is a national, evidence-based, two-generation model that works with young children and families, providing intensive, home-based services.

When young children grow up in environments where there is violence, neglect, mental illness, or substance abuse, the stress can be toxic to their developing brains. But, we can intervene to prevent this damage. Scientific research demonstrates that we can make a difference if we (1) work to connect families to needed community-based services to decrease stress, and (2) build strong, loving, parent-child relationships that protect and heal the brain from trauma and stress. The goal of Child First is a developing brain focused on learning rather than a brain focused on survival.

Child First works with parents and young children together in their homes because that provides the best opportunity to strengthen families. 

As a home‐based tertiary prevention and intervention model that works with the caregiver and child, Child First is delivered by a two‐person team consisting of a licensed mental health clinician with experience in early childhood development and a care coordinator who works with the entire family unit on the sources of stress that impact their family, and to connect them with resources. The program is unique because it combines two complementary approaches to healing from trauma and adversity: It directly decreases the stressors experienced by the family by connecting them to needed services and supports, and it also facilitates a nurturing, responsive parent-child relationships. Research has demonstrated that this approach protects the young developing brain and metabolic systems from the damaging effects of high stress environments such as poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence.


Much like our work with Nurse-Family Partnership® and The Incredible Years®, Invest in Kids will continue working closely with the Child First National Service Office to support all aspects of program start-up, replication, and sustainability. In January 2021, we welcomed Child First Statewide Clinical Director, Marisa Gullicksrud, to the team to oversee all Child First sites in Colorado. 

Over the last eight months, Invest in Kids has engaged with several counties and state partners to understand the local need for Child First and the fit of this program to early childhood, mental health, and child welfare service arrays. Invest in Kids is committed to supporting those who are considering adopting the program in any county or service area in Colorado. We continue to look to connect and coordinate with potential sites to create a cohort of four to eight pioneering implementing agencies.

Child First is not only a new intervention being provided in Colorado, but one that will be integrated into Invest in Kids’ menu of services alongside current programs (Nurse-Family Partnership and The Incredible Years). Together, Child First will allow us to further help families, and the providers who support them, build strong, nurturing relationships that heal and protect young children from the devastating impact of trauma and chronic stress. 

The need for Child First’s proven approach is clear. We must develop supports for both family and child that will intervene early, to help heal and protect. 

  • More than one in 10 Colorado children under 6 have already been exposed to multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs*).
  • 50% of child abuse fatalities in Colorado occur prior to age one, 85% by age five. We have to start early to heal and protect. 
  • Nearly one in ten (9.6%) women who had a recent live birth between 2012 and 2014 in CO reported experience of postpartum depressive symptoms since the new baby was born.

*Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events occurring before age 18. ACEs include all types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use, divorce, incarceration, and domestic violence.

Invest In Kids is here to double down on our efforts to support low-income families, through our traditional programming, and now through Child First. 


A few key findings from the Child First Randomized Controlled Trial:

  • Caregivers receiving Child First reported very high satisfaction with services received, with a mean score of 4.60 on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0.
  • Children in the Child First Intervention were 42% less likely to have externalizing symptoms (meaning aggressive, defiant, disruptive, or hyperactive behavior) than children in Usual Care at 12-month follow-up.
  • The Child First Intervention group was 39% less likely to be involved with protective services during the 12-month follow-up period.
  • Mothers receiving Child First had significantly lower depressive symptoms than those in Usual Care at 12-month follow-up.


Please reach out to our Director of Implementation, Amanda Fixsen, at to learn about the supportive application process.