In March 2020, Invest in Kids added a new program to our statewide portfolio: Child First.

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

Child First

Addressing mental health and healing trauma for
children and families.

Program Approach

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, caregiver-child relationships that protect and heal the brain from trauma and stress.

Child First helps 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.

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

Each family works alongside a two-person team within the home. The team consists of a mental health clinician with experience in early childhood development, and a family support partner who works with the entire family on sources of stress, 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 caregiver-child relationship.



Invest in Kids works closely with the Child First National Service Office to support all aspects of program start-up, replication, and sustainability in Colorado. Invest in Kids also employs the Child First Program Director to oversee all Child First sites across the state.

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.

We continue looking to connect and coordinate with potential affiliate agencies to append and implement the Child First program. Together, we hope to bring this impactful program to more communities in Colorado.

The need for Child First’s proven approach is clear:

  • 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 10 (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.

Current Colorado Affiliate Agencies




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.

Want to refer a family (or yourself) to Child First Services?

Invest in Kids is committed to providing early childhood mental health services that promote healing.

If you would like to refer a family (or yourself) to Child First services, please complete our HIPPA compliant referral form found here .

For additional information about the program, please reach out to our Child First Program Director, Marisa Gullicksrud, at .

Cohort 2 - now expanding

Does your agency want to deliver Child First into your community? Do you know of another community organization that may be interested? 

Please download an overview of the priorities and requirements to be an official Child First Affiliate Agency here.

If you are interested in engaging in exploration to be a part of the second cohort of Child First, please contact our Director of Community Partnerships, Iesha Mitchell, at .

Annual Evaluation Report

To view a copy of the 2021-2022 CF Colorado Report, click HERE.