Developmental Screening of Young Children

he Maternal and Child Health Bureau's (MCHB's) Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grants to States Program has established 15 National Performance Measures for the 2015-2017 grant cycle. Performance Measure 6 is the percent of children, ages 9-71 months, receiving a developmental screening using a parent-completed screening tool. This evidence brief points to a selection of resources for state MCH programs about child developmental screening in general and about parent tools for developmental screening, with emphasis on evidence based information.


The Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant to States Program guidance1 defines the significance of this goal as follows:
Early identification of developmental disorders is critical to the well-being of children and their families. It is an integral function of the primary care medical home. The percent of children with a developmental disorder has been increasing, yet overall screening rates have remained low. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening tests begin at the nine month visit.

Read More about Performance Measure 6

Performance Measure 6

Percent of children, ages 9-71 months, receiving a developmental screening using a parent-completed screening tool


To increase the number of children who receive a developmental screening


Numerator: Parent reporting they have filled out a questionnaire provided by a health care provider concerning child's development, communication or social behaviors for a child ages 9-71 months

Denominator: All children ages 9-71 months

Units: 100

Text: Percent

Healthy People 2020 Objectives

Related to Maternal, Infant, and Child Health (MICH) Objective 29-1: Increase the proportion of children (aged 10-35 months) who have been screened for an Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental delays. (Baseline: 22.6%, Target: 24.9%)

Data Sources and Data Issues

The revised National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) in 2017. States can use the 2011-2012 NSCH as a baseline until that time.

Data and Statistics

  • Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health. Easy-to-use tools for searching and comparing data from the National Survey of Children's Health and National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. For the most recent data on MCHB's Performance Measure 5, view this chart. To find earlier data, use the Keyword Search box.

    National Survey of Children's Health. This survey examines the physical and emotional health of children ages 0-17. The website provides descriptions of the survey, questionnaires used in the survey, and datasets. It has been conducted in 2003, 2007, and 2011-2012.

    National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. This survey assesses the prevalence and impact of special health care needs among children in the United States and evaluates change over time. It has been conducted in 2001, 2005-2006, and 2009-2010. After 2014 this survey will be combined with the National Survey of Children's Health.
  • Healthy People 2020: Maternal, Infant, and Child Health. Lists objectives, evidence-based interventions and resources, and a national data snapshot. Objective MICH-29 refers to developmental screening for young children with an autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delays.
  • Caldwell J, Berdahl T. 2013. Trends in well-child visits: United States, 2002-2009. Rockville, MD: U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Key Websites

  • Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive. This initiative of the Early Childhood Development office of the Administration for Children and Families is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them. The website includes a list of research-based developmental screening tools for use across a wide range of settings. Its Families page offers resources families can use to track their child's development and know how to take action when needed.
  • Bright Futures. This multi-organizational national health promotion initiative includes guidelines, trainings, family materials, and these screening resources:

    Bright Futures Tool and Resource Kit from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

    What to Expect & When to Seek Help. Developmental tools for families and providers from Georgetown University.
  • Learn the Signs, Act Early. This resource for parents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on milestones children should reach from birth to age 5 in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move. The website includes materials, training for early care and education providers, how to get involved, what to do about concerns with a child's development, autism case training, and multimedia and tools. It also provides a link to standardized, validated developmental screening tools for parents and providers from AAP.

Policy Recommendations


Further Reading

Related NCEMCH Resources

1 Health Resources and Services Administration. 2014. Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant to States Program: Guidance and Forms for the Title V Application/Annual Report, Appendix F, p. 79.

Developmental Screening of Young Children: Evidence Brief, 1st ed. (November 2014).

Author: Olivia K. Pickett, M.A., M.L.S., NCEMCH