Bright Futures at Georgetown University

What to Expect & When to Seek Help: Bright Futures Developmental Tools for Families and Providers


The What to Expect & When to Seek Help: Bright Futures Developmental Tools for Families and Providers supports the following principle:

Every child and adolescent deserves to experience joy, have high self-esteem, have friends, acquire a sense of efficacy, and believe that she can succeed in life.

–Bright Futures Children's Health Center

Bright Futures Tools Based on Bright Futures in Practice: Mental Health, the four developmental tools offer a framework for providers and families to begin a conversation together about how best to support healthy social and emotional development in children and teens. The tools gently encourage families who have any questions or concerns about their child's development to "check it out" – and offer a number of tips for when, where, and how to seek help through local, State, or national resources.

Written in family-friendly language, the tools may be used by families and child development professionals in a range of disciplines, including health, education, child care, and family services. The companion Referral Tool and the guide to Locating Community-Based Services to Support Children and Families are tailored to help providers and families connect with the specific resources they need.

Permission to Reproduce: Single copies of the tools are available to download, for permission to reproduce tools in quantity, see Permission Form. (The Permission Form enables us to: Report information about dissemination and implementation to our funders and partners; monitor interest and relevance of the tools; provide assistance and guidance to professionals who implement the tools in substantial initiatives; and modify the tools based on user input).

A collaboration of Bright Futures at Georgetown University and the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health

Bullet About the Toolsmore information

About the Developmental Tools

Throughout the tools, a strong emphasis is placed on strengths as well as concerns. The information under "What to Expect" not only offers a guide to healthy development and parenting, but provides information that parents can find reassuring about their child's behavior and their own parenting.

The tools provide an opportunity to identify concerns at an early stage. The information under "When to Seek Help" includes concerns that might be addressed with additional information, as well as concerns that signal the need for further assessments and services.

About the Referral Tool

Every community has resources that can help support the well-being of children and families, from informal parent support groups to developmental assessment and treatment services for children who may have behavioral concerns or special education needs. However, locating those services, or even knowing what services to look for, is often difficult for families.

This tool is designed to help service providers guide families to available resources by identifying a roster of education, mental health, family support, child care, and other services that can address identified needs or concerns. When completed by providers with the aid of "Locating Community-Based Services to Support Children and Families" (see below), the Referral Tool provides a customized directory of community-based resources.

Bullet Using the Toolsmore information

These tools can be used by parents and a variety of professionals, including:

  • Parents
  • Primary care providers
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • Child care providers
  • Teachers
  • School guidance counselors
  • Home visitors
  • Substance abuse case workers
  • Foster parent case managers
  • Parent educators
  • Other child and family service providers

The tools have been designed to be used in a variety of settings for multiple purposes:

In health care settings (in community health centers, primary care providers’ offices, health clinics):

  • To help parents identify topics or concerns they would like to bring up with their child’s health care provider
  • To help health care providers or case managers or care coordinators identify resources for children and families

In parent resource centers and parent support programs (home visiting, parent support groups):

  • To help parents observe social and emotional development; to understand “what to expect”
  • To facilitate conversations regarding parenting strategies to support social and emotional development
  • As a way to assess the child’s and family’s need for support and locating services
  • As a training curriculum or resource for home visiting programs

In early childhood programs and school programs (Early Head Start, Head Start, preschool, child care settings, elementary school, middle school and high school):

  • As a tool to facilitate observation by caregivers, teachers, school nurses, guidance counselors and other professionals
  • As a tool to facilitate conversations with parent about their child (could be completed by parent or by teacher or by both together)
  • As a staff development tool for training on social and emotional development
  • As a parent education tool for use in group meetings with parents
  • As a tool for identifying community-based resources for children and families

In multidisciplinary settings (interdisciplinary team meetings: IFSP meetings; community coalition meetings):

  • To facilitate inter-professional communication among service providers serving the same child and family
  • As a tool to map resources in the community for children and families

Bullet Companion Knowledge Pathmore information

Locating Community-Based Services to Support Children and Families

Community Services Locator: An Online Directory for Finding Community Services for Children and Families

About the Knowledge Path

Developed by the MCH Library in collaboration with the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health, this guide provides an electronic pathway to locating local, state, and national resources on the Web. Contact information identified for resources in a broad range of service sectors -- Education/Special Needs; Mental Health; Family Support; Parent Education; Child Care/Early Education; Health and Wellness; and Financial Support -- can then be written into the Referral Tool and shared with families

Bullet Download Tools for Single Usemore information

Tools in English

Tools in Spanish


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Bullet Training and Technical Assistancemore information

Customized training, consultation, and technical assistance is available from Bright Futures at Georgetown University and the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health to utilize these tools in a variety of settings and for multiple purposes. Please contact Rochelle Mayer, Ed.D, for more information.

We also welcome feedbackon the tools.

Bullet Funding / Acknowledgements / Feedbackmore information


Developed with funding from Child, Adolescent and Family Branch
Center for Mental Health Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the significant contributions to this project by many dedicated professionals. Special thanks go to the following:

  • Phyllis Magrab, Gary Macbeth, and faculty at Georgetown University's Center for Child and Human Development for their collaboration and expert content review.
  • Members of the Commonwealth of Virginia's interagency Mental Health Work Group, especially Carol Pollock, Pam Fitzgerald Cooper, Martha Kurgans, Nanette Jarratt, and Catherine J. Bodkin, for their creative suggestions, insights, and review of drafts.
  • Training participants in Virginia who pilot-tested the tools.
  • Faculty at the National Center for Cultural Competence for cultural and linguistic review.
  • Family reviewers Lisa Brown and Brenda Nunez Bernard.
  • Graphic designer Kylee Breedlove; illustrator Rick Powell; and technical consultant John Richards.


We welcome your feedback.


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