Wendy Nilsen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center
Director of Children's Center in Monroe County, New York
Dr. Wendy Nilsen, an active campaign champion and child psychologist, often spends time with children in the New York family court system. Aware of the importance of social, emotional, and cognitive development, Wendy wants to make sure families are informed of all the signs that mark a child’s growth. “Every major court across the nation has a child care center. In my area, these child care centers are called the Children’s Center, and that’s where I talk with families regarding not only their child’s physical growth, but their child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development as well,” said Wendy.
The Children’s Center has a three-part mission to help families at risk: provide children with a safe place while their families are in court, provide resources and training to the court concerning children’s needs, and conduct outreach to families regarding their children’s development. Wendy says, “I use the ‘Learn the Signs. Act Early.’ campaign materials to help inform parents.”
When Wendy first became involved with the Children’s Center, she was looking for standardized handouts to distribute. “There was a lot of information out there. A friend referred me to the campaign’s website, where I thought, ‘This is it, this is what we’ve been looking for!’ Now I download and utilize all the handouts,” said Wendy.
When families pick up their children after a court session, Wendy and her team provide parents with free materials, including campaign fact sheets, informational cards, and other materials. Wendy says, “We get great response from the campaign materials; they really engage parents, prompting many questions regarding childhood development.”
Center staff also talks to families regarding concerns they might have about their children and, when needed, offers referrals to doctors and specialists in the community to help children get the care they need as early as possible.
Wendy says, “With the success we’ve had, we have become a model for ways to conduct outreach. By working to improve outreach, we can help improve the services through all the court child care centers in the state.”
Currently, Wendy’s center is being rebuilt to expand the resources it provides parents and families; part of the expansion includes adding computers with Internet access for parents to watch educational videos. Wendy said, “I often sit at the computer and actually go through the interactive checklist tools with them. With new computers, we will be able to help more parents use the campaign’s online resources.”
Wendy encourages families to think about development and healthy growth broadly. “Development isn’t just about standing and running, it’s about talking and smiling, too. When parents think about and monitor development from a broad perspective, a suspected delay could be identified sooner, resulting in children receiving early intervention to help them reach their full potential.”
For more information on how you can reach out to health professionals in your area, visit the How to Get Involved page of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” website.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO