Since 1912, Devereux has been providing high quality human services to children, adults, and families with special needs deriving from behavioral, psychological, intellectual, or neurological impairments. Today, Devereux is the nation’s largest non-profit behavioral health care provider, serving approximately 20,000 children, adolescents and adults each year across the country in residential, community and day programs. While Devereux’s array of services is vast, children with emotional and behavioral difficulties comprise approximately half of the individuals served in a given year. Tragically, the age at which such children are referred to Devereux continues to get younger and younger each year. Whereas in the past Devereux would expect 14 or 15 year-olds to be referred for residential treatment, today it is not uncommon for a child as young as 5 years old to be referred for residential treatment due to emotional/behavioral challenges.
Devereux has responded to this alarming trend, and in 1996, created the The Devereux Early Childhood Initiative (DECI). The mission of the DECI is to promote young children’s social and emotional development, foster resilience, and build the skills for success in school and life. The DECI is designed to prevent emotional and behavioral problems from ever developing and therefore eliminating the need for young children to be referred for residential treatment. Comprised of both early childhood and mental health professionals, the DECI team has developed research and strength-based resources and training to support communities in their efforts to enhance young children’s social and emotional well-being and prevent challenging behaviors. The DECI model focuses on training early childhood educators and parents to assess children’s social and emotional strengths, and use the assessment results to create plans for both the early childhood and home settings that will enhance children’s resilience.