Family StEPS: Starting Early with Psychosocial Support

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Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) offers a rare breadth of psychosocial care services for pregnant parents and those with young children. The CHOP Family StEPS (Starting Early with Psychosocial Support) program is an initiative focused on developing a comprehensive and unified process for all families receiving fetal and early childhood care at CHOP. The goal is to provide consistent physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and social health supports to help families thrive in the face of extraordinary challenges.

As patients and families transition between fetal and early childhood programs, the Family StEPS initiative will streamline care and unify our process of assessment, intervention and referral. Our goal is to partner with multiple specialties and provide comprehensive care through interdisciplinary collaboration to support families at every step in their journey.

Our hope is that this dedicated approach will increase access to psychosocial care services and better address the well-being of expectant parents and parents of young children through all the steps of their care journey, from pregnancy through early childhood.

Step by StEPS

Step 1: Determine best practices for psychosocial support processes across all clinical areas.

Step 2: Establish a unified process for psychosocial access, assessment, intervention, and/or referral, and streamline procedures as families transition care across fetal and early childhood areas.

Step 3: Integrate this unified process into all fetal and early childhood clinical entities across CHOP with the goals of teaching and training staff in psychosocial determinants of health, disseminating program findings, and establishing a strategy that could allow replication of the program at other institutions nationwide.

Step 4: Evaluate the effectiveness of psychosocial support services across programs and develop a patient and family tracking system to evaluate the impact of increasing access to care.

Step 5: Build a research and training program that collaborates across programs and create a trainee/new staff pipeline by leveraging existing CHOP resources.

Our goal is to create a unified approach, so we deliver the same quality and consistency of psychosocial care to expectant parents and families with young children every step of the way.


Family StEPS program leadership team

Sonika Agarwal, MBBS, MD Sonika Agarwal, MBBS, MD
Clinical Chair
Attending Fetal/Neonatal Neurologist, Division of Neurology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine


Joanna CM Cole, PhD, PMH-C Joanna CM Cole, PhD, PMH-C
Associate Clinical Chair
Perinatal Psychologist
Manager, Psychosocial Programs, Richard D. Wood Jr. Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine


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