Boston Basics and Families First are excited to announce that their joint project has received a three-year grant of more than $750,000 from the Boston Children’s Collaboration for Community Health.
The project aims to elevate the role of parents to optimize early childhood brain growth. Boston Basics and Families First will equip community health centers and childcare centers with tools and training so they can better support, engage, and listen to parents—particularly those who face systemic barriers and social inequities. By working together, the project will promote children’s healthy development, school readiness, and life success.
Using an innovative partnership model, the project will provide complementary training and resources for staff at community health centers and childcare centers in selected Boston neighborhoods, enabling broad dissemination of the Basics and in-depth workshops for families through the Power of Parenting program.
Boston Basics uses simple tools and approaches for mobilizing community institutions to give caregivers of young children knowledge and support for using evidence-based practices to promote early brain development. Families First has embedded the Basics’ five caregiving practices into their Power of Parenting program, which reaches parents directly and offers skill-building workshops, discussion groups, access to leadership opportunities, and connections to community resources.
“All of us are in the business of human development,” says Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University and founder of the Boston Basics. “We do often tend to work within our silos and say, ‘Oh, that’s somebody else’s job.’ But if we can supplement what other people are doing, we can make the entire system more effective.”
The project will benefit 12 under-resourced neighborhoods over three years. The Basics will be shared with thousands of families with infants and toddlers, and more than 200 families will experience the Power of Parenting program.
“When children are given an opportunity to succeed, we succeed as a community. This grant will enable two strong organizations to come together to boost the knowledge, skills, and support systems of families with young children,” says Families First Executive Director Sue Covitz. “Working with health centers, childcare centers, and other community partners will leverage additional resources that all families need and deserve.”
The grant to Boston Basics and Families First is part of Boston Children’s Hospital’s total commitment of $53.4 million to support community organizations and agencies in their efforts to improve the health and well-being of children and families in Boston and across Massachusetts. Over the next 10 years, Boston Children’s will distribute these funds as part of an agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Determination of Need Program. This is in addition to the hospital’s ongoing support for programs and partnerships.
“For more than 25 years, Boston Children’s has dedicated resources and used its expertise to improve child health outcomes beyond the walls of our hospital,” says Sandra L. Fenwick, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. “Through the Collaboration for Community Health, we’re able to further extend by helping more community partners to implement programs and strategies that are vital to a child’s overall health.”
Funded partners in the initial round of grants announced by Boston Children’s will focus on implementing strategies and projects in three key areas: Zero to Five Child Health and Development; Family Housing Stability and Economic Opportunity; and Community Physical Activity, Recreation, and Food Access.
These efforts will help ensure that Boston children will enter kindergarten ready to succeed, that children will be food secure and have access to physical activities, and that families have opportunities to thrive and live in stable housing.
The strategy to distribute funds followed a two-year community engagement process to inform how Boston Children’s could make a long-lasting impact. “This is a long-term plan to help children, families, and communities become stronger and healthier,” says Shari Nethersole, MD, Executive Director for Community Health.
“Our goal is to help the Collaboration’s partners not only grow and lead, but to share the successes and lessons learned when implementing programs and policies that tackle complex health and social problems.”
By combining forces, Boston Basics and Families First will embed parenting support and best practices into each participating neighborhood’s culture. Through careful evaluation and the creation of a guidebook for successful replication, the partnership is expected to have long-lasting impact.
Ultimately, parents, caregivers, and family-facing staff members who participate in this project will be the driving force toward creating a future where children from all backgrounds will start life with the resources they need to be healthy and successful.
Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center. Its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. Today more than 3,000 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 11 Howard Hughes Medical Investigators, comprise Boston Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children’s is now a 415-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care.
The Boston Basics Campaign is inspired by the fact that 80% of brain growth happens in the first three years of life. During this period, skill gaps between socio-economic, racial, and ethnic groups become clearly apparent. This does not need to be! Everyday interactions between children, their parents, and other caregivers provide abundant opportunities to give children from every background a more equal start in life. The Basics are five evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles that encompass much of what experts find is important for children from birth to age three. Every child from every background can benefit from routinely experiencing the Basics learning experiences. Therefore, the Boston Basics Campaign is working through a broad range of institutions to ensure that every parent and caregiver is fully supported by family and friends to use the Basics practices in everyday life.
Families First works with parents to build secure and nurturing parent-child relationships during the early years, ensuring children’s well-being and future success. Founded in 1988 by Wheelock College and the Boston Children’s Museum, Families First has been a leader in parenting education in the Greater Boston area for three decades. Power of Parenting™ is Families First’s most comprehensive program ever—offering 12 sessions of interactive, skills-based parenting education and support for families in under-resourced communities. The program is offered in partnership with community organizations who share Families First’s mission of strengthening families.