EHF commits $2 million to Texas programs focused on healthy early childhood brain development

From new virtual programs to successful models based in pediatric clinics, Episcopal Health Foundation is providing $2 million to efforts across Texas that are helping moms, dads and other caregivers promote healthy brain development for the youngest Texans.

Programs find success connecting with families during COVID-19

From new virtual programs to successful models based in pediatric clinics, EHF is providing $2 million to efforts across Texas that are helping moms, dads and other caregivers promote healthy brain development for the youngest Texans. 

EHF’s commitment includes grants to 11 organizations that are implementing science-based practices for early childhood brain development during pregnancy and the first three years of a child’s life. These organizations operate in Houston, Austin, Lufkin, Tyler, Waco, and other areas across the state.

Several of EHF’s grants are also funding statewide efforts to advocate for policy changes to improve healthy brain development and to raise pediatricians’ voices in encouraging elected officials to provide tools to help children learn more and learn better at an earlier age.

“These programs are providing early resources and support that are making a long-term impact on the health of Texas children,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “Government can also play an effective role and provide positive health returns for the entire community.”

EHF’s effort is based on brain science showing that a child’s first three years offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a strong brain, develop a curious and creative mind, and decrease the chance of developing serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression later in life.

During COVID-19, many home-visiting programs and parent-to-parent support groups that encourage and teach effective infant brain development were forced to move online. And the results were sometimes surprising.

“We actually saw increased participation with our virtual program,” said Val Rios, executive director of Partners in Parenting in Austin. “All families needed was a cell phone and it showed that virtual programming is here to stay.”

Supporting early childhood brain development is a key part of the foundation’s strategic plan to improve health, not just healthcare in Texas. In 2020, EHF invested more than $3 million in similar early brain-building projects and programs across the state.

EHFs latest early childhood brain development grants were awarded to:


EHF’s grant will support the expansion of AVANCE’s evidence-based Parent-Child Education Program in high-poverty areas in and around Austin.

Partners in Parenting
Partners in Parenting’s program improves the parent/child bond and fosters healthy brain development by providing free peer support groups for low-income families with new babies in Travis County.

People’s Community Clinic
EHF’s grant will support the clinic’s effort to make the promotion of early brain development the organizing principle of well-child care.

Greater Houston Area

Rupani Foundation
Rupani Foundation will use EHF’s grant to strengthen the relationship between caregivers and children through education and coaching to optimize early childhood brain development.

Santa Maria Hostel
Santa Maria will use EHF’s funding to serve pregnant women and mothers with young children who are affected by substance abuse and trauma by expanding the Caring for Two program.

Texas Children’s Hospital
EHF’s grant supports the Texas Children’s Hospital upWORDS program that improves parents’ and caregivers’ knowledge of early childhood brain development and is delivered by speech language pathologists and social service specialists. The program uses a “fit bit”-type device to document child-caregiver interactions each week and then provides reports that families can use to improve the level and quality of interactions with their child.


Angelina County and Cities Health District
EHF funds  will support Healthy Beginnings, a community-based home visiting program for pregnant women and infants that serves low-income families.


The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston
EHF’s grant will help address health disparities in children up to three years old by integrating evidence-based interventions to promote brain health through improving father engagement and by piloting the new Brain Science Dad program in Tyler.


Heart of Texas Community Health Center
Heart of Texas Community Health Center will use EHF’s funding to design a comprehensive plan to promote social capital for Black women during pregnancy by increasing patient-informed services and advancing anti-racism efforts.


Texas Pediatric Society
EHF’s grant will help Texas Pediatric Society elevate pediatricians’ voices through advocacy to support the health and well-being of Texas children and families.

EHF’s grant will support prenatal to three research and policy analysis and implement a plan to support policy changes aimed at infant/toddler development.