New grants to community-based organizations and clinics focus on innovative ways to build healthy brains during a child’s first three years
From successful home-visiting programs to community-wide engagement efforts, Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) is investing $5.8 million in organizations across Texas that are helping parents and caregivers boost healthy brain development for the youngest Texans.
EHF’s investment includes grants to 18 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 many other areas across the state. To date, this is EHF’s largest yearly investment in optimizing brain development for Texas babies and toddlers.
“These programs are doing everything from reaching dads in Tyler barbershops to using nurses to visit young families inside their East Austin homes,” said Jo Carcedo, EHF’s vice president for grants. “The goal of many of these efforts is to show parents how simple things like singing to their infants and reading to their toddlers literally build the physical structure of a healthy brain. Many times parents say, ‘No one really told us this. Not my pediatrician, not anyone.’”
EHF’s investment is based on brain science showing that a child’s first three years offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to not only build a strong brain but decrease the chance of developing serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression later in life.
Along with funding community-based organizations, these grants are funding health clinics that are working to build early childhood brain science as a key part of well-child and OBGYN visits.
Several of EHF’s grants are also providing support for 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.
EHF’s investment also helps fund area initiatives in Houston, Angelina County and Williamson County that are targeting community-wide engagement to improve early childhood health outcomes.
“We’re funding these brain-building programs to ensure that children, particularly those in low-income and families in neighborhoods with the least resources, can have the best chance at a healthy life,” Carcedo said. “There are many ways to improve children’s health, but research shows that supporting healthy pregnancies and strengthening early childhood brain development really does build the foundation for a healthy life.”
Supporting early childhood brain development is a key part of EHF’s strategic plan focused on improving health, not just health care in Texas.
EHF’s latest early childhood brain development grants were awarded to:
EHF’s grant supports the expansion of AVANCE’s evidence-based Parent-Child Education Program increasing knowledge and practice of responsive parenting techniques in high-poverty areas in and around Austin.
Partners in Parenting
EHF’s grant supports Partners in Parenting’s program that 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 supports PCC’s effort to make the promotion of early childhood brain development the organizing principle of well-child care.
The Georgetown Project
EHF’s grant provides planning and capacity-building funds for The Georgetown Project to address community-wide health inequities for parents and babies in Williamson County.
United Way for Greater Austin
United Way for Greater Austin will use EHF’s funding to expand and establish sustainable support for an evidence-based nurse home-visiting model that addresses early childhood brain development with low-income families in and around Austin.
Greater Houston Area
Nia Cultural Center
Nia Cultural Center will use EHF’s funding to strengthen the appeal of evidence-based early childhood brain development programs for Black families in Galveston.
Houston Health Foundation
EHF’s grant provides interim support for staff working with Houston Health Foundation’s community-wide Basics Houston program.
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.
Texas Children’s Hospital
EHF’s grant supports Texas Children’s Hospital and its upWORDS, upWORDS Bridges, and upLIFT programs. These programs work to improve parents’ and caregivers’ knowledge of early childhood brain development, address language delays in young children, and helps mitigate postpartum depression and anxiety.
Angelina County and Cities Health District
EHF’s funding supports Angelina County and Cities Health District’s Healthy Beginnings, a community-wide, home-visiting program for pregnant women and infants that serves low-income families. Funding will also help the program improve and expand to other communities across East Texas.
Smith County Champions for Children
To address maternal depression in Smith County, EHF’s grant supports funding to hire a licensed professional counselor and family care coordinator for Smith County Champions for Children.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
EHF’s grant supports coordination, dissemination, and evaluation of the Brain Science Dad program in Tyler. The program helps address health disparities in children up to three years old by integrating evidence-based interventions to promote brain health through father-child engagement.
Talitha Koum Institute
EHF’s grant supports Talitha Koum Institute’s Family Partner program that provides an in-home social worker to visit families in McLennan County. The program focuses on establishing a nurturing attachment between caregivers and their children by increasing knowledge of early childhood brain development science. It also helps limit the stress of extreme poverty by assisting caregivers with education, employment, health, and housing needs.
Waco Family Medicine
Waco Family Medicine will use EHF’s funding to support the growth of its newly-created program to promote social capital for Black women during pregnancy by increasing patient-informed services and advancing anti-racism efforts.
Episcopal Relief and Development
Funding provides support for Episcopal Relief and Development to partner with communities to improve development, health, and economic outcomes of young children by cultivating the parent-child relationship and improving early childhood brain science skills for caregivers.
Parents as Teachers National Center
EHF’s grant will help Parents as Teachers develop a cohort of parent-child interaction coaches to complete brain science learning models, engage in community practice, and build the skills needed to inform colleagues about parent-child interaction and its impact on early childhood brain development. The effort includes work in Angelina, Bastrop, Fayette, Gregg, Harris, McClennan, and Tyler counties.
Texans Care for Children
EHF’s funding will help Texans Care for Children advance advocacy efforts that improve early childhood brain development through community engagement, coalition building, research, policy development, policy implementation, and policy maker and public education.
Texas Pediatric Society
EHF’s grant helps Texas Pediatric Society elevate pediatricians’ voices through advocacy to support the health and well-being of Texas children and families.