Episcopal Health Foundation commits $3.5 million to Texas programs focused on healthy early childhood brain development
January 23, 2020
From home-visiting programs to innovative models based in pediatric clinics, Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) is providing $3.5 million to efforts that are focused on helping parents and caregivers promote early childhood brain development. It’s part of EHF’s plan to give the youngest Texans in need the best chance at a healthy life.
EHF’s commitment includes grants to 12 Texas organizations that are implementing timely, science-based practices for early childhood brain development during pregnancy and the first three years of a child’s life.
“Those first three years are the critical window for every child and every parent can benefit from extra help,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “We want to create healthier communities for generations to come.”
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.
Yet, many parents don’t know how important simple actions like talking to their baby and other back-and-forth interactions are to building brain connections and providing the foundation for future learning, behavior and health.
The early childhood development projects supported by EHF are putting brain science to work by providing tools and trustworthy information through parent support groups, training programs, models at pediatric clinics, home-visiting programs, and more.
A recent EHF-sponsored report shows that effective early brain-building programs only reach a fraction of Texas families who could benefit. Researchers at Texans Care for Children found that in 2018, state home-visiting services provided by the state’s Prevention and Early Intervention program to promote positive parenting practices and infant brain development helped about 10% of families with young children living in the East, Central or Gulf Coast regions of Texas.
Researchers also discovered that the state’s average rate of eligible families being served by home-visiting programs is less than half the national rate.
The report found that health clinics and pediatric practices provide a unique opportunity to incorporate proven brain-building models into routine care for infants and toddlers.
“There’s clearly a gap for parents and families in need of these programs,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children and co-author of the report. “Texas leaders have the opportunity to ensure more families have access to proven programs by leveraging Medicaid to pay for some of them and by increasing state investments in others.”
EHF’s latest commitment supports early brain development programs in Greater Houston, Austin, Waco and several statewide projects. Supporting early childhood brain development is a key part of the foundation’s strategic plan to improve health, not just healthcare in Texas. In 2019, EHF invested $3.4 million in similar early brain-building projects and programs across the state.
EHF’s latest early childhood brain development grants were awarded to:
The University of Texas at Austin – College of Education
UT-Austin’s College of Education will expand the development, evaluation and sustainability of an innovative parenting intervention program called Parenting A-Z. The program is delivered to caregivers of young children during preventive well-child visits in pediatric clinics.
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.
Greater Houston Area
First3Years will build upon a successful pilot program to introduce the Welch Emotional Connection Screening tool into additional community-based organizations and health clinics. The screening process assesses the attachment between caregiver and infant. It has proven to increase knowledge of early child brain development and helped families get appropriate supports when needed to optimize their child’s development.
Houston Health Foundation
Houston Health Foundation will use EHF’s grant to leverage the network of Texas Vaccines for Children clinics to empower families in need with strategies to help form strong and resilient brains in children from birth to three years old.
Rupani Foundation will use EHF’s grant to build and strengthen the organization and also continue its Informed Parents program. This group-based caregiver/child education and practice program educates adults about the importance of responsive, nurturing caregiving to their child’s brain development and includes home visits to coach parents in concepts and practices introduced in group classes.
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.
Heart of Texas Community Health Center
Heart of Texas Community Health Center will design a comprehensive plan for a peer support group program for soon-to-be and new parents at the clinic.
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will pilot the Change In Mind Learning Collaborative model in Texas. It will work with 10 community-based organizations and health clinics to strengthen their ability to translate brain science concepts into programs, practice and policy change.
Parents as Teachers National Center
Parents as Teachers will create a combined virtual and home-visiting program for families in rural areas across Central and East Texas with children from birth to age three. The program follows an education and family well-being approach to early brain development and includes monthly home visits to families focused on parent-child interaction and development-centered parenting.
Texans Care for Children
EHF’s grant will help Texans Care for Children drive statewide advocacy efforts to improve early brain development through community engagement, coalition building, research, policy development, and education for the public and policymakers across Texas.
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Texas HHSC partners with 42 Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) programs across the state. EHF’s funding will provide early childhood brain development training for those ECI providers to become Master Coaches and further increase awareness about caregiver-child interactions on early child brain development.
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Brian Sasser, EHF’s chief communications officer, at 832-795-9404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.