Best Start: Nurturing Early Childhood Development and Family Well-Being

Early Childhood and Health Foundations Visit Innovation Programs as part of the 2019 Grantmakers in Health Conference

Where can you see one of the most comprehensive and innovative approaches to child development in the nation?  King County, Washington.  That’s where over forty attendees from the Grantmakers in Health conference joined the Perigee Fund and ECFC to learn about King County’s Best Start for Kids Initiative, investing $65 million per year in the well-being of children and families.   The public initiative builds on and scales for which private philanthropy which has been a partner for many years, including Social Venture Partners, the Irving Harris Foundation, and more recently, the Perigee Fund

A hallmark of the Best Starts for Kids initiative is that it covers a large county with both urban and rural areas, with deep roots in the neighborhoods in which it invests.   This neighborhood-based approach is exemplified at El Centro de la Raza. We saw a continuum of services from doula services provided by Open Arms Perinatal Services, home visiting through the Parent Child Home Program, and bilingual early education at the José Martí Child Development Center El Centro provides these child and families serves along with a range of supports for whole families, including youth leadership, employment and housing.   El Centro de la Raza isn’t just a multi-service center, but a place for community celebrations on the plaza and cross-racial organizing through dialogue and joint programming. 

During our visit, funders discussed ways that we can promote a continuum of supports in our own portfolios – bridging health, mental health, and early learning.  The site visit grew out of discussions in ECFC’s Early Relational Health Committee, established in 2018 to: bolster the dyadic relationship between parent and child, focusing specifically on improving the relational health, the social emotional development and mental health of young children and their families; educate funders about important work that is being pursued in this area, including evidence-informed model programs, innovative systems and policy strategies, workforce development strategies and research; and infuse this work in to our conversations with ECFC’s allies and partners. 

If you would like to talk more about ECFC’s growing interest in early relational health, infant and early childhood mental health, and supports for the whole family, please contact Sweta Alberta to connect with the ECFC ERH Committee.

 Related Article:

 Open Arms, GIH Site Visit Recap blog (June 14, 2019)