Family and child well-being have a symbiotic relationship — from links between maternal educational status and children outcomes to parental economic status and engagement in their child’s life. Research shows that early childhood —from birth to age three – is a critical period for cognitive and social emotional development. From memory enhancement as early as one month, to speech sounds by age one, and relating concepts and categories from age three onwards — these development abilities have long term implications.

Children’s HealthWatch research has shown that children under the age of three who are living in food-insecure households are more likely to be at risk for developmental delays when compared to demographically similar children living in food-secure households. They are also more likely to experience other adverse health outcomes and hospitalizations.

Additional research from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University highlights the damaging impact of toxic stress caused by poverty and adverse childhood experiences on the brain’s architecture – shaping future learning, behavior, and health outcomes.

Cambridge is fortunate to be served by many city, school, and community-based early childhood services and programs (while also being supported by system infrastructure – e.g. Cambridge Family Policy Council ).  Moreover, there have been many previous initiatives within Cambridge’s early childhood community, and the City has demonstrated its interest in supporting and enhancing such efforts. During 2014, the City’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Task Force (including CCF board member, Nan Stone) oversaw a needs assessment and development of recommendations (released in 2015) to improve early education and care, and ensure all children receive it.

Based on these recommendations the City has hired Lei-Anne Ellis to lead the initiative and announced the Birth to Grade Three Partnership — the Foundation’s President will serve on the Steering Committee for this partnership.

The Foundation’s role within the early childhood development arena is guided by these principles:

  • Invest in two generation strategies
  • Intervene early to influence positive outcomes and prevent the need for remediation
  • Respect the dignity of the people being served and engage them in program planning and evaluation.

Signature investment: Baby U

Managed and run by at the City of Cambridge’s, Department of Human Service programs, Baby U is an innovative program designed for parents with children prenatal to age 3.

This program aims to: increase parents’ knowledge on a variety of child-rearing topics; strengthen parent-child relationships; break parental isolation; and connect parents to beneficial community resources. This 16 week program offers 10 weeks of workshops followed by 5 weeks of playgroups. Parents are supported with 6-8 home visits. Key parenting messages are reinforced throughout the 16 weeks of the program.  Parents who complete the entire program can join the Baby U Alumni Association. This Association teaches new skills, strengthens relationships and maintains the supportive connections between staff and families.

Check out Baby U’s YouTube Channel to hear what families have to say about it!