HELPING CHILDREN REACH THEIR POTENTIAL
How can we welcome each new baby as a miracle endowed with immense potential? How can we support their spiritual, emotional, physical, and psychological well-being? How can we ensure that all children and youth have the opportunity to succeed based on their unique individual ability and not be limited by preconceptions of who they are based on their culture, class and race?
Pre to Three: We believe that each child is born with enormous potential and that the sooner they can be given healthy environments in which to grow, the better they will be able to progress through the development stages so critical to their later life. Unfortunately, while many share this view, we as a community and society still fail to direct adequate resources and attention to this important area. Recognizing that the primary points of engagement with very young children and their families often lie within the healthcare system, we are increasingly interested in working with medical providers and their partners. In 2018 the Foundation made a multi-year grant to a partnership between the Cottage Hospital NICU and UCSB to improve outcomes for very low birth weight babies. We hope this work can improve outcomes for the smallest children and their families, and inform care offered by the NICU and health system overall.
ACES: Over the last few years there has been substantial growth in awareness about the impact of traumatic stress on the brain development of young children, and most recently within the community of Pediatricians and other medical providers. Research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) has led to changes in pediatric practice as articulated by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris in her TED Talk. We are interested in seeing how this knowledge can be incorporated in our local medical system, particularly for young children and their families, and how those changes can impact outcomes in the years ahead. Embedded in this work is the need to ensure that new practices that improve outcomes, prevent problems, and save money, are supported by medical reimbursement models.
In 2018 this movement became the Santa Barbara Resiliency Project, and a pilot ACES screening and response effort was launched at the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, and in partnership with CALM and UCSB. In 2019 a second pilot will begin in Carpinteria, as a partnership between the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Carpinteria Children’s Project. In 2019 a concerted effort will begin to promote ACES screening and response in all local pediatric practices. This will be housed in the Cottage Health Population Health Department.
Placed Based School Readiness: We focus significant financial support on projects that strategically improve kindergarten/school readiness. We view this readiness in the broadest sense, including intellectual readiness, physical preparedness, and most importantly, social and emotional well-being. We have a strong preference for programs that make a difference on a population level – at a school, school district, neighborhood, or an entire community.
Toward this aim, we are currently engaged in close collaborations with the three largest public school districts on the Santa Barbara South Coast, their non-profit partners and several other local funders in following a “Whatever It Takes” approach to dramatically improve school readiness. These efforts include educating and supporting parents, aligning mental health and other social services, providing high-quality pre-school, and improving systems – including information management systems – that support better articulation between early childhood and the school system.
While all three efforts have shown a marked increase in school readiness as measured by the KSEP, results have plateaued and in 2019 and 2020 each project will enter into a research and evaluation phase to assess both how further improvements can be made and to better understand the link between the work to promote school readiness and future academic performance.
Bringing it Together: One of the things that makes progress in early childhood even more challenging is the lack of integration between the various systems that support families from pre-natal care, birth, post-natal care, and integration into the pre-school system. Not only does this limit the impact of individual programs and the resources used to support them, it makes it very difficult to track the impact of each effort on the ultimate success of children as they mature and therefore learn how to improve strategies and outcomes over time. We are interested in supporting efforts that bridge the systems engaged in early childhood with an ultimate goal of integrating unique programs into more comprehensive neighborhood or community wide efforts.
Culture, Class, and Race: There is a clear divide in our community between the experience and expectations of youth that come from low income, Latino backgrounds, and their counterparts who are often economically better off and white.
This gap covers most measures of youth success, from academic achievement to involvement with crime. It has persisted for more than a generation in spite of the best efforts of many who have worked to change it. We believe there is a strong consensus that dramatically changing this dynamic is a critical issue for the well-being of our entire community. We will support projects that address this in a comprehensive way.
We are interested in supporting efforts that focus on changing the systems that support Latino children and young adults. One of the best examples of this kind of work is the Program for Effective Access to College (PEAC) which emerged from a partnership between La Cumbre Junior High School and San Marcos High School, and has now expanded to all secondary schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. We have also provided multi-year support for the Academy, which started at Dos Pueblos High School and is now also District wide. Finally, we have been a long term supporter of Just Communities and their work addressing issues of implicit bias in local schools.
Collaboration: Supporting children and families in a comprehensive and strategic way may well go beyond the abilities of any one non-profit agency and may require the formation of unique collaborative efforts of groups that share a particular goal. We support the formation and continued work of collaboratives following the collective impact model. In many cases this kind of work requires resources for the process of collaboration beyond that which can be found in existing organizations budget or work capacity. We are open to providing that kind of support.
We recognize that none of this work would be possible without the strong partnership with our local school districts. For more information on them, please click on the image links below.