Together Growing Strong
The goal of Together Growing Strong is to transform the health, wellbeing, and developmental trajectories of young children and their families in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, from the prenatal period through age 5—a pivotal time in early childhood development. The Together Growing Strong initiative was established in July 2017 as a philanthropic partnership between the Bezos Family Foundation and NYU Langone.
Working in synergy with NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn and the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, we connect with families and caregivers to help ensure that children are cognitively, socially, and emotionally ready for kindergarten, our benchmark outcome.
Healthcare-, Education-, and Community-Based Strategies to Improve School Readiness in Sunset Park
The overarching principles of Together Growing Strong explicitly highlight the following:
- the importance of community partnerships
- a strengths-based approach to supporting family health and development
- a focus on racial equity in all aspects of the initiative
- an emphasis on cultural relevance and sensitivity
- the enhancement of existing programs
- the integration of new evidence-based programs into existing services
We have developed and are implementing programs that have a direct impact on Together Growing Strong’s short- and long-term outcomes. Although school readiness, our long-term outcome, can be defined in many ways, we have chosen to focus on language development, social-emotional development, and the development of executive function abilities to operationalize this construct. In the short-term, we will measure our success through markers of family health and wellbeing, parenting and parent-child interactions, and non-parental care and early education.
Our program works in collaboration with staff in clinical, educational, and community settings to further child social, emotional, and behavioral development as core aspects of health and wellbeing. We also support parents and other caregivers directly, providing opportunities for connecting, skill-building, and information sharing.
Initial Intervention Plan
Together Growing Strong weaves together a portfolio of evidence-informed clinical-, educational-, and community-based initiatives, each of which has been shown to have a high impact on one or more of our key above-listed outcomes. Together these form an integrated system of continuous care from the prenatal period through school entry in the Sunset Park community.
Vroom is a national early learning initiative that empowers caregivers to play a proactive role in their children’s early brain development. It builds from the notion that opportunities to positively impact brain development are all around us, including during daily activities like bath time or mealtime, and provides reinforcing messages and tips to caregivers that promote brain-building interactions in children’s everyday lives. Supports for caregivers are provided through tip cards, a smartphone app, and other environmental and provider-based messaging. Through this process, Vroom creates a platform for a shared language around brain development and can spark conversations about child health, early childhood education, and school readiness. The Vroom program is led by Jeannette Martinez, Sheldon Serkin, and Kathy Hopkins, and is being implemented in both clinical and community settings in Sunset Park.
Video Interaction Project
The Video Interaction Project (VIP) is a relationship-based, individualized parent-child intervention developed by Alan L. Mendelsohn and colleagues in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone. It is designed for delivery during pediatric well visits. The core component of VIP is a real-time, brief video recording made at every pediatric checkup of the parent and child reading or playing together with a book or toy provided by the program. Immediately following the recording, the parent or caregiver reviews the tape with a parenting coach, who points out and reinforces strengths and suggests additional opportunities for interaction. VIP was originally developed in English and Spanish, and is currently being adapted for use with Chinese-speaking families.
Evidence of VIP’s impact on parenting and child development has been documented in several randomized controlled trials. VIP has been shown to have impacts on positive parent-child interactions, enhanced socioemotional outcomes, less physical punishment, reduced behavior and attention problems, and reduced parenting stress. VIP has shown that pediatric primary care offers significant opportunity for enhancing the developmental trajectories of at-risk children, at a low cost and with a far reach.
In Sunset Park, implementation and evaluation of this program is being led by Anne Seery, Maya Matalon, Maria Gonzalez, Aida Custode, and Caitlin Canfield. Learn more about the VIP team.
ParentCorps is working to advance its mission to help schools partner with families to build a future where all children thrive. As an enhancement to pre-K programs, ParentCorps includes three components: a social-emotional learning program implemented by teachers; a parenting program for families; and professional development for school leaders, teachers, mental health professionals, and parent support staff. These work synergistically to bolster parent and teacher capacity to support children’s early learning and development in the face of adversity—including poverty, racism, discrimination, and immigration-related stress.
Strong evidence of ParentCorps’ impact on children, families, and teachers and return on investment comes from two randomized controlled trials with more than 1,200 Black and Brown children in low-income neighborhoods in New York City. ParentCorps has meaningful and sustained impacts on academic achievement, mental health, and physical health, and it is one of very few early childhood programs with demonstrated impact on all three critical areas of development.
ParentCorps in Sunset Park is led by Alicia Chung, Dana M. Rhule, Kathleen Kiely Gouley, Eva Wong, Maite Covas, Natalia Rojas, and Laurie M. Brotman. Our efforts are supported by these and other faculty and staff at NYU Langone’s Center for Early Childhood Health and Development. Learn more about our work and engagement with community partners.
Reach Out, Stand Strong, Essentials for New Mothers
Reach Out, Stand strong, Essentials for new mothers (ROSE) is a postpartum depression prevention program that focuses on psychoeducation, building social supports, reducing and managing stress, and enhancing interpersonal relationships and communication among pregnant women. ROSE has been shown to be effective in reducing the onset of depression in mothers up to 12 months after delivery, and we believe it can provide women with skills to help them reduce stress even after the postpartum period. ROSE in Sunset Park is led by Bonnie Kerker, Laura Ibenez-Gomez, Kathy Hopkins, and Julie Katter. The program is launching in a women’s health center that serves mostly Spanish-speaking patients and is being adapted for the Chinese-speaking population.
Parent Education and Breastfeeding Support
Improving young children’s physical and brain development begins prior to birth. At NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, our goal is to educate all prenatal and postnatal medical providers and nursing staff across the entire continuum of care to focus on Together Growing Strong’s key outcomes. To help accomplish this, Eileen Difrisco has led the hospital to focus on Baby-Friendly training for nurses; prenatal classes to prepare families for the birth of their children and parenting; and an expansion of our parent education program to include the Breastfeeding Café, a group that meets weekly and offers new nursing mothers encouragement and feedback.
In order to engage families who are not otherwise connected to the healthcare and education systems, the outreach team, including Jacqueline Montesdeoca, Ran (Grace) Tian, Natalia Rojas, Julie Katter, Camila Caycedo, and Bonnie Kerker, has focused on the following community-based efforts:
- outreach and engagement to families through community surveys, events, and social media to understand their needs and preferences as well as promote programs and resources
- skill-building opportunities through weekly text messages, playgroups, workshops, and webinars
- development of networks of support for parents, as well as family, friend, and neighbor childcare providers
Together Growing Strong includes numerous ongoing data-collection activities focused on better understanding the strengths and needs of the community and informing program development. These activities have included surveys and focus groups of parents, healthcare providers, teachers, and other caregivers. The research team, including Bonnie Kerker, Jennifer Norton, Natalia Rojas, Alan L. Mendelsohn, Caitlin Canfield, Kathy Hopkins, Sue A. Kaplan, Laurie M. Brotman, Elizabeth B. Miller, and Lorna E. Thorpe, is also designing a larger evaluation strategy to help us understand our impact on the Sunset Park community.
Together Growing Strong Leadership
Paulo R. Pina
Laurie M. Brotman
Alan L. Mendelsohn
Lorna E. Thorpe
Ran (Grace) Tian
For more information about Together Growing Strong, please contact Bonnie Kerker, director, at email@example.com.
We also offer opportunities for internships. For more information, please contact Julie Katter, program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.