Programmatic Approaches for Achieving Our Mission and Vision

Early Childhood

For the past seven years, our work to support young children and their families has focused on early learning — the care and education of infants and toddlers from birth to age 3. Because we view early learning in a comprehensive way, our work also has addressed health and mental health for children and families as well as supports for early childhood educators to ensure their effectiveness and well-being.

Our 2015 strategic plan had a specific goal of adding 750 high-quality early learning seats in the District of Columbia’s Wards 7 and 8 over five years. We exceeded that goal, adding more than 900 high-quality seats by 2020. We also increased access to home visiting, family well-being and prenatal/perinatal services, and we helped build a robust and aligned advocacy coalition in D.C. that has been instrumental in:

  • Prioritizing and expanding services and supports for young children and their families
  • Securing improvements to compensation for early childhood professionals

Through these experiences, we learned critical lessons about our own power and role in the ecosystem. We came to understand proximity and established community trust as the most critical aspects of due diligence when establishing new partnerships. We redefined “experts” as those closest to the problem and, therefore, most likely to understand the issues and identify the best solutions. We realized the problems we are trying to solve require embracing the complexities of a both/and approach, not an either/or approach. That means we intend to:

Learn More About the Impact of Our Early Childhood Work

  • Pursue both national and local policy change, as each one drives and influences the other
  • Seek both short-term policy changes and sustained systems-level changes
  • Tackle problems at both the direct service/practice level and the policy level
  • Help to both navigate current barriers and reimagine conditions without the barriers

In alignment with the foundation’s new strategic direction, our Early Childhood work now aims to:

  • Mitigate the consequences of structural racism and poverty on impacted families, caregivers, educators and communities
  • Create anti-racist systems that eliminate toxic stressors/obstacles and produce equitable power and resources for families, caregivers, educators and communities

Our previous Early Learning work has been broadened to prioritize five aspects of Early Childhood that contribute to the healthy growth and development of young children and the well-being of their families.

Early Childhood Priority Areas

Our Partners and Key Collaborators

We will continue to work with a wide range of partners and collaborators to achieve our mission. In some instances, we will support and inform our partners’ work, while in other instances, we will design, execute or co-execute special projects. Examples of these special projects include:

  • D.C. Child Care Reopening Fund — a collaboration of multiple foundations and our partner Mary’s Center to help support and sustain early childhood education programs in the District during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
  • DC Early Educator Experience (DC Early EdX) — a D.C.-wide professional development and appreciation event for early childhood education professionals, held each year in April as part of Month of the Young Child
  • Family Child Care Facility Refresher Program — a collaboration of the foundation and Reinvestment Fund to fund facility enhancements at D.C. family child care programs
  • WeVision EarlyEd — a new initiative that involves families and early childhood education professionals using their voices and expertise to transform the child care system in the District and to serve as a model for other communities

Building an Ecosystem of Partners and Collaborators