Highlights of the partnership include family and community engagement at the grassroots level, and the creation of an Early Childhood Roundtable

NEW YORK— First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery, and Robin Hood CEO Wes announced today a partnership between the NYC Children’s Cabinet and Robin Hood to dramatically expand the City’s “Talk to Your Baby” campaign, with an emphasis on early childhood development in high-poverty areas targeting children ages 0-3. During the third phase of “Talk to Your Baby,” the City is leveraging this partnership to educate families about the importance of parent-child attachment, the positive impact of early neurological development, and deepening efforts to support children’s lifelong success. The Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn hosted the launch event on Saturday, September 23 at a community playdate for children, parents and caregivers.

This is a natural partnership given the close alignment of Robin Hood’s Fund for Early Learning (FUEL) and the mission of the NYC Children’s Cabinet. FUEL is Robin Hood’s effort to build the brains – and change the trajectories – of the more than 100,000 New Yorkers ages 0-3 who are living in poverty. The early years are absolutely crucial to a child’s future – by age three, a child’s brain has already reached 80 percent of its adult size and formed the trillions of neural connections that comprise its basic structure. The partnership will provide on-the-ground support to communities, create long-needed benchmarks for progress and equip the City’s frontline workers with the newest tools. Parents and caregivers will learn techniques that are research-proven to help children build the key cognitive, social and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and life.

“The first three years of life is a wonderful time of self-discovery and exploration for babies – a time of rapid cognitive, social and emotional development,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, Co-Chair of the NYC Children’s Cabinet. “I am proud to have Robin Hood as a partner in our effort to invest early in children to maximize their full potential.”

“Between birth and age three, babies’ brains are developing at an amazing rate. And it’s our job to help those beautiful brains grow,” said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and Co-Chair of the NYC Children’s Cabinet. “Together with Robin Hood, we will reach more families across the City with the tools and information that maximize brain growth and development during the critical early years of a child’s life.”

“The science is clear – the early years of a child’s life are critically important when it comes to brain development and skill learning,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “Through this partnership, NYC Children’s Cabinet and Robin Hood will make a real impact on children’s lives and futures.”

“This partnership between the Children’s Cabinet and Robin Hood to expand the City’s ‘Talk to Your Baby’ campaign will enable us to fight inequality starting from infancy,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. “We partner with philanthropy to generate just these types of innovative solutions: Along with providing critical support to families, we will create long-needed benchmarks for progress, and equip the City’s frontline workers with the newest tools.”

“I am excited that the NYC Children’s Cabinet will partner with Robin Hood’s FUEL so that we are able to support parents, caregivers and community members to improve the well-being outcomes of babies and toddlers throughout our city,” said Benita Miller, Executive Director of the NYC Children’s Cabinet. “Our aim is to work at the community-level and support families readying babies and toddlers for the next stages of life.”

“This initiative will make sure parents and caregivers across this city will have the resources they need to help their children reach their full potential,” said Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood. “The early years of a child’s life are critical for healthy brain development. As the father of two beautiful young children, this work is personal to me. We at Robin Hood are proud to stand with the city to make New York an early learning metropolis for every child and every family.”

“The science of early learning has the ability to change lives, but only if it reaches those who can act on it—parents, caregivers, and providers. Through this unprecedented partnership between the City of New York and Robin Hood, we are dramatically increasing the reach and impact of New York’s early childhood programs and building the world’s first early learning metropolis,” said Jackie Bezos, President of the Bezos Family Foundation.

“Brownsville United is a dynamic project that seeks input from the entire community to achieve better outcomes for Brownsville’s youngest residents,” said Keith Little, Deputy Executive Director of SCO Family of Services. “With support from Robin Hood, SCO is partnering with Community Solutions to engage parents, educators, service providers, and community leaders to ensure that the 10,000 children under the age of three in Brownsville have every opportunity to succeed. The community’s priorities will be met with actionable solutions that leverage the vibrancy of the community and the strength of its families.

“South Bronx Rising Together is committed to ensuring every young person in the heart of the South Bronx is on the pathway to college and career,” said Phoebe Boyer, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society and Dianne Morales, President and Executive Director of Phipps Neighborhoods, in a joint statement. “We know that means starting at birth and paying particular attention to the needs of children under three years of age and their families. We appreciate First Lady Chirlane McCray’s leadership, are grateful for FUEL’s support, and are thrilled to be working with Robin Hood, the NYC Children’s Cabinet, and the families and early childhood providers in the South Bronx on this critically important effort.”

At Saturday’s community playdate, families learned about creative ways to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities and where to access support within City agencies. The community playdate is an extension of the NYC Baby Showers, a five-borough series of events hosted by First Lady McCray and Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, who chairs the NYC Children’s Cabinet. The NYC Baby Shower series was designed to support new parents and caretakers of low-income communities by providing practical items like diapers, clothing and other baby supplies. They also provide families with an opportunity to receive City and community resources, like registering for a library card, IDNYC, and child care services.

The partnership between the NYC Children’s Cabinet and Robin Hood includes five key components:

  1. Culture Change Citywide and Public Awareness Efforts: The Children’s Cabinet will work with FUEL to refresh messaging around “Talk to Your Baby” with empowering, science-based information. The messaging will be inspired by Vroom, an effort to provide families with creative ways to turn everyday moments into brain-building opportunities. This effort could grow to include an entirely new website, with amplification on social media and within government agencies. Cabinet staff will also encourage local stakeholders to engage in training opportunities provided by the City.
  2. Early Childhood “Everyday Readiness” Benchmark Development: The Children’s Cabinet and Robin Hood’s FUEL team will collaborate with leading researchers from New York University to develop a set of valid, reliable and feasible indicators of early childhood development. In the short-term, these indicators may help provide concrete guidance to parents across the city. In the long-term, these indicators could enable the entire city to understand where its youngest citizens stand in life, how they are progressing, and whether efforts to support their development are making a difference. The First Lady will work with the Children’s Cabinet as well as key external advisory board members to inform how these indicators are prioritized and implemented.
  3. Agency-level Engagement: Child-serving City agencies can and should be at the leading edge of the effort to provide parents with science-based early childhood development tools. Toward this end, the Children’s Cabinet will create an Early Childhood Roundtable reporting to the Cabinet’s Executive Director. The roundtable will work to make sure the new messaging is incorporated into the daily work agencies undertake with families. It will also serve as a forum to identify and resolve additional policy and practice gaps. The First Lady will receive quarterly updates about the collective efforts of the Roundtable to improve outcomes for the City’s youngest children.
  4. Community District-Level Engagement Efforts: In addition to citywide efforts, the Children’s Cabinet will partner with Robin Hood to strengthen the capacity of existing early childhood service coalitions led by South Bronx Rising Together and Brownsville United.
  5. Strategy and Implementation Plan Development: The Children’s Cabinet and FUEL will hire an external consultant to promote effective collaboration and ensure accountability.

Robin Hood will provide the Children’s Cabinet with an initial investment of $358,000 during the first year of the partnership to hire staff dedicated to supporting an Early Childhood Roundtable. Since 2014, the City has invested approximately $1 million into the Children’s Cabinet to date, including an ad campaign, the NYC Baby Shower series and literacy resources, like books and tip cards. This expansion builds on the “Talk to Your Baby” campaign, initially developed with support from Scholastic Inc., The Clinton Foundation and the Sesame Street Workshop. As a part of that launch, Scholastic Inc. donated 200,000 Baby Book Bundles that were distributed across the city to low-income families with children ages 0-3.

“For our littlest New Yorkers, the first years in life are critical in learning about the world,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The partnership between the NYC Children’s Cabinet and Robin Hood will expand the resources available to help new parents with the tools they need to nurture and support their child’s cognitive development. In the first three years of life children’s brains are developing rapidly and assimilating vast amounts of information. These additional resources will give all New York families the opportunity to give their children the best start in life.”

“I commend First Lady McCray and Robin Hood for this wonderful partnership benefiting parents and caregivers of young children,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell. “These brain-building techniques will provide extremely helpful skills to them and once passed to their toddlers will lay the foundation for a successful performance at school and later in life.”

“This administration recognizes just how critical high-quality early childhood care and education are for the future success of our children and our City,” said Josh Wallack, Schools Deputy Chancellor of Early Childhood Education and Student Enrollment. “Today’s expansion is another important step in our interagency efforts to strengthen early childhood care and education, and – together with our investments in EarlyLearn, 3-K for All, and Pre-K for All – will make a significant impact.”

“Giving families and children an opportunity to succeed is our top priority in New York City—and for families facing homelessness, that means preserving as much stability as possible by increasing access to supportive and inclusive programming and resources during challenging times,” said Joslyn Carter, Department of Homeless Services Administrator. “Ensuring our facilities are integrated into neighborhoods and our clients are welcomed as neighbors will enable them to stabilize their lives more quickly and effectively with community support. Thanks to this initiative and the First Lady’s leadership, we will be offering homeless families with children in this area of Brooklyn the opportunity to participate in this community playdate, where they can experience the community support and compassion that unite us as New Yorkers.”

“Early interventions into children’s development have been proven to produce healthier, more academically successful young adults,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend First Lady McCray and Robin Hood for expanding the City’s support to empower parents and caregivers with the best resources that will help children develop critical skills to set them on a path to success. As we work to make Brooklyn a great place to raise healthy children and families, it is precisely this kind of early and targeted approach that will foster the next generation of young leaders in every neighborhood of our diverse borough.”

“I commend First Lady Chirlane McCray and Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore for this proactive and progressive initiative,” said State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “Experts have stated that brain stimulation in the early years of a child’s life results in great cognitive development as the child progresses through the education process. Immersing our little ones in language creates a bonding opportunity for parents and their offspring. Early intervention is the key to ensuring that our children are given every opportunity to maximize their fullest potential.”

“Raising a child is never an individual effort,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Everyone who is part of child’s life has the opportunity to guide their growth to be able to handle life’s challenges. That’s why equipping our parents, caregivers, and frontline staff with these tools and resources is so important. I applaud First Lady McCray and Robin Hood for this innovative approach to support our City’s children.”

“I want to commend First Lady Chirlane McCray and Robin Hood for their efforts to implement better learning techniques for our city’s youth,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “As a community, we need to focus more resources on our young children who do not receive the appropriate mental stimulation at an early age. The learning trajectories of children ages zero to three should not be determined by income level, and that is why the implementation of these educational techniques is so important. We want to encourage our parents to be involved in the education of their children from the very beginning, and this partnership is an important part of that process.”

“The early years are a time of great promise for children, and we are proud to be working with Robin Hood and the Bezos Family Foundation to help kids begin life with strong foundations,” said John Overdeck, Founder of The Overdeck Family Foundation.

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