Fund for Early Learning (FUEL)


In New York City, there are at least 100,000 children age 0-to-3 living below the poverty line. This early developmental stage is the most critical to a child’s future trajectory and lifetime outcome: one million new neural connections form every second during this period of a child’s life. These children are therefore especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of the extreme stresses of poverty – and they’re in significant danger of falling behind their more affluent peers. Gaps begin to appear as early as age eighteen months; moreover, the further behind the children fall, the more likely they are to suffer in the long-term.


Consulting with 80+ leaders in related fields and working closely with Jackie Bezos, a Robin Hood board member and chair of our early childhood committee, and John Overdeck, also a Robin Hood board member and co-founder of Two Sigma Investments, as well as several other lead funders – the Touradji Family Foundation, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, and the Heising-Simons Foundation – we created a three-part investment approach for FUEL.

This tripartite approach, along with our guiding focus on strengthening children’s language and social-emotional competencies, forms the foundation for a highly effective, outcomes-oriented initiative that meets parents’ needs and fits their realities.


Public-private partnership with the city via the Mayor’s Children’s Cabinet, to leverage child-facing city agencies as channels for change and measure their impacts on child development, and to offer parents, caregivers, and service providers the knowledge and skills needed to help young children thrive. To learn more, read the press release.

Collective action projects in two high-need community districts, led by coalitions in the South Bronx and Brownsville. Planning grants are underway with efforts to focus on offering parent- and child-facing services, rooted in the science of early brain development, but developed and implemented by participating community organizations.

Scalable, parent-facing programs: FUEL has made strategic investments in a series of promising programs based on their potential for scalability and impact. The first cohort of these programs includes: 1) a collaboration with Montefiore Hospital System to scale HealthySteps, a program that brings early childhood development expertise and coaching to parents in the primary care setting;  2) the replication of a video-coaching program, Filming Interactions to Nurture Development or F.I.N.D., to enhance the quality of critical parent-child interactions; and 3) the incubation of a program called Routine Language that will support the acquisition of vocabulary in bilingual low-income children.

Learn more about the challenges of early childhood education and the science behind brain development below.

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Challenges of early childhood education

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Early childhood brain development

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