United for Brownsville launched in 2018 as a family-led collaboration to transform the early childhood systems in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Its philosophy is that outcomes for children in Brownsville result from anti-Black racism and systems rooted in white supremacy, and that parents and caregivers are essential partners in any effort to change these outcomes.
One priority of parents in Brownsville is Early Intervention, which they saw as providing crucial services for children but inaccessible to too many local families. Early Intervention is a federally-mandated program that addresses developmental delays and disabilities during the first 36 months of a child’s life, which can be critical to that child’s developmental and educational trajectory. Eligible children who are delayed walking, talking, playing, or growing receive services like speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy for free.
Disparate access to these interventions is understood to be one cause of the disproportionate outcomes in standardized test scores, graduation rates, and special education rates for children in Brownsville and other predominantly Black and Latinx communities. According to New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Black children are less likely to be referred to Early Intervention than children of other races. Once referred, Black and Latinx children are less likely to make it through the enrollment process. The trends in inequitable access to Early Intervention were even more pronounced in Brownsville when United for Brownsville negotiated neighborhood-wide reports from the Department of Health. In Brownsville, only 44% of children who are referred to early intervention actually enroll in services.
By pursuing solutions that are driven by data and centered on residents, United for Brownsville is working to help close those gaps. In 2021, 78% of the infants and toddlers that United for Brownsville referred to early intervention completed enrollment.
United for Brownsville is pursuing new resident-centered, data-driven solutions to other inequities in access to early childhood essential services, which include well-child visit completion rates, public benefits access, and enrollment in infant and toddler daycare and early childhood education.
United for Brownsville is a collaboration between SCO Family of Services and Community Solutions, and is an initiative of the Robin Hood Fund for Early Learning (FUEL).
- By offering parents and caregivers targeted support, United for Brownsville was able to raise enrollment in early intervention services to 78% of infants and toddlers referred. UB created Early Intervention Ambassadors, whose role is to help parents and caregivers navigate the system of services and clear any barriers to enrolling in early intervention services. These Early Intervention Ambassadors are there to make sure the developmental needs of Black and brown children in Brownsville are fully met.
- United for Brownsville has begun coaching three other communities in New York City to adopt its data-driven, resident-centered approach to ending neighborhood inequities in access to Early Intervention. This work is happening in collaboration with the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York and the Bureau of Early Intervention at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- United for Brownsville led a push to increase local sign-ups for the federal Child Tax Credit focused on helping the hardest-to-reach residents access benefits. During the fall of 2021, in one zip code alone, there was a 1200% increase in the rate of accepted applications and $366,600 delivered to residents.
- Through collaboration, we can strengthen services, networks, and outcomes for children. United for Brownsville successfully increased enrollment in Early Intervention services by creating the role of Early Intervention Ambassador, a community resource to help parents and caregivers navigate the enrollment process. To spread this progress throughout the community, we formed the Brownsville Early Intervention Equity Working Group, which includes about 25 local health care practitioners, mental health practitioners, social service providers, and educators who refer local children to Early Intervention. This group works in collaboration with United for Brownsville to take the emerging best practices identified by the Early Intervention Ambassadors and spread this information across the network of service providers. Together, these groups are coordinating and sharing information in order to increase enrollment throughout the neighborhood and correct the racial disparities in who is accessing these vital services.
- Trust the real experts: parents and caregivers. Too often, parents are told that what they are doing is wrong, rather than being celebrated for their strengths. Families are rarely asked about the challenges they face and how they could be better supported by the community. The providers working with UB know that improving outcomes for children requires making space for families at the planning and decision-making tables. United for Brownsville is guided by its Family Advisory Board, which is made up of local mothers, fathers, and grandparents, who are the experts at raising children in Brownsville.
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