Early Brain Development

Nurture Early Brain Development for All Children

Learn more about how we're taking action

The early years of a child’s life establish the foundation for all aspects of their development. Neuroscience and social science research point to the importance of healthy stimulation – hearing words and numbers and interacting directly with an attentive caregiver – to set children on a lifelong path to educational and employment success.

Yet, it can be challenging for working parents and single parents who do not have access to affordable child care or early learning programs to maximize high-quality interactions with their children. Growing up in stressful environments and experiencing trauma can also hinder early brain development and children’s ability to reach their full potential. A third of children from birth to age 3 in San Francisco and Alameda Counties are part of families struggling to make ends meet and are more likely to experience health, behavior, and learning challenges. By 2029, we commit to ensure that these children have the integrated health and social services that will help them thrive.

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Why Pediatricians?

Pediatricians see children almost a dozen times before age 3 for well-child checkups, time that provides a unique opportunity to promote healthy brain development. Their role is critical, because no other system comprehensively addresses all children in this age range. We are working with pediatricians to connect families to needed social services, better identify and treat toxic stress, and support families to promote their child’s cognitive development.

To reach our goal, the Stupski Foundation will invest in the following initial strategies in the Bay Area:

Connect families to the social services they need

Healthy home environments improve children’s development. We are partnering with the UCSF Center for Child and Community Health to ensure that pediatricians screen for unmet basic needs like sufficient food, housing, and places to play and then help families access needed resources. To start, we are looking at technologies that improve pediatricians’ ability to connect families to a wider network of essential resources, assist with follow-up, and track service utilization.

Recognize and treat toxic stress

Young children’s rapidly developing brains are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of toxic stress. We are partnering with local pediatricians to improve health care providers’ abilities to identify toxic stress and mitigate its current and future harms on children and help families take meaningful steps to address it in their children’s lives. We will support efforts to locally spread best practices in detection, diagnosis, and treatment of toxic stress.

Promote holistic development

Kids grow up in the context of their families and communities. During well-child visits, pediatricians can help families maximize their children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. We are partnering with researchers crossing over from early education to equip pediatric clinics with tools to help children build language skills, understand and work with numbers, and develop healthy social and emotional behaviors. As a result, children will have the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional skills to start kindergarten ready to learn. Clinics may offer supports such as helping families enroll in Head Start, distributing library cards, practicing reading with community health workers, or providing families with tips via text messaging about how to get the most out of quality time with their young children. Because this approach is relatively new, we will also support efforts to develop measurements that evaluate these new ways clinics support young children and their families.

In Hawai‘i, Stupski invests in organizations aligned with our focus areas. We are developing specific Hawai‘i strategies and investments in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and our other partners across the islands over the next year. We look forward to sharing those strategies soon.