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Stress Health is a multi-phased awareness and education initiative led by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), which spans five years and is designed to build parents/caregivers’ awareness of the connection of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to health, provide them tools to be strong buffers for their children, and move them to be advocates for ACEs screening with pediatricians and, in the long-term, with policymakers. The first phase of the initiative is an online campaign driven through social media, promoting a 15-second video about toxic stress that directs viewers to an online parent portal to learn more. CYW recognizes social media as a highly effective dissemination channel and has developed tools designed to educate and empower parents and caregivers and turn knowledge about ACEs into action. CYW also understands that public health messages are most effective when there is a direct community connection to the issue, therefore the second component of the initiative is focused around developing community partnerships with child-serving organizations such as nonprofits, school districts, and medical providers to offer educational resources and equip organizations, where appropriate to conduct ACEs screening.
While pediatric practitioners and researchers in the field are studying the effects of childhood adversity on children’s brains and bodies, findings are not commonly translated to parents and caregivers in a useful way. However, ACEs affect 34.8 million children across socioeconomic lines in the US, and research shows that parents and caregivers can be the most powerful force in preventing or even reversing the impact of toxic stress in their children. CYW strives to equate the harmful effects of smoking on a child’s brain and body to that of toxic stress and make the issue of ACEs and toxic stress just as familiar to the general public. In recognizing the profound, universal impact that ACEs have across the country, we see the Stress Health Initiative as a creative, innovative way to broaden awareness and conversation around this issue while advocating for a more trauma-informed society across child-serving sectors.
The Stress Health campaign is being spearheaded by CYW’s Marketing and Communications director, Jabeen Yusuf, who joined CYW in 2015 with 15 years of experience leading brand strategy, campaigns, and communications planning. The Stress Health campaign was developed throughout the majority of 2017 and the messages were informed by parents, caregivers, and pediatricians–key stakeholders in the issue of ACEs and toxic stress. By determining their understanding of ACEs and toxic stress through interviews and conducting focus groups to test messaging, we are able to ensure that the campaign resonates with our intended audience and encourages action. Jabeen is disseminating information about the innovation through social media channels and, throughout the second phase of the campaign, will be partnering with pediatric medical providers and community organizations across the country to incorporate Stress Health resources into existing frameworks and materials.
CYW has enlisted the support of three agencies to support the development of our digital media campaign efforts for Stress Health: RS + Crew to develop the campaign creative; Mainframe Interactive to develop and execute media strategy; and KNI to build the Stress Health website which serves as the central content hub for the campaign (www.stress-health.org). CYW has secured a partnership with Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York, a nonprofit providing comprehensive services to children and families through schools, health centers, and community organizations. With this partnership, CYW has the opportunity to integrate Stress Health resources in a school-based health center within HCZ, with the potential of expanding to scale the integration with other HCZ partners as well. As we expand this work, we intend to approach other community partnerships in a similar fashion where we tap into a network of organizations for efficient and effective scaling.
The ultimate goal of Stress Health is to spread awareness of ACEs across child-serving organizations and encourage ACEs screening with medical providers. Therefore, we envision a broad scope of possible replicability by using Stress Health resources as a starting point and/or supplement to existing curriculum and information. For example, school districts could incorporate Stress Health materials as part of their resources for teachers and counselors, and partner organizations could utilize them with after-school programs. The beneficial aspect of the Stress Health campaign is that it has the potential to make a great impact and not require organizations to significantly change their existing models.
CYW’s vision is that ACE screening becomes a routine part of pediatric primary care by 2028. We feel that the next five years will be a critical time for converting societal momentum into enduring practice. Over the next five years, we believe that we can accomplish the following: -Reach 38.9 million adults annually through the Stress Health campaign (estimated 155.8M total impressions per year, assuming 4x maximum exposure = 38.9M total unique impressions with projected investment and planned platforms). -Estimated 5% engagement potential of parents (1.95M annually) to take action, visit the Stress Health online parent portal, access education tools and information (based on industry standard rates). This level of impact would ensure that additional children, families, and their doctors are recognizing ACEs as a significant factor in children’s health and are conducting early screening and providing necessary interventions to mitigate their long-term effects.