Over the past five years, the Bainum Family Foundation has engaged diverse stakeholders — including nonprofit organizations, early childhood educators, families and advocates — to work toward creating a comprehensive, equitable and sustainable birth-to-3 system in the District of Columbia.

This past fiscal year, our intent was to focus on elevating practitioner voices in policy decisions locally and equipping them to serve in that capacity. We established new partnerships with two practitioner-led organizations — the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children (DCAEYC) and the DC Family Child Care Association — in addition to our existing partnership with the District of Columbia Head Start Association.

When the pandemic struck, followed by sustained protests for racial justice, our Early Learning partners were exceptional in their responses, acting with urgency and creativity. Supported by emergency funding from the Foundation, says Marica Cox Mitchell, Director of Early Learning, “Our partners identified ways to meet the needs of infants and toddlers and their families across the District — through direct service and policy improvements — while managing their organizations’ operations during the global health crisis.”

Our policy partners played a key role in advocating for the well-being of the early childhood education profession. DCAEYC and the Under 3 DC coalition administered surveys to gather data from child care providers in the District. The insights gathered were shared in a short brief asserting the need for greater investments in the field so that early childhood educators could continue serving the community during the pandemic and beyond. This brief and resulting advocacy work supported the creation of a $5 million emergency relief fund by the District dedicated to early childhood education.

Our Early Learning partners — including Bright Beginnings, Inc. (top photo and above left), and Martha’s Table (above right) — have provided a range of vital supports to children and families with emergency funding from the Bainum Family Foundation.

Emergency funding from the Foundation also was instrumental in helping Bright Beginnings, Inc. (BBI), launch Project #BrighterTogether to take the organization’s work virtual during COVID-19. Each BBI family received a device that allowed BBI staff to remain in contact with children and families and to provide virtual educational and family support services. Through a series of distribution and delivery days, families received their devices and their “classroom in a box” — a book bag of learning resources and activities supported by BBI’s newly launched at-home learning platform. Additionally, families regularly received groceries, diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies, face masks and other essential items.

“The Bainum Family Foundation’s support has been immeasurable in BBI’s quest for growth, impact and service — both during these unprecedented times and through its ongoing support of our instructional coaches and practice-based coaching program and its investment in our new facility in 2018,” says BBI Executive Director Marla Dean, EdD.

Other work supported by our emergency funding includes the following:

  • Martha’s Table, Educare and National Children’s Center supported distance learning for children and professional development for staff, while also serving as resource hubs for families by providing meals, diapers and more.
  • Among the many supports it offered to families and other early learning centers, United Planning Organization (UPO) was designated by the District as a primary child care hub for essential workers during the pandemic.
  • Children’s Law Center and DC Appleseed used the Foundation’s emergency funding to reconfigure their organizations for remote work, allowing both organizations to maintain their advocacy services on behalf of families and young children.
  • DC Fiscal Policy Institute helped advocates and families understand pandemic-related changes to the D.C. government’s budget schedule and also trained members of the Under 3 DC coalition on the budget process to ensure effective advocacy on behalf of children and families.
  • DC Hunger Solutions helped government agencies apply for waivers for WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) and CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program) to better support access to services, which increased families’ food security in the District amid COVID-19.