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Harnessing Opportunities for Positive Early Childhood HOPE

HOPE–-Harnessing Opportunities for Positive Early Childhood--works to transform communities marginalized by disinvestment and racial inequality into areas of high-opportunity. HOPE is a multi-year, multi-state initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that uses intentional strategies to listen to and learn from community contributors and intended beneficiaries of state programs and services.

HOPE Goals

Working closely with state and local leaders, providers, and families, HOPE seeks to:

  • Promote optimal health and well-being of young children.
  • Shift or realign child- and family-serving systems to increase access to opportunity.
  • Create feedback loops to ensure that the lived experiences of program beneficiaries inform state actions to address and reduce racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic inequities.

By analyzing data and listening to the voices of intended program beneficiaries and community leaders, HOPE helps state leaders identify the barriers families face when trying to access services and supports for their children and themselves. Beneficiary voice visits, and ongoing connection, provide parents the opportunity to express their goals for their children, advance state and local leaders’ understanding of why services work or don’t work for families or are challenging for providers to offer, and which services and programs exist that families cannot access.

The efforts also build leader capacity to offer, in partnership with communities, continuous improvements to policy, practice, and funding to make systems work better and more equitably than before.

“We see data, we know it, but to truly engage with and interact with families and really share the story – it was a life-changing event. It allowed us over time to take that trust and come back and try to do good work.” – Lenore Scott, New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

State and community leaders work better together. No single state or local agency can, on its own, achieve better, more equitable outcomes for children and families living in low-opportunity communities.

State and Community Leaders Work Better Together

No single state or local agency can, on its own, achieve better, more equitable outcomes for children and families living in low-opportunity communities.

HOPE builds and strengthens cross-sector teams that work across multiple child- and family-serving systems, including child care, health and mental health, housing, workforce development, nutrition, parks and recreation, and transportation.

Learning from Data

Through engagement in HOPE, state and community leaders learn that:

  • A shared analysis of national, state, and local data, along with intentional efforts to listen to and learn from community leaders and program beneficiaries about the impact of services and supports on children’s lives, can catalyze increased access to programs and services.
  • Programs they thought were working well aren’t having their desired impact within marginalized communities.
    This kind of data analysis informs state leaders’ understanding of what changes are necessary to improve access to quality child care, health and mental health services, and job training and placement.

States Are Taking Action

What state leaders have heard from community leaders and families has helped them shift policy, practice, and programs. For example, home visiting programs in one state are being concentrated in counties in which access to quality prenatal and maternal health care is limited. In another, state workforce leaders are working with communities to remove barriers to jobs for those with past involvement in the child welfare and criminal justice systems. To honor and affirm Native American sovereignty, one state is changing how it negotiates state contracts with tribal leadership. One county in a major metropolitan area is implementing a presumptive child care eligibility policy for families receiving TANF benefits to expedite enrollment in child care for marginalized communities. Providers in another community are expanding summer care after parents told them it was desperately needed.

COVID-19 Response in HOPE Communities

Through HOPE, the BUILD Initiative established strong relationships with state, tribal, and community leaders in Alabama, California, Minnesota, and New Jersey. These relationships allowed us to support leaders engaged in shaping community-wide responses to COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic, the BUILD Initiative provided small grants to each state for the eight Project HOPE communities. These grants are helping young children and their families access e-learning, TANF, WIC, SNAP, and online employment sites with new laptops and tablets. The families also can access home visiting or other services such as support from early learning programs including Head Start, and preschool manipulatives for young children including books representing children’s cultures. The grants also have helped families secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer (which were not locally available) as well as diapers, wipes, and infant formula.


Sherri Killins Stewart Ed.D.
Director of Systems Alignment and Integration, Co-Director of State Services

Carey McCann
Co-Director of State Services

Michelle Stover-Wright
Research and Evaluation Manager

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