TAMPA, FL – The first 1000 days of a child’s life represent a significant development window. Although unable to speak, babies develop the majority of their brain cells before the age of three, building the foundation of language development.
Today, the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee, Tampa General Hospital, Advent Health, Healthy Start Coalitions, the Early Learning Coalitions, Florida Blue, PNC Bank and United Way Suncoast unveiled the First 1,000 Days - Tampa Bay Pilot initiative. Housed under the Forever 55 Legacy program and its Early Childhood Education pillar, the First 1000 Days - Tampa Bay pilot, will provide 20 disadvantaged families in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties with critical parenting guidance and navigational assistance. It is yet another way the Host Committee and Forever 55, alongside community and civic partners, are creating and implementing long-lasting initiatives throughout Tampa Bay.
“This is what Forever 55 is all about, helping be a part of the solution by supporting and launching sustainable initiatives that will have an everlasting impact on our community,” said Claire Lessinger, Chief Operating Officer of Super Bowl LV Host Committee. “By pooling resources and working with local partners, this pilot program will provide a network of wraparound services and better access to prenatal, newborn, and early childhood development care, giving children and families a crucial opportunity to thrive.”
At each child’s birth, the First 1000 Days - Tampa Bay Pilot will pair participating parents with a system navigator who will utilize the Unite Us network to identify supportive community resources that fit their needs. Additionally, each family will receive essential tools and instruction as they prepare to leave the hospital. Tools include items such as an iPad loaded with family support agencies, resources for parent/child engagement activities, instruction, such as 3T’s parenting, and a three-year subscription to MYON Reader for age-appropriate books.
“By 18 months old, children who have not experienced rich engagement with parents and caregivers begin to fall behind their peers,” said Dianne Jacob of PNC Bank, Chair of the Forever 55 Early Childhood Education Pillar. “Research has shown that low- and moderate-income families, many of whom disproportionately fall among minority groups, lack the resources needed to ensure their children are ready to enter voluntary Pre-K and kindergarten and prepare for a successful life.”
The importance of brain development during a child’s first 1,000 days is a relatively new concept, but research shows that many families are motivated by children successfully reaching their developmental milestones. However, socioeconomic inequities contribute to the disparities in childhood development for many communities. While programs exist to help address challenges, networks are often complicated and challenging to navigate. With the help of Unite Us, the First 1000 Days - Tampa Bay will establish an electronic referral system that provides essential information and coaching. When coupled with monthly touchpoints with the Healthy Start navigator, the initiative intends to remedy health and parenting barriers and, as a pilot, create a framework for a sustainable long-term community project.
“The Healthy Start Coalitions of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas are thrilled to be selected to participate in the Forever 55 Legacy Program -- First 1000 Days - Tampa Bay,” said Mary Jo Plews, Executive Director of Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas, Inc. “This offers a unique opportunity to support families and caregivers of newborns to age three, the most critical time for a child’s development. Through this partnership, we will be able to support families and create a lasting impact on their child’s life; to be healthy, to understand and support their child’s development and early literacy, and be able to navigate and access needed services for their child.”