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Collaborative helps keep children on track

Children’s Institute, Causewave Community Partners and a collaborative of child-serving organizations this week announced a new community campaign to ensure families are aware of the benefits and availability of free developmental checks for young children.

Organizers noted that just 20 to 30 percent of children with health, behavioral and development problems are identified and receive appropriate interventions prior to entering school. The Get Ready to GROW collaborative, led by Children’s Institute, features screenings designed to support a child’s doctor by providing complementary information that they would not get during a typical well visit.

In addition to height, weight, vision and hearing, the development checks will look at movement, dental, speech and language, thinking and reasoning and more.

“This campaign helps parents know about Get Ready to GROW’s comprehensive, convenient and fun checks – with trusted follow-up and support. Every parent should have as many people as possible in their corner and help at their fingertips, as growth is rapid during childhood and a worry can rise quickly,” said Children’s Institute Executive Director Ann Marie White.

Regional advertising agency Mower donated time and talent totaling more than $90,000 to develop the Let Their Greatness GROW campaign. The initiative is designed to raise awareness and educate parents about the screenings. The advertising acknowledges that parents often see things in their child’s behavior they are unsure of or think will go away with time. With the help of a screening they can uncover their child’s strengths and if a need is identified take action to ensure their development is on track. Additional pro bono production support for the campaign was donated by PushMP and dPost.

“This was a complex challenge as parents have a lot on their plates, and it can be scary to think about your child needing help in order to thrive,” said Causewave President and CEO Todd Butler. “We needed the team at Mower to come up with a messaging strategy that was clear, focused, optimistic and empowers parents to take action for their child. They really delivered.”

The Get Ready to GROW comprehensive screening model is more than just a one-time check. A GROW navigator partners with the family, school, child care providers and physicians to better understand a child’s developmental path. Navigators will assist parents and work with the support network to help ensure the child is prepared for success in school.

“Get Ready to GROW screenings are more comprehensive than what I would normally be able to do in the office and provide links to services and navigation support not typically available,” said Sarah Collins-McGowan M.D., a pediatrician with Rochester Regional Health at Genesee Pediatrics and the Center for Refugee Health. “It’s so easy to work with the GROW team as a provider. They figured out what our office needed and personalized processes for maximum efficiency and value.”

Initial funding came from Rochester’s Child, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., the city of Rochester, New York State Education Department and Rochester City School District to launch the development of the screening model and has been vital in getting the initiative to where it is today, officials said. Value-based payment in healthcare also is a source of funding, recognizing the value of early intervention and reimbursing screening costs.

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Children’s Institute takes screening program on the road

Children’s Institute has taken its “Get Ready to GROW” program on the road.

The Rochester nonprofit has designed and equipped a bus to provide developmental screening for young children throughout the Finger Lakes region. The service will begin once it is deemed safe to return to in-person services, officials said this week.

Children's Institute has designed and equipped a bus to provide developmental screening for young children throughout the Finger Lakes region. (provided)
Children’s Institute has designed and equipped a bus to provide developmental screening for young children throughout the Finger Lakes region. (provided)

Funding for the GROW bus program was provided by the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System and partnerships with community organizations. The GROW bus will allow Children’s Institute to reach families in a variety of settings to support kids’ healthy development.

Children’s Institute launched GROW-Rochester in 2016 in collaboration with multiple community organizations and Roc the Future. The program recently was renamed “Get Ready to GROW” in recognition of the initiative’s evolution and its goal to provide comprehensive screening and support for referral, follow-up and services for 1- to 5-year-old children throughout the region.

Each child’s vision, hearing, speech, dental health, social and emotional competence, cognitive functioning and physical development are checked by professionals using leading-edge tools and technology, officials said. All screenings and support are free to families.

GROW data reveals that more than 45 percent of kids screened have a potential need identified. Referrals for follow-up checks and services help ensure each child is ready to learn.

Children’s Institute is a national not-for-profit organization that works to strengthen children’s social and emotional health. Through research and evaluation, the organization develops and promotes effective prevention and early intervention programs, materials and best practices for children.

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Local nonprofits receive health care grants

Two local nonprofits will benefit from grants aimed at improving access to health care.

UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, will award more than $1.3 million in Empowering Health grants to 14 community-based organizations in the state of New York to expand access to care and address the social determinants of health for uninsured individuals and underserved communities.

Lifespan of Greater Rochester will receive $150,000 to support the Community Care Connections integrated care model for older adults and assess the effectiveness of interventions to address older adults’ social isolation and loneliness.

Children’s Institute will receive $30,000 to support Help Me Grow Rochester in screening for and addressing children’s social-emotional health.

In total, UnitedHealthcare will donate $12.3 million through Empowering Health grants across 21 states. The organization launched its Empowering Health commitment in 2018.

More than half of the grants will help organizations increase their capacity to fight COVID-19 and support impacted communities. The grants will help individuals and families experiencing challenges from social distancing, food insecurity, social isolation and behavioral health issues, which are among the most urgent needs resulting from the pandemic, officials said.

“This unprecedented environment has compounded challenges faced by New York’s most vulnerable residents and created further barriers to accessing the health care and services they need,” said Kathy Pizzano, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York. “Our support of these organizations in New York through this UnitedHealthcare Empowering Health commitment will help provide critical aid and resources to the communities in New York that need it the most.”

Providing access to better health in high-risk and high-need local communities is a profound challenge, officials said. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, nearly 80 percent of what influences a person’s health relates to nonmedical issues, such as food, housing, transportation and the financial means to pay for basic daily needs.

In addition to UnitedHealthcare’s support in New York, the company has launched similar community initiatives and public-private collaborations nationwide focused on addressing social determinants of health. UnitedHealthcare has invested more than $500 million in affordable-housing communities since 2011, partnered with food banks and meal-delivery services, and last year joined with the American Medical Association to standardize how social determinants of health data is collected and used to create more holistic care plans.

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Children’s organizations collaborative receives $4 million grant

A five-year, $4 million grant has been awarded to help integrate Rochester area organizations that work with children and families to promote the wellness of young children.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health Grant Program will assist the Rochester Whole Child Health Initiative: A Cross-Sector Collaboration to Help Kids Thrive. The funding will help Children’s Institute and its Rochester Whole Child Health Initiative partners to work together to conduct screenings and assessments to identify behavioral and developmental concerns, as well as provide training and consultation services to area health, early care and education professionals and parents, among other things.

“This grant focuses on improving the lives of children in Rochester,” Children’s Institute Executive Director Ann Marie White said in a statement. “We join with families in ensuring children have the foundation for strong social and emotional growth from the start. Together with partner agencies, we will work to close some service gaps to make comprehensive preventative care for children more possible in our community.”

Noting that Rochester ranks first in child poverty for mid-sized cities and is the fifth poorest city among the top 75 cities nationwide, officials said there are significant gaps in children’s behavioral health services to address the trauma-related issues that nearly three-quarters of Rochester area youth report having experienced.

“Our children deserve every opportunity to succeed, and this grant will play a critical role in helping to put our young people on the path to success,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle said. “Children’s Institute is already doing incredible work in supporting children’s social and emotional development and I am excited that their leadership has been recognized by SAMHSA through this award. I look forward to continuing our partnership as we work to support children in need and help Monroe County families thrive.”

The goal of the grant is to integrate education, behavioral, mental health and medical systems by using innovative approaches that have been vetted and proven effective. Rochester Whole Child Health Initiative partners include Children’s Institute, Common Ground Health, Mt. Hope Family Center, Society for the Protection and Care of Children, Golisano Children’s Hospital Department of Pediatrics at University of Rochester Medical Center, URMC Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness and URMC Women’s Health Practice.

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Children’s Institute names new director

The Children’s Institute has named a University of Rochester veteran as its next leader, succeeding Dirk Hightower, who has held the post for nearly three decades.

Ann Marie White
Ann Marie White

Ann Marie White in early August will assume the role of executive director of the nonprofit agency, whose focus is on improving the social and emotional health of young children locally, regionally and nationally.

White currently serves and will continue to serve as an associate professor, department of psychiatry at UR Medical Center, and upon assuming the directorship, will have a pending secondary appointment as an associate professor in the department of clinical and social psychology within the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.

“After a very thorough search, the board and staff are excited to welcome Dr. White to lead Children’s Institute as we start a new chapter,” said board President James Lewis III. “Ann Marie brings a wealth of knowledge on mental health to our agency and is the right person to guide Children’s Institute as we work with partners and funders to help expand our programs to reach more children in need.”

Hightower in January announced he would step down from his position as director of the agency he ran for much of his adult life and transition into a senior researcher role. Under his leadership the agency evolved into a “highly valued organization that uses a strategic, systematic approach to advancing social and emotional learnings,” officials said in a statement Tuesday.

The agency uses research and evaluation to develop and promote effective prevention and early intervention programs and best practices for kids, families, schools and communities. Children’s Institute is affiliated with the University of Rochester and has served the local and national community for more than six decades.

“I have been privileged to witness the impact of good people strengthening community,” White said. “Together we are stronger, and it is in this spirit that I begin my work at the Children’s Institute. I am excited to work with the exceptional management team and staff as we lead solutions to challenges children will face in the coming decade.”

White received a doctorate in human development and psychology from Harvard University Graduate School of Education and M.A. in developmental psychology from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

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Children’s Institute to spearhead training and coaching center

children's instituteRochester’s Children’s Institute has received a $2.6 million grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation to launch a new training and coaching center.

The Training and Coaching Center for Healthy Futures is a partnership of 13 community organizations, led by Children’s Institute, that will address the inadequate system of prevention and care that has led to a growing mental health crisis among children and adolescents. The center will equip professionals who work with children with tools and strategies to support whole child health, including social and emotional learning, physical and mental health and fitness and nutrition.

In the first year, the center will work with a small cohort of schools, early education sites and afterschool programs to assess their current practices related to whole child health, identify goals for improvement and provide coaching, consultation and training to achieve those goals. Center officials expect to grow the program to serve additional child-centered organizations across the nine-county region.

The long-term goal of the center is to develop ongoing coaching and training relationships with organizations and the families they serve. Children’s Institute will serve as the lead agency providing overall management, staffing and coordination with community partners and GRHF.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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