Growing up in DC

A Neighborhood-Based, Multidimensional, Longitudinal Collaborative to Enhance Childhood Development and Wellbeing in Washington, DC

Introduction

In support of Georgetown University’s focus on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation, the University Wide Initiative on Reducing Health Disparities is launching a Longitudinal Initiative for the youngest African-American children in the District of Columbia to achieve better long-term health outcomes.   The Georgetown University team has met over the last fiscal year to begin the planning for this 10-20 year initiative.  Our most recent meetings have been with three community groups in Ward 8 with whom we hope to partner to develop and implement this initiative: Building Bridges Across the River, Ward 8 Health Council, and Martha’s Table.

Our Mission: Partnering With Families To Raise Thriving, Healthy Children

An interdisciplinary team of Georgetown University faculty proposes to launch a long-term intensive, multidimensional partnership with a neighborhood in Southeast Washington, DC to enhance the wellbeing of families with young children.

Building on deep existing collaborations with community leaders and DC government agencies, we will implement a multi-year initiative designed to benefit children growing up a long-underserved Ward 8 neighborhood or cluster of neighborhoods.[1]  Our central aim is to partner with families and communities in order to identify and implement interventions that effectively enhance resilience and interrupt cycles of disparities in health and social outcomes for children and families impacted by historical and structural inequities in the nation’s capital.

In our city, a child’s zip code too often predicts the economic opportunities available to her family, the quality of her education and medical care, and ultimately her lifelong achievement.  Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) critically impact developing brain architecture and physical health and increase lifetime risk for negative physical and mental health outcomes.  Timely, targeted interventions to support both children and their families will radically disrupt this dynamic and build resilience across generations. 

In order to accurately identify the most impactful intervention strategies, we must build a deep, trusting, and mutually informative collaboration that connects community leaders who understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of DC families with young children with Georgetown faculty with expertise in designing multi-generational strategies that optimize outcomes for young children and their caregivers. Georgetown is nationally recognized as a leader in interventions to improve child development and to address challenges for vulnerable families in areas such as promoting social and emotional development in early childhood education centers, integration of mental health services into pediatric primary care health settings, and developing culturally relevant and effective early intervention strategies for children at risk for mental health and developmental disabilities.  

This effort must begin by catalyzing a process of connecting Georgetown’s national leadership with local community-based expertise and commitment to home-grown solutions for children growing up in DC.

[1] Because of strong existing community partnerships grounded in distinct Ward 8 neighborhoods, we propose exploring partnership with a targeted population in one or more of the following communities: Hillsdale/Fort Stanton, Shipley Terrace, Congress Heights, Bellevue, Washington Highlands, or Historic Anacostia.