What We Do

Room to Grow addresses the statistical reality that children born into poverty are more likely to enter school behind their middle-income peers, leading to a lifelong educational achievement gap that is nearly impossible to overcome. Serving families from just before their child's birth through age three, we provide individualized parenting education and support, high-quality material items, and specialized referrals to vital community resources to ensure a healthy and secure start in life.

Parents visit Room to Grow every three months, starting from the mother's third trimester of pregnancy and then throughout the baby's first three years of life. At each visit, our licensed social workers help families navigate the challenges and celebrate the joys of parenting. This includes discussing developmental stages, offering strategies to recognize and respond to their child's many needs, and providing resources and support to help cope with raising a child in typically stressful circumstances. At every visit parents also receive age-appropriate material necessities, allowing them to provide fully for their baby in an immediate and meaningful way.

Model & Philosophy

Room to Grow’s research-informed three-year long program model combines tailored, one-on-one sessions with an expert clinical social worker, essential baby items to ensure a safe and enriching home environment, and connections to vital community resources.

Parenting Support
Parents gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to help their children fulfill their emotional, intellectual, and physical potential through one-on-one sessions with licensed clinical social workers. Room to Grow:

  • Offers parents comprehensive information, coaching, and support at each developmental stage
  • Detects early signs of risk and facilitates treatment when necessary
  • Nurtures the development of coping skills, builds confidence, and affirms parenting strengths, to help manage the stresses of raising a baby in poverty

Material Goods

Families receive books, toys, clothing, and equipment, alleviating financial strain and ensuring they have high-quality items to build a safe and enriching home environment. As part of the clinical session, Room to Grow social workers:

  • Help parents select developmentally appropriate items that support specific areas of learning and growth
  • Model for parents ways to use items to engage with their child to maximize its educational effectiveness
  • Provide items free of charge, ensuring that parents have the tools and materials to put ideas and techniques into practice at home

Specialized Referrals

Families are connected to community-based services such as early intervention programs, career counseling, mental health support, and housing assistance. These resources help to:

  • Strengthen the stability of the family system
  • Support healthy child development
  • Build a local network of support by graduation, providing ongoing security

Our clinical philosophy is to serve families with dignity and respect. Room to Grow’s Family Center is designed like a boutique and is integral to our efforts of providing a warm, welcoming and dignified experience. Our therapeutic, psychodynamic approach is at the root of facilitating long-term change in each of our families.

The Need We are Addressing

The first years of life are an especially critical time in which a baby's brain development and overall well-being are particularly influenced by their environment. Research on brain and child development shows that a child's early experiences and relationships deeply influence all areas of development, including social, emotional, intellectual, motor and language. (1)

Babies who are raised with loving, engaging, and responsive caregiving, and within a secure and stimulating environment, have the best chance for optimal brain development and ongoing healthy development. For a child born into an impoverished environment, the capacity for healthy development is compromised by multiple risk factors, including a lack of basic comforts, poor nutrition, minimal opportunities for stimulation and enriching activity, unpredictable or unstable surroundings, and maternal depression. Parents who struggle daily to provide basic necessities for their family may not have the time, resources, or information to provide their babies with the stimulating experiences and safe environment optimal for healthy development. Research shows that without such opportunities, these babies are at a significant disadvantage later in life. (2)

To learn more about our program impact, click here.

1. Zero to Three, Healthy Minds: Nurturing Your Child's Development from 0-2 Months
2. Zero to Three/Ounce of Prevention Fund, Starting Smart: How Early Experiences Affect Brain Development

Did You Know?

Did you know babies can recognize their mother's voice in the very first days of life?

  • A newborn's interest in staring at other babies turns into the capacity for cooperation, empathy, and friendship.
  • Children who receive reliable, warm and responsive caregiving by the end of their first year are unlikely to produce increases in the stress hormone cortisol, while those with insecure attachment are likely to show elevations in cortisol in situations that upset them. Elevated levels of cortisol can have an impact on behavior later in life.
  • Researchers who examine the life histories of children who have thrived despite many challenges have consistently found that these children have had at least one stable, supportive relationship with an adult early in life.
  • The cerebral cortex - the area of the brain in charge of language, thinking, memory, and attention - adds about 70% of its final DNA after birth and thus is directly influenced by early experiences.

In the United States:

  • 2.7 million children under the age of three live in poverty. (1)
  • Another 5.3 million children under the age of three live in low-income families (defined as living in families with incomes below 200% of the poverty line). (1)
  • The federal poverty guideline for a family of three is $18,751 -but many researchers believe that grossly underestimates how much it takes to support a family. (1)

In New York City:

  • 1 in 3 children are living in poverty. (2)
  • 177,000 children live in community districts where the child poverty rate exceeded 50%. (2)
  • Over 1.7 million New Yorkers live below the official federal poverty line ($23,314 for a family of four). (3)
  • Poverty rates are the highest for single mothers, increasing to 43% in 2012 from 40.4% in 2011. (3)

In Boston:

  • Average rental prices in Boston are among the highest in the nation and subsidized housing often has a wait list of more than two years. (4)
  • 30.5% of children live in households with incomes below the poverty line. Comparatively, 21.2% of households are in poverty. (5)
  • Nearly 75% of all the families in poverty are female-headed. Over 60% of those women have a high school diploma or less. (5)
  • In Massachusetts, the annual cost for full-time infant child care is more than $16,000, which is roughly equivalent to the yearly pay of a full-time minimum-wage worker. (6)

1. National Center for Children in Poverty (2015). Basic Facts About Low-Income Children, Children Under 3 Years
2. Citizens Committee for Children of New York, Inc. (2014). NYC Children and Families in 2013
3. Community Service Society (2013). Statement on Latest New York City Poverty Rates
4. Boston Public Health Commission, Health of Boston 2014-2015
5. Boston Redevelopment Authority Boston by the Numbers, Children 2012, Families 2012
6. Child Care Aware of America