A child’s earliest years set the foundation for a lifetime of health, learning, and well-being. For 60 years, the Packard Foundation has worked to make sure that families have what they need to support their children’s health and development. While our grantmaking strategies have evolved over the years, our work has consistently focused on ensuring that children get a strong, healthy start so they can reach their full potential.

In recent years, Foundation grantees have contributed to impressive progress to support children’s health and development. Grantees have helped to expand universal preschool and transitional kindergarten programs in California and to strengthen the early learning education system, increase access to paid family leave, and expand health insurance coverage and access to quality health care nationally.

This progress is meaningful, but there is much work left to do so all families with young children can thrive. Today, Black, Indigenous, and Latino families face stark disparities in maternal health and child development outcomes. Most urgently, as the United States grapples with a growing crisis in maternal and infant health – with infant deaths on the rise for the first time in decades and maternal mortality more likely in the U.S. than in any other high-income nation – these same families disproportionally bear the burden. Pregnancy-related deaths are 2-3 times more likely for Black and Indigenous women compared with White women, and Latino families have experienced an increase in maternal mortality since the onset of COVID-19. These disparities are largely fueled by racial biases in the systems families turn to for support, making it difficult for families of color to get the tools and resources they need to ensure a strong, healthy start for their children.

Moving forward, the Foundation’s new Children and Families initiative will work to ensure the systems that support moms, families, and children are stronger, better connected, and more equitable. We will expand our focus on young children to include pregnant people and moms, recognizing that a healthy start for children begins with healthy moms and healthy births.

The Children and Families initiative will:  

  • Invest in community partners who are working on innovative approaches to reduce racial disparities in maternal and child health outcomes.
  • Bolster efforts to strengthen and connect the healthcare, childcare, and financial supports systems so there is no wrong door for a family to seamlessly access the quality care and support they need. 
  • Support a national advocacy effort to connect policymakers and government leaders with the research, data, and analyses they need to champion policies designed to support families with young children. 

Read the full article about children's health by Bernadette Sangalang at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.