The Baby College®
The seeds of long-term success are sown in early childhood. The Baby College® program works to ensure that, from the time they are born, our kids are immersed in healthy, supportive environments that will enable them to thrive and set them on the path to school and college readiness. The critical first step in HCZ’s cradle-through-college pipeline of best-practice programs, The Baby College gives expectant parents and parents of children ages 0-3 a strong understanding of child development and the skills to raise happy, healthy babies. Through workshops and home visits over the course of a 9-week term, parents gain expertise in a number of areas, including child behavior and safety; communication and intellectual stimulation; linguistic and brain development; and health and nutrition.
The curriculum is also designed to promote a sense of community. Time is devoted in each class to sharing and discussing personal experiences, thus giving participants an important outlet, a crucial source of support, and an opportunity to learn from their peers. The key to the program’s success is our outreach and our flexibility. Our dedicated staff goes door to door, apartment to apartment, building to building, and block to block to engage new participants, and conducts regular home visits to reinforce the curriculum and make sure our families’ needs are met. Classes are offered in English, French, and Spanish to better serve Harlem’s diverse population, and families have access to the full array of HCZ’s social services. Ultimately, The Baby College is not only helping to create a solid foundation for child development, but also helping to strengthen and rebuild the community, family by family, from the roots up.
The Baby College® GRADS
We introduced The Baby College® GRADS (Guardians Responding and Developing Strategies) program in 2010 to give graduates of The Baby College® an opportunity to deepen both their understanding of child development and their relationships with one another. Drawing on the most recent scientific research in infant and toddler brain development, GRADS staff help parents learn how to build strong interactions with their children, create a literacy-rich environment, and foster early language skills through weekly home visits and biweekly group meetings. While the training is intensive, the mood is light. Meetings have the informal, convivial feel of a neighborhood play group, with parents learning how to stimulate their children’s minds and growth through basic everyday activities. Indeed, any moment can be a teachable one—even a simple trip to the grocery store is a chance to explore, educate, and bond with their children. GRADS ensures that caregivers receive the education and support they need during the pivotal first three years of their children’s lives, working with them consistently until they transition to the next program in our pipeline, The Three-Year-Old Journey.