Room to Grow is a three-year program that solely supports low-income families with parenting education and material goods to ensure their children have the right skills to thrive from the start of their lives.
The non-profit organization is based in both New York and Boston. The Boston office, situated on Berkeley Street in Back Bay, was opened in 2005. Room to Grow will be moving to a new Boston office at the end of this year or in early 2019.
There are currently seven full-time and one part-time staff at the Boston base. Lauren Rogers has been with Room to Grow since August 2016. She initially served as development associate before becoming senior associate for external relations in May of this year.
“Most of a child’s development happens in those first three years,” Lauren informs. “Statistically speaking, generally low-income children that might not have the opportunities that their higher income peers have, they can be developmentally almost a year behind by kindergarten.
“We’re really focusing on those first three years as those critical pillars in a child’s life to really set them up on track and also to facilitate the parent-child bond.”
All families must be referred to use the program. The referrals can come from healthcare providers, primary care facilities or somebody can refer themselves to participate in Room to Grow’s services. All referrals must be made before the child is born as the first session with a clinician happens while the mother is still pregnant.
The program is completely free for low-income families as it is funded by individuals, corporations and foundations. Also, every piece of inventory at Room to Grow is donated.
Families that are accepted into the program meet quarterly with a Room to Grow clinician over the course of three years. There are 13 sessions in total with each engagement lasting two hours.
“The first hour of that visit is really focused on the child’s development, anything the parent may need. Anything that’s going on with the family. Really talking through everything that’s going on. The second hour of that visit is in the boutique space. They’re talking about safe sleep for their child and they’re picking out sleep sacks that can go directly into practice.
“In between the quarterly visits they keep in touch intermittently if anything’s going wrong or if coaching or advice is needed anywhere. At the end of our program, what we really see is that our children are meeting nine out of ten of their developmental milestones on time and our parents are becoming experts on child development and on parenting.”
Families from areas such as Lynn, East Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan use the services provided by Room to Grow. This September, the organization will have a satellite site at the Epiphany School in Dorchester and one of Room to Grow’s clinicians will be based at that middle school.
“We are partnering with them because we really realize that a pinnacle of our growth strategy is to partner with other organizations for locations,” says Lauren. “A lot of our clients are coming from Dorchester, Roxbury.
“The boutique model, we’re basically going to mimic that in a room at The Epiphany School so families can come there. That way we’re able to expand our reach geographically and partner with other likeminded organizations.”
On Saturday, November 3, Room to Grow will host their biggest fundraiser; the Annual 80s-themed Fall Benefit. The fundraiser will take place at Avenue 34 at Boston Park Plaza from 6.30pm-10pm.
Lauren expects around 400 people to attend the benefit night. Room to Grow intend to raise $450,000 at the fundraiser after generating just under $400,000 at the 2017 event.
“We expect to raise that through corporate sponsorships, individual sponsorships as well as a silent auction and mission based live auction at the event.
“There’s a cocktail party first. That lasts about an hour. You move down into the rest of the evening which is food stations, dancing, the program and live auction. We always have a client speaker at that event too. It’s one of our families who have recently graduated who share their experience about the Room to Grow program.”
As their name suggests, Room to Grow Boston have plans to expand in the future. They currently cater for 300 families in Boston.
“Our goal is to serve 1,000 families by 2022. We’ll do that through a combination of different things. We’re looking at some program innovations potentially to allow our clinicians to see even more families but we’re also looking to expand geographically.
“We have that satellite site opening at The Epiphany School. We’re going to be moving our hub location. We will be moving from 142 Berkeley Street come December or January.”
Image Attribute: Room to Grow