Early Childhood Development

Supporting children's school readiness

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The Ford Family Foundation is working to increase the number of children in rural Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., who are entering kindergarten “school-ready.” We are making substantial investments towards programs, practices, capacity building, and strengthening systems and infrastructure to improve results for young children and their families. 

Investing in the early years pays off 

  • The chances of upward social mobility are lower for children with parents who struggle to create a nurturing and stimulating home environment. Children with strong parents are more likely to succeed at all of life’s critical stages. 
  • Many studies have shown that children’s language and literacy, social/emotional, early math and self-regulation skills at kindergarten entry are strong predictors of future school success. 
  • Investing in high quality early childhood and dual-generation programs can positively impact a child’s educational attainment, overall health, and later life earnings—while decreasing costs to society. 
  • There is an array of proven practices and program models that impact young children. Some of these include: parenting education, home visitation, trauma-informed care and professional development for early childhood professionals. 

Focus Areas

These focus areas are largely based on Zero To Three’s Policy Framework, though our work spans the prenatal to 5 age range.

Strong Families: Traditional wisdom, experience and research tells us that early learning starts at home and that families are children’s first and most influential teachers. That doesn’t mean that families — all families — can’t use extra support and guidance. As the saying goes, “Children don’t come with instructions!” Two important areas that we focus on to help parents are parenting education and home visiting. 

Quality Early Care and Education: Access to high-quality early care and education positively influences outcomes for young children. Early learning happens in many settings including home-based child care, preschool classrooms, play groups at church and elementary schools, and story time at the library. We have two program elements related to quality early care and education. The first is our work in prenatal to 3rd Grade (P3) alignment (the Yoncalla Early Works demonstration site). The other is professional development for those caring for and teaching our young children. 

Healthy Children: School readiness for children begins with good physical and mental health — starting before birth.  At this time our focus on the prenatal-to-age-five health arena is, appropriately, in its infancy. We have identified two health-related issues we will be exploring: maternal/pediatric screening and early childhood (especially infant/toddler) mental health.

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The Foundation also enters into strategic partnerships with key players focused on early childhood development and school readiness. These partnerships are by invitation only. Examples of such partnerships: Oregon Community Foundation for the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative, and the Children’s Institute, Yoncalla School District and Portland State University for the Yoncalla Early Works demonstration site.  

Funding Opportunities

Grants: Open

Focus: We look for requests that align with our focus areas (see above) and that:

  • Provide a clear assessment of need and a plan to address the need 
  • Provide a realistic timeline and budget
  • Show strong community support as evidenced by donations, in-kind and partnerships, and 
  • Explain how success will be measured

Typical Grant Size: Not to exceed $25,000. While there are exceptions, we prefer to fund no more than one-third of a proposed project. Single and multi-year proposals are accepted.  

Types of funds: Programs, projects, operating requests, capacity building, capital projects, and research directly related to improving rural children’s school readiness in Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif. 

Timing: Should the request be approved, funds will be released in no less than 60 days and may take six months to a year, depending on the project scope and review process.

Geography served: Rural communities with less than 35,000 in population not adjacent to or part of an urban or metropolitan area.

Population served: Prenatal to children age 5. 

View eligibility requirements »


Other Current Funding Opportunities »  

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