Learn More About our DC Initiatives in 2021
Parent-Child Health Initiative
The Foundation is deeply committed to improving parent-child health outcomes in and around our nation’s capital based on the belief that the health and wellness of a child in its early years are vital to the future of a community. Through our Parent-Child Health Initiative, we have committed $57 million in total to support the programming and infrastructure of hospitals and community-based organizations that serve parents, infants, and young children in the DC region. Our investments are helping to expand hospital- and community-based perinatal health services, and to strengthen collaboration between hospitals, community-based health providers and funders to move toward a comprehensive, integrated, culturally responsive system of support. Highlights in 2021 include:
- New investments in organizations providing critical direct services, including a pilot of the Nurse Family Partnership program at Mary’s Center, the responsive growth of the Greater DC Diaper Bank, and the expansion of Mamatoto Village.
- Building the early learning sector through an investment in the launch of a new online Child Development Associate program at American University that will serve District residents who aspire to be early childhood education professionals.
- Continued support of the Early Child Innovation Network teams at MedStar-Georgetown Medical Center and Children’s National Medical Center, who are innovating to advance early childhood and family wellbeing through interventions centered around building mental health knowledge and skills among early learning providers and leveraging parent leadership and peer support.
- MedStar’s leadership of collaborative, cross-initiative work to improve maternal health outcomes through a broadening of the lens on patient history, and its work with Community of Hope to expand access to high-quality maternal care for residents Wards 7 and 8.
As a midwife in Washington, DC, Ebony Marcelle, Director of Midwifery at Community of Hope, has helped countless expectant mothers in Washington have healthy and successful births. Her reward, she says, beaming, is meeting the product of her work years later and watching them grow up.
“Seeing the babies I caught—my babies—two, three, four years down the road is the greatest feeling,” she says. “It’s why I do what I do.”
One day in 2015, Marcelle and the entire Community of Hope family learned that they would have to find a new home for the Center. The landlord, who had been providing the building at below-market rates as part of a 20-year lease, had sold to a developer. Community of Hope would have to find a new home or shutter.
“The Family Health and Birth Center provides critical prenatal care and health care for the whole family. It was, and is, the only free-standing birth center in Washington and currently the only place in the entire eastern half of the city where a mother can give birth to her baby,” Marcelle notes with pride. “That’s an important place to have in the community and one the community can’t do without.”
Considerable disparities in maternal health outcomes in Washington exist. Black mothers are five times more likely to lose a child in infancy than white mothers. The risk of dying in childbirth is higher, too. And the inequities go well beyond maternal and infant care—including higher rates of disease, trauma, depression, and even death. Located in Washington’s under-resourced Ward 5, Community of Hope is, quite literally, a lifeline.
“There still isn’t a hospital east of the Anacostia,” Marcelle says of the river that bisects the nation’s capital. “Community of Hope provides a critical service to Washington’s most underserved people.”
The news that a move was in order was not entirely unexpected, Marcelle admits. Established in 2000, the Family Health and Birth Center signed a lease for the next 20 years. At the time, to Marcelle, that seemed like a lifetime. But, just as the first generation of children birthed at the center was turning high school-age, Kelly Sweeney McShane, Community of Hope’s CEO, feared that the center would exist no more.
The search for a new lease commenced almost immediately, but it soon became clear that the price to remain in the Ward 5 neighborhood where the Center thrived would be steep. A lease also meant continued uncertainty in the future, when rent could potentially increase or the lease could not be renewed. Leaders contemplated a move to Ward 7, but ultimately decided—with the strong suggestion of current clientele—that staying in Ward 5 was critical.
Faced with dwindling prospects for a new lease, Community of Hope leaders began to consider purchasing property to call their own, a daunting prospect. Ownership would guarantee that Community of Hope Family Health and Birth Center, a bedrock of the Washington community for two decades, would become a permanent fixture.
In September 2019, the Clark Foundation, in its work to improve the quality of parent-child health care for families in the DC area, went all-in on Community of Hope with a $7.5 million investment to support the acquisition and redevelopment of an all-new Family Health and Birth Center.
With Clark’s stamp of approval—and a generous gift from Developing Families Center, the previous landlord—Community of Hope was able to purchase a building and property that used to be a fireman’s union hall just a mile and a half from the previous facility.
Fast forward a few years, the all-new Community of Hope Family Health and Birth Center is set to open its doors in spring 2022. Today, on the cusp of that occasion, the expanded and completely refitted Family Health and Birth Center will be more than a maternity center. In addition to its brand-new state of the art birthing facilities designed to welcome those giving birth and their families, the Center has expanded its full-fledged medical facility for the whole family. At 20,000 square feet—more than double the 9,000 square feet of the previous operation—and complete with a pharmacy, emotional wellness supports, pediatric care and more, the center will continue to be the bedrock of the community.
“Our vision is that every family in Washington has access to quality health care for the whole family, including maternal and child health services,” says McShane.
“We are 1 of 5 federally qualified health centers in the country with a birth center,” Marcelle notes. “From a reproductive justice standpoint, accepting Medicaid at a birth center is a rarity. Of the 300-some birth centers in the country, only about 10 accept Medicaid. That’s huge.”
Marcelle was impressed not only with the generosity of so many people who donated to make the dream of ownership a reality, but also the sheer commitment of Community of Hope’s leadership to the city and the people of Washington.
“When it was time to plan what the facility would become, they went right to the source, asking the patients themselves what they wanted and needed,” Marcelle says. “Our patients told us not to move, but if we must, to stay in Ward 5. Then they told us everything from what furniture to buy to what art to hang on the walls.”
Most importantly, the Clark Foundation’s investment in the Family Health and Birth Center—the first and largest among all donors—has become a gift that keeps on giving. The much-needed stamp of approval that Clark’s trust provided to Community of Hope, and the massive down payment it made on its future, has inspired many others to give. To date, 322 additional donors have joined the cause, lifting total funding well beyond Community of Hope’s original $10 million target to more than $11,700,000—most of it raised amid a pandemic.
“Without Clark’s timely and generous support in September 2019, just months ahead of the onset of the pandemic, Community of Hope simply would not have been able to secure the property,” McShane asserts. “Any delay, any lull, could have had serious ramifications for the future of the Family Health and Birth Center.”
Adds Ebony Marcelle, “Clark’s belief in Community of Hope has been the game-changer.”