Promising Practices: Reaching Underserved Families and Caregivers

February 15, 2019

 Bright by Three ad

Bright by Three is a Colorado-based organization that equips families with tools to promote their child’s healthy development through the most pivotal stages of growth during the earliest years of life. The organization partners with pediatricians, researchers and other child development experts to design program materials in English and Spanish, delivered to families through a visitation program and Bright by Text. Since its launch in 1995, Bright by Three has given early education and support to more than 200,000 families in Colorado. In 2012, the organization decided to look into how they could expand their reach to parents and caregivers not served by the visitation program.

They were especially interested in reaching parents and caregivers in underserved populations and tech-savvy millennial parents. With the help of researchers, they explored various communication methods such as email, mobile apps and text messages. Their team discovered that due to the interruptive nature of texting, it had the highest level of consumer engagement. Additionally, it does not require users to have a smartphone or costly data plan.

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This led Bright by Three to launch a new program, Bright by Text, in 2015. The goal was to distribute text messages to parents and caregivers targeted to the child’s age. The texts offer research-based content developed internally, and in collaboration with trusted partners like PBS and Vroom. Messages include information on child development, language and early literacy, health and safety, behavioral tips and more. After 20 years of working with community partners to serve families, Bright by Three knew many organizations throughout the community offered valuable services for families. Through local messages segmented by ZIP codes, Bright by Text connects families with these services.

With interest from strategic partners such as PBS and United Way, the program quickly grew and expanded beyond Colorado to Arizona, California, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Today, Bright by Text has more than 34,000 subscribers across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and it continues to grow.

How the Program Works

In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form in a child’s brain every second. A major factor in this developmental process is the “serve and return” relationship, a back and forth interaction between the child and the child’s parents and other caregivers in the family or community. Caregivers who are equipped with effective skills and information can help mitigate adverse childhood experiences. That is where Bright by Text comes in. The program supports families by reinforcing positive adult-child interactions and healthy early childhood development through positive early experiences.

Bright by Text is available to parents, other family members, friends, neighbors and caregivers of children birth to five, in English or Spanish. Subscribers can expect to receive 3-5 text messages each week directly to their cell phone. Messages include free activities, games and resources. Some texts also include information about caregiver wellbeing and maternal mental health. Parents and caregivers who provide their zip code also receive messages promoting local resources and events (For example: "Positive Parenting class at Central High School. To register, use this link", or “Free Immunization Clinic this Saturday at Hotchkiss Family Clinic, 2-5 pm”).

The success of Bright by Text has meant that the library of messages families receive continues to grow. Many of the messages include short modeling videos that show the desired responsive back-and-forth-interaction between a child and parent or caregiver that takes place during a learning activity. These videos are especially useful to parents or caregivers who: have low literacy levels, speak a language other than English or Spanish, or have hectic schedules or prefer to view a brief modeling video and skim the text.


Demonstrated Success

Bright by Three has conducted a series of validated surveys and gathered engagement data and caregiver-reported demographic information, to assess the program’s reach and impact. In collaboration with respected researchers in the early childhood field, to analyze program impact, results from surveys conducted in 2017 include:

  • 95% of respondents say they know behaviors that support a child’s language and socio-emotional development after participating in Bright by Text.
  • Preliminary analysis of the data shows a high penetration in urban, rural and frontier communities; a high level of engagement between parents/caregivers and children; and a high penetration in at-risk populations and in families that live in geographically isolated areas.

Learn More

Bright by Text is an innovative program with something unique to offer all caregivers of young children! For Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies, this program highlights the opportunity to leverage text messaging in consumer education and outreach. They are looking to expand the program to communities in every state, and sees partnering with CCR&Rs as integral to expansion. For more information, visit brightbytext.org/partners or contact Rebecca Levy, Senior Program Manager. 

The Promising Practices Spotlights illuminate some of the successful ways early childhood programs around the nation are connecting with families and communities through high-quality engagement initiatives.

 

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Topics: Business Operations for CCR&Rs, Family & Community Engagement, Best Practices

April Dodge-Ostendorf

Written by April Dodge-Ostendorf

April Dodge-Ostendorf, MSW, is Director of Strategic Initiatives at Child Care Aware® of America. She has 15 years of professional experience advancing social service systems for children and families at local, state and national levels. April’s current work includes stakeholder engagement, program implementation and evaluation for initiatives that align with national priorities.