Kimber Bogard, PhD, is the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Programs at NYAM. Her work includes the East Harlem Action Collaborative (EHAC) for Child Health and Well-being, which brings together the trusted voices of resident caregivers, along with direct service providers, technical advisors, and elected and public officials to identify solutions and put forth recommendations for a better tomorrow for all children.
Why is it so important to work directly with local caregivers on a child health initiative like EHAC?
East Harlem caregivers (both parents and grandparents who are the primary caregivers of young children) know best what their children need, but they don’t always have access to the resources, or the systemic barriers seem too great to tackle. Our role is as a connector—we have to listen first, be humble, and admit we don’t have all the answers. We just provide the platform for them to lead policy change so that their children can thrive.
What has the collaborative accomplished in its first year?
We’ve learned about the caregivers’ hopes and dreams for their children through PhotoVoice (view the interactive gallery here). We’ve mapped out 150 existing resources for families and children in East Harlem and are collecting data on whether the families know about them, can access them, and currently use them. This will help us inform local policymakers, who want to make sure they are funding the services and programs the community needs. We’re also connecting the caregivers directly with the policymakers to advocate for targeted resources and changes in systems to help their children thrive. We’ve learned that they want their children to have the same resources that are available on the nearby but vastly more affluent Upper East Side, like coding classes, STEM activities, and summer programs.
What would success look like for this initiative?
In the next phase, we’re looking to engage East Harlem youth as well as more caregivers to share their experiences and goals. Ultimately, to us, success would look like East Harlem caregivers bringing a unified voice to their elected officials with clear goals driven by research and data. It would look like the creation of more targeted resources in the community that are geared to the caregivers’ goals for their children. And ultimately, it would look like shifting the power 100% to the caregivers so they have a sustainable platform to do this work without needing us to act as a connector.