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March 20, 2012

Building Healthy Children’: Making change in the community

Prevention program for teen moms is one of many supported by United Way’s Community Fund

Change Starts HereMonroe County has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in New York, and teen families face increased risks for child abuse, neglect, emotional difficulties, behavioral problems, and, ultimately, foster care placements.

The Building Healthy Children program seeks to reduce such risks. The program brings together Strong Social Work and Pediatrics’ medical talent outreach efforts and the Society for Protection and Care of Children’s expertise in social work with Mt. Hope Family Center’s evidence-based clinical therapy. 

United Way’s Blueprint for Change

A comprehensive community approach to addressing critical community issues through proven, evidence-based programs and initiatives. The United Way Community Fund addresses the following priorities:

  • Early childhood—initiatives that provide children with the best possible start in life;
  • School–aged youth—efforts to help students prepare for college, work, and life, by age 21;
  • Aging—support for older adults and their caregivers to allow seniors to remain active and independent as long as possible;
  • Crisis—organizations that help provide people in crisis, prevent regression, and provide assurance that families have their basic needs met;
  • Disability—programs to fully engage individuals with disabilities as members of the community.

“The strength of the program is its collaborative nature,” says Jody Todd Manly ’90 (PhD), clinical director of the Mt. Hope Family Center.
Building Healthy Children is one of the proven intervention programs supported by the United Way’s Community Fund, which provides funding to areas of the greatest need in the Rochester community. The University seeks to raise $1.4 million for United Way during its campaign, which kicked off Feb. 29.

Through a comprehensive approach, physicians, social workers, and psychologists reach out to young mothers through home visits with evidence-based support. They provide parenting education, parent-child attachment and maternal depression therapy, along with food, housing, and transportation support for up to three years. The program’s goals are to decrease the number of families involved with Child Protective Services and promote positive parent-child relationships with healthy child development.

“The benefits of United Way donations can really be felt in these families who are facing multiple challenges,” Manly says. “The needs are really high because these young moms are struggling with a lot of issues—finding their own voice, standing on their own feet, and having the responsibility of having a baby.”

Graduates of the program have talked about the importance of mental-health support, Manly says, which allows young moms to parent their children more effectively.

Several statistics point to the success of the program, which began in 2007 and has served more than 379 families:

  • 99 percent of participants have avoided foster care placement
  • 96 percent of participating families have avoided indicated Child Protective Service reports during their participation in the program
  • 81 percent of families completing the program achieved goals of remaining current with pediatric care, being up to date with immunizations, and complying with medical recommendations
  • 85 percent of the young families who have been enrolled in the program have continued to be involved through their children’s third birthday
  • 94 percent of mothers with elevated depressive symptoms who completed interpersonal psychotherapy as part of the program reduced their depression
  • 95 percent of families with identified treatment goals in the area of improving parent-child relationships made positive gains in the quality of their relationships.

In addition to United Way, the Monroe County Department of Human Services and the State of New York also provide funding for the program. Learn more about Building Healthy Children at



YellowJackets create ‘buzz’ around campaign kickoff

men singing

The University’s United Way campaign kicked off Feb. 29 with a special performance by the YellowJackets, who helped remind the University community to “Live United.”

The University, together with affiliated campaigns at Highland Hospital, the Highlands at Brighton and Pittsford, and Visiting Nurse Service, seek to raise $1.4 million for this year’s United Way campaign. Pledges will support initiatives crucial to the Rochester community. University faculty and staff have already pledged more than $875,000 toward the campaign.

The ePledge system,, a confidential online donation tool, is available to University faculty and staff. Paper pledge forms also can be downloaded from the University’s United Way website,

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