Family School Readiness: SEEDS Taking Root in L.A

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Family School Readiness: SEEDS Taking Root in L.A: Nurturing Families, Cultivating a Love of Learning

Los Angeles, Estados Unidos Los Angeles, Estados Unidos
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The SEEDS Program has partnered with the Violence Intervention Program in East L.A. to pilot a school readiness program for families of children with prenatal alcohol exposure, trauma and loss. SEEDS fosters children’s social, emotional, behavioral, and academic skills so they can succeed in school.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if all families received the support they needed for their vulnerable children to succeed in school?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is the leading known cause of developmental disabilities in the U.S. Children with PAE are more likely to be in special education and have high rates of suspensions, expulsions, and/or dropping out of school. School failure can often lead to a downward spiral into juvenile delinquency, and in fact, individuals with PAE are at increased risk for ending up in juvenile detention and correctional settings.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In the SEEDS for School Readiness Program, parents learn to help their children feel confident exploring their world, reinforce their children’s curiosity and sense of wonder, and provide support when their children face obstacles. In a family-infused child classroom, children and parents are immersed together in five-senses learning and nature-based play. Teachers and parents work together to help children learn social, emotional, behavioral and academic skills critical to their well-being and school success. In their own hands-on classroom, parents develop skills to create joyful learning experiences for their children, form effective parent-teacher partnerships, and build a network of support that endures beyond the walls of the program.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

“Maura,” a foster mother, was amazed her daughter “Lyn,” would “play SEEDS at home,” showing her younger siblings activities she learned at SEEDS, because Lyn had never shown a strong connection to any previous preschool. SEEDS helped Maura and Lyn strengthen their relationship, opening the door for Maura to help Lyn develop a love of learning. “Angel” shared how SEEDS nature-based learning activities helped him connect with his grandson “Joe” and to “see the world through his [grandson’s] eyes.” Angel described how a SEEDS home activity captured Joe’s imagination, and led to the entire family reading together for the first time. Angel believes SEEDS gave him the tools to parent more patiently the second time around.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

SEEDS-SR was piloted at UCLA with 18 preschool-age children and their families. Teachers observed improvements in children’s ability to focus, problem solve, and cooperate with peers. Parents reported improvements in children’s behavior outside of SEEDS, including following directions, turn-taking, and less aggression. The SEEDS team trained 15 VIP staff to implement SEEDS-SR. VIP staff reported the SEEDS training was “the best training [they] have ever attended.” Staff had hands-on practice with how to engage families in the SEEDS classroom. Now, VIP has launched SEEDS-SR with 7 preschool-aged children and their families. Both staff and families are thriving with the program. We expect the same stellar results for families at VIP, including improvements in children’s social, emotional, behavior, and academic skills and in parents’ confidence in promoting those skills at home.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

After piloting SEEDS through this UCLA-VIP partnership, SEEDS will be a fully manualized and exportable school readiness program for families with vulnerable children. Within five years, the UCLA SEEDS team expects to train and provide technical support for additional community-based partners to implement SEEDS-SR throughout the state. In ten years, we expect that children with histories of PAE, trauma, and loss will have access to this high-quality, research-based program in community agencies across the U.S. and Canada so that they can develop the skills they need to succeed in school.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

SEEDS-SR was developed and piloted through funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, with additional funding from corporate and private donors. The initial community pilot suggests that SEEDS has the potential to be utilized as a promising practice within county-contracted community mental health agencies. Our team is also applying for foundation funding to support translation of the program into Spanish.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are no other family school readiness programs for children with PAE and their families, despite the fact that these children at high risk for both short- and long-term negative school outcomes. There is a growing recognition that children with PAE are under-recognized and under-served in school and mental health systems, yet there are few programs that address the unique needs of this population. With manualized treatment guides, live in-person training, and an online learning center to provide ongoing support to providers, SEEDS-SR is well-poised for broader community dissemination.

Founding Story

As a psychology intern in the UCLA Psychiatry Dept., Dr. Blair Paley was introduced to the profound challenges faced by children with PAE by her mentor, Dr. Mary O’Connor. Inspired by Dr. O’Connor’s work, Dr. Paley has devoted her career to offering services tailored to the needs of these children and their families. Dr. Paley assembled a stellar team of clinicians, researchers, and program designers to develop a program for at-risk infants and toddlers and their parents. The program was a success, but the team saw a major gap in services, as we heard from parents desperate to find a place for their preschool age children who had been repeatedly expelled from other programs because of challenging behavior, inspiring us to create SEEDS-SR.


Our team includes clinical faculty and research staff with backgrounds in psychology, maternal health, social work and education, and who also possess talents in art, music, and outdoor nature-based education, allowing us to create a vibrant and joyful learning environment for our SEEDS children. We also train clinical interns and are now developing a train-the-trainer model in order to support the expansion of our program into other communities.