2020 Grants Challenge

Child and Family Development Center: Nurture In Nature Project

Nurture In Nature assesses the impact of wilderness outings on mental health and well-being of two low income groups: a) child welfare referred mothers/caregivers of children zero to 5 and b) children and families living in a large public housing facility (Mar Vista Gardens). By getting young children out in nature and providing parents with opportunities to bond and create memories with their children, we aim to provide opportunities to experience respite from daily stressors, and connect with other families in a supportive environment.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?


In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center (Lead agency)

Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club at Mar Vista Gardens Public Housing

The Rand Corporation

The Sierra Club

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

-Boys and Girls Club will partner with CFDC on outings. Since 1944, BCG has been giving youth what they need to succeed, currently serving 4,000+ youth ages 6-18 in 128 LA zip codes by providing a safe and nurturing environment.

-RAND Corp, a nonprofit nonpartisan research group, will be the research partner for the project. Rand helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, developing solutions to public policy challenges throughout the world. Each year, more than 5 million research products are downloaded from by policymakers, academics, and the general public.

-Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors will be providing training/technical assistance to CFDC staff. ICO provides youth with opportunities and resources to explore the outdoors.

What is the need you’re responding to?

Our Goals

*Bring the benefits of nature to children to improve and sustain their mental health

*Build relationships/engage families at Mar Vista Gardens public housing project

*Assist parents and children in deepening attachment with one another and with nature as a protective factor

CFDC successfully implemented a grant from CA State Parks to design/implement/assess the impact of nature on mental health of families with young children diverted from involvement with DCFS.

Since beginning that in 2019, we were invited in to partner with the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) located in Mar Vista Gardens Public Housing (MVG) to bring mental health services to the community’s children. MVG residents are “very low” to “extremely low income.” The population is 82% Latinx, 12% African American, 5% Asian and Caucasian. Around 60% of caretakers are solely Spanish speaking. Despite the need as identified by BCG, and paucity of providers, residents are wary of mental health services.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

Since 1962, CFDC has been a “Center of Excellence” providing early childhood intervention programs and services supporting 1,000 young children and their families living at or below the poverty level. Programs include Early Childhood Assessment & Treatment (outpatient mental health), Partnerships for Families (0-5 home visiting program), Perinatal Wellness Program (perinatal/infant mental health support), Therapeutic Preschool, Preschool Wellness Consultation, and Helen Reid Parenting. Programs are delivered at the Center and at community sites, including 8 schools, 23 preschool classes, transitional housing, parks, and homes, reinforcing the concept of a “clinic without walls.” We collaborate with dozens of non-profits, and have contracts with LA County Dept. of Mental Health, DCFS, and City of Santa Monica. Our Preschool Wellness Consultation was recently chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a bold and unique approach to building a “Culture of Health” in our community.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 205

Indirect Impact: 1,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Success means:

-Bringing state-of-the-art mental health services to an underserved community and decreasing stigma of mental health treatment by embedding with Boys and Girls Club and becoming a part of the Mar Vista Gardens family.

-Building resiliency in children impacted by poverty and violence by connecting them and their families to nature.

-Connecting children to nature by creating life-long benefits for them and the planet.

-Contributing to early research in the field about using nature to help children heal and to address burn out in community mental health workers.

We note that a review of 35 studies from 6 countries (Tillman et al., 2018) showed that nature positively impacts mental health in children and teens.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Short term: Decrease levels of stress, anxiety and depression, increase connections between caregivers and children and increase connection to nature.

Longer term: Build resiliency and ultimately contribute to the field by developing a model for work with disenfranchised children and families which will incorporate the use of nature into mental health treatment.

Success will be determined by pre and post tests:

Participants will show statistically significant:

-Decreased levels of stress and depression as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale for Children and CES-DC;

-Increased levels of caregiver/child connection as measured by the MORS-SF;

-Increased connection to nature as measured by the Connection to Nature Index.

3 months after longitudinal success will be measured by:

-Mar Vista Gardens (BCG) participating children attending 3 out of 4 excursions will be re-measured to determine if there are statistically significant improvements in stress, depression, caregiver/child connection and in connection to nature.

-Parents of children 0-5 who attend 2 out of 3 excursions will be re-measured to determine if there are statistically significant improvements in caregiver/child connection and in connection to nature.

-Clinicians will show a decrease in their work related stress and feelings of burnout, and an increase in engagement as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and by a 30 minute questionnaire to be developed with the Rand Corporation.

Which of the LIVE metrics will your submission impact?​

Poverty rate

Resilient communities

Access to mental health services

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to PLAY

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support

Broader network to assist with sustainability of project and research