Parents and policies can affect how a child thrives

Deseret News

March 4, 2022

A recent article in the Deseret News shares a recipe for cultivating strong children with better opportunities for a great future. The recipe includes advice and tips for parents, communities and policy makers to help give children the best possible head start in life.


How Parents and Policies play a role in helping young kids thrive.

Children that live in a loving two parent home that are provided for both physically and mentally have a better chance at an easier life. Kids in these homes are more likely to have adequate shelter, creative outlets, quality family time and unconditional love which increases their odds of having a successful life. 

Cynthia Osborne, a professor of  Early Childhood Education and Policy at Vanderbilt University says that these vital gifts from parents are not enough for kids to thrive. Osborne says society needs to provide gifts also, that include family friendly policies that help children to excel in their environment.  Osborne believes that policies that help families, especially those that are struggling, are both generous and self-serving if one believes that children are a societal gift and they will repay any investments made to them. She goes on to say, “children will shape our country’s economy, entrepreneurial landscape and competitiveness; they will drive the future workforce and policies”.

Working moms and child care subsidies

Every child needs a stable home, health care, food and safety as the foundation for their well-being. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation children also need other protections, including proven policies to aid families with very young children, especially families with economic and other challenges. These protections will help to ensure a great future for children. 

Osborne knows that getting a child’s early years (prenatal to 3) right, is very important, because it will predict a lifetime of health and well-being. During this very young age children begin to develop their sense of self, they grow confident or fearful depending on their circumstances and they form relationships that will help to shape further relationships in their lives. Every child should have the opportunity to be born healthy and raised in a stable, nurturing and stimulating environment with limited exposure to adversity. 

The article references research which states that in order for babies to be successful from the very onset, their parents need resources and skills to help them nurture their babies. Prenatal care is one resource that helps parents get ready to have healthy babies. Other resources include policies and strategies to help states attain well-child goals.

The 2019 Bureau of Labor Services report indicates 6 out 10 women are working moms with school-age children, these moms are working due to economic necessity.  Researchers are trying to help working moms by advocating for affordable quality health insurance and a liveable wage. Four states have implemented these policies to help families (California, Washington D. C., Maryland and New Jersey) with subsidized child care so kids are safe while their parents are at work or in school. These states offer comprehensive screenings, connections to programs if needed, home visit programs, early head start, early intervention programs and prenatal care. 

The article emphasizes the importance of child care by saying if parents do not have a safe, affordable and quality daycare option, then parents may not be able to work as a means to provide a better life for their children.

Osborne goes on to say, “We’re paying a lot of attention to implementations because just having a policy on the books if no one is using it, if it’s not generous enough, if it’s difficult to access, may not be as effective. You may not be getting the returns that you would be expecting or making the impact on well being.”

Strong Child Development Goals

The number of people that understand the importance of the 0-3 year range is increasing, but currently there is very little guidance to help improve outcomes for this age group, says Osborne. 

The Vanderbilt University Prenatal-to-3 Impact Center is not only focusing on child development but also prioritizing healthy births, access to services, physical and emotional health of parents, a parents ability to work and working on a strong parent-child relationship. 

Osbourne claims that the needs of children cross all income levels but policies usually target the socioeconomic disadvantages of children of color and of those of lower socioeconomic status. Those families are less likely to have a stable income or access to paid time off for things such as family illness or bonding with a very young child. The fact is that higher-income households are more likely to get the help they need while middle class families are stuck between having too much or not enough. 

How States Help Their Families

According to Osbourne, many states have already independently taken steps to help families. Some states are investing substantially in childcare and expanding eligibility for subsidies, which in the long run increases the size of the workforce. Other states have implemented paid family leave for working families and others will raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

Boosting Fertility

The birth rate in America has decreased, many experts believe it’s due to the cost of child care. With the threat of having smaller new generations and economic stagnation, there are child care subsidies which could help. There are many different financial challenges that will make couples either not have children or prolong the occurrence, this is a concern for policymakers because delaying or foregoing having children has significant consequences to society. The 2021 American Family Survey found that 17% of the people surveyed said if they could get child benefits from the government, their willingness in having a child or more children would increase.  

Osborne says, when investing in early intervention programs, children are better prepared to attend school, the rate of child retention in school decreases as does the need for special education funds. Investing in parents’ ability to work will financially increase how a parent is able to provide for their children which decreases the need for government assistance. 

In closing Osbourne says, “What I wish is that policymakers could understand that there are both immediate and long-term benefits to investing in young children and their parents’ in terms of cognitive development, in learning and socioemotional development and physical health. And those benefits last a lifetime.” 

We maintain the best way to cultivate strong, healthy, successful children is through collaboration with parents, communities and policymakers. It is essential that we invest in parents and their children when they are young to ensure optimal growth in our investments. We must share the understanding that an early investment in children and their families is an investment in them but also an investment in ourselves, our communities, our economy and our country.

Top 10 Moments of 2021

Despite all of the uncertainties of last year, 2021 left us with so much to be grateful for! Our wonderful community of donors, volunteers, staff, and community partners really stepped up their efforts to help families and young children in our community. While we are looking forward to what 2022 will bring, check out our Top Ten Moments of 2021:


On December 15, radio stations Mix 103.1, Coyote 102.9, Kool 98.9 and Zion 104.2 spent the day interviewing sponsors, families, staff and encouraging people to donate to Root for Kids. This year we were able to have two locations for donations, one at Root For Kids and the second location was at Green Gate Village. We had many volunteers come to help with this big event. This year again we were able to take pictures with members of the community that made donations! We appreciate Red Rock Media for sponsoring this event and all of the volunteers and donors who made it possible.

Volunteers in Front of Root for Kids Canopy at Green Gate Village

Golf Tournament 

Due to the pandemic, Root for Kids was unable to do our annual Gala in person, so we just rolled with the punches and organized our first Annual Root for Kids Glow in the Dark Golf Tournament. This event took place at Coral Canyon Golf Course. We decided to elevate this event by making the tournament glow in the dark! Everyone who participated had a great time. Last year our tournament sold out and this year we already have a waiting list. If you want to participate in this event sign up here, the event will be held on October 21, 2022. 

Our Amazing Employees 

At the start of 2021 we thought that life would go back to “normal”, but as we know it did not. Our amazing employees were resilient and adapted to our situation and we were able to serve all of our families. Home visits were still being made through Zoom and families were still getting the care and attention they needed. Later in the year, we transitioned back to in person visits and events with the proper health protocols in place. Even with all the changes and challenges, our employees kept going above and beyond.

We also had employees that had efforts that were recognized outside of our company; our Chief Health Officer Tena Heward was awarded the Committed Community Partner award by Dixie State University, Rosie Sever (Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator) received the Element Award by the St. George Chamber of Commerce. And last but not least, Monica Jones (Special Events Director) was recognized as one of the 30 in their 30’s by the St. George Chamber of Commerce. 

Three women standing next to each other
Rosie Sevier (middle) receiving Element Award

Family Events 

This year we were able to return to in-person events again. Which meant; parent nights, once a month play groups, fatherhood events and family unity events were back in full swing. It was fun to be able to host these events again and see the parents and children interact.

baby and grandpa smiling


We appreciate all of our sponsors and all that they help us achieve for the community and the families that we serve. As one of our many sponsors, TDS made a $100 donation to Root for Kids for every touchdown made at Dixie State University home games. It was such a fun initiative and we are grateful for everyone who thinks of us when fundraising opportunities arise!

Business presenting check to nonprofit

Nurture & Grow Luncheon 

At our Nurture and Grow luncheon we had the opportunity to have Dr. Patrick Carroll from the NICU at Intermountain Hospital come and speak to us about what the NICU can and cannot do to support babies and their families while they are in their care and once they leave their facility. Fun fact: most preemie babies that are in the NICU here in St. George are then referred to Root For Kids for a great head start in life! 

Event in a barn

Little Free Library 

We are so grateful to the Rotary Club of Dixie Sunrise for making it possible for our St. George, La Verkin, Hildale and Colorado City locations to have Little Free Library facilities! They also donated dozens of books that fill each library at each location. We are so excited to be able to offer this opportunity to all families in the surrounding areas. 

Ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of building

Baby Contest 

We were so happy to once again have the Baby Contest virtually in 2021 in association with the Washington County Fair. If you want to register your baby for this year’s contest, you may register at their website.  Along with participating in the contest, you will also receive a Baby Contest T-shirt and an activity booklet.  

Baby Contest judges sitting on a table


We are delighted to announce that our Kindermusik program was ranked a Top Program in 2021! This year we have Madison and Marnie teaching our Kindermusik classes. If you would like to meet them and join one of our 0-5 year old music classes, which are caregiver and kids classes, our new semester just started and we still have classes available. Sign up today!  

Babies in music class


And last but certainly not least, we wanted to say a huge thank you to all of our volunteers that helped us through 2021! They helped with diaper bundles to putting together home visit materials (play kits). Our medical volunteers from the Dixie State University Dental Hygiene Program did dental cleanings for the families enrolled. We just wanted to say a big heartfelt huge thank you to everyone that helped us during our big events. We could not have had such a successful year without you! 

Volunteers in front of step and repeat banner

Thank you for supporting Root for Kids and being a part of these special moments with us. Let’s make new memories together this year! Get involved today.

What Families Have to Say About Kindermusik

Our Kindermusik classes are the perfect way to introduce music and movement to the young and developing minds. Child and caregiver have the opportunity to bond and connect through rhythm in easy and fun ways, led by the Kindermusik teachers. See what families have to say about Kindermusik at Root for Kids!


“Our littles had a rough start in life and both exhibited developmental issues. They started Kindermusik at 2 and 3 years old and it has been a godsend.  The program is fantastic and there are not enough good words to describe the amazing teachers. Kindermusik is so much fun, the girls can’t wait for “music class” every week.  While they are playing and enjoying themselves, we have seen them gain personal and interactive social skills, as they connect with other children and engaged adults. 

We have seen huge improvements in impulse control, self regulation and communication skills.  The girls have learned songs, stories, dances and how to use dozens of different instruments and props.  They are learning the basic concepts of music using all of their senses, all while loving the music and the movement.  A little more than a year in Kindermusik and they have a never ending supply of songs to sing in the car!  Kindermusik has been a strong foundation for development in so many areas.  We look forward to our girls continuing to love Kindermusik for years to come.”

– L. Richards

Kindermusik - Rhythm

She loves exploring music

“Kindermusik has been so wonderful for Ruthie! She has done two semesters of the fundamentals class so far and loves exploring music with friends. I love that it helps her develop fantastic routines as well as improve social and motor skills and sensory acceptance. She absolutely loves teachers Madison and Marnie!” – Jordan P.

Kindermusik - Skills

I love everything about the program

“My daughter has now taken 2 semesters of Kindermusik. I love everything about the program, and how much it has helped her. We have struggled a lot in navigating her social and emotional development, which affects almost every aspect of her being able to interact with others and cope with an environment outside of the home. Kindermusik has provided her the opportunity to engage with other kids her age, as well as adults in a classroom type setting, without the pressure to perform or be away from Mom.

It has been a slow process, but she is now excited to “go sing” and it doesn’t take her nearly as long to warm up to her environment and participate. She now follows instruction and transitions from one activity to the next, whereas she wouldn’t previously participate in any sort of structure-based learning. She will interact with others, and doesn’t feel the need to be glued to my side for the entirety of the class. It may not sound like a big achievement for most, but I was overjoyed the first day she sat in my lap to engage in story time or willingly put her shoes on after class.

Kindermusik - Self esteem

She loves the music more than anything

I think music was the biggest draw for her progress. I will find her singing her favorite songs at home, and she’s thrilled when we join in on her fun. It helped immensely with her language and communication. She has also been given opportunities to engage with toys and instruments that she may not otherwise have the chance to use, which has been fantastic exposure for her sensory development. 
I greatly appreciate the instructors. They have been so patient with her, and welcome children of all levels and abilities. They have been flexible in finding the class that best suits her needs to thrive, and have worked to help broaden her boundaries, without pushing too far. 
We have had a wonderful experience with Kindermusik, and I’m grateful for the program and what is has done for my daughter. It has been a great precursor to help her prepare for Preschool, while also being a great Mom and Me activity that we can do together.” – Jenny D.
Our Kindermusik classes are held at our St. George studio (2044 S. Mesa Palms Drive – St. George, UT 84770) and we are enrolling! Sign up for classes today

Root for Kids Welcomes New Dietetics Intern

Amria Farnsworth is from Northern Utah and is currently a Dietetics Intern at Utah State University (USU) graduating this spring. In the past few years, Amria has been heavily involved with the Val. R. Christensen Service Center at USU, especially with the various food programs. These experiences have allowed her to connect with and help people. She’s worked primarily with reducing food insecurity on campus and in the community. She grew up in a multicultural family and developed a passion for learning about people, their cultures and their stories and finding ways to help them. She also is a self-proclaimed foodie so becoming a registered dietitian is her way of combining her passions.

Amria Farnsworth

This coming year she will continue completing her 1000-hour Dietetic Internship at various facilities in Utah and Arizona. She is currently interning at Root For Kids in Southern Utah. This is an Early Head Start and Early Intervention program serving 600 families per month. Amria has been working on bolstering the nutrition screening information, providing updated nutrition information for employees to share with enrolled families, researching effective interventions for children with feeding issues, and updating facility menus among other things.

Upon completion of her hours, Amria will take the exam to become a registered dietitian.  Afterwards she plans on pursuing a Master of Public Health. She hopes to work in a hospital treating patients for the first few years of her career. Eventually, she wants to advance her career in public health to increase and improve the efforts of chronic disease prevention. She’s excited to become a registered dietitian and use her experiences to develop a career improving the health and lives of others.

Follow her on Instagram for everything nutrition: @foodwithamria.rd2be


My Root for Kids Story: Monica Jones

In August 2021, our Special Events Director Monica Jones celebrated 15 years at Root for Kids (previously The Learning Center for Families)! She currently plans all of our large events such as the Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament and the Radiothon. But she has done so much throughout the years! We asked her to share her story below.

In November 2000, Debbie Justice (founder of TLC) visited my high school’s service club to share about her organization, The Learning Center for Families (TLC). It was like my heart had been pricked. After Debbie’s visit, I could not stop thinking about what she described of her organization and how passionately she spoke. Our service club organized a book drive for the beginnings of their lending library and assisted with wrapping Christmas gifts for enrolled families. 

Heidi, Joy and Monica in 2002
Heidi, Monica and Joy (2002) 

At this time, TLC was only providing services through Early Intervention state grants for Washington County, UT and the Arizona Strip. I would estimate they were serving an average of 150-200 children annually in a mixture of home-based and center-based services. Children with center-based services were dropped off by parents two times a week for a two-hour class. It is funny to think back on how our main services with families were with the parent and child separated. Thankfully, with the continuation of research and experience we were able to shift the focus of our services to a family focused model of supporting and modeling for parents and assisting them with implementing strategies and goals within their homes and daily routines. 

After the first of the year in 2001, I stopped by the TLC office to visit with Debbie and ask about additional volunteering that might be available. I was desperate to learn more. We were able to organize work release credit where I came Monday-Friday for three hours each day to volunteer as a classroom aide, and in exchange I earned school credit toward graduation. It was a win-win!  

During the last five months of my senior year, I fell in love with TLC and their mission. They were doing amazing work with children. I loved every minute of my time. As the school year ended, I was sad to leave. I had made new friendships with the staff and learned so much about child development- and of course loved the tiny, adorable children! A couple of weeks before graduation, Debbie asked if I could stay after one day and visit with her a little bit. If anyone knows Debbie, and knows who I was at 18, I was a little scared! She introduced me to Caroline Bass, an Occupational Therapist and one of the first employees of TLC. We visited about the last five months, and I shared some of my experiences and a-ha moments during that time. As the conversation begin to close, Debbie offered me a full-time position. I was speechless.  

Face Painting
Fiesta in Hurricane, UT (2005)

I officially began as an employee June 1, 2001 as a fresh high school graduate. I began as a classroom aide for EI classes and the play based therapy with Craig Roberts, and as a custodian. I was blessed to observe and learn from some of the most intelligent and compassionate people, some of whom are still employed here. I began our first toy and equipment inventory system, solely by pen and paper as the internet and computers weren’t very popular at this point in time. I ate up everything I could possibly learn. I signed up for every professional development opportunity and met more passionate early childhood educators.

During one of these trainings, I met someone from Utah’s School for the Deaf and Blind. My dream had always been to work with children who were deaf and hard of hearing. It felt like kismet. I learned more about deafblind children and services that are available for them. In the Washington County School District there were a set of four children in the same grade who were receiving services from USDB and they were going to place them in the same classroom to be taught in their native language, American Sign Language. It felt like I was being led to this opportunity. After a year and a half as an employee at TLC, I made the difficult decision to leave. I was hired as a Deafblind Intervener with USDB. 

My time with the deaf students was a dream come true; I had been taking ASL classes since I was in 4th grade. It was a career path I had set as my goal in my 9th grade career exploration class. Knowing the language was one thing, learning how to motivate 10-year-olds to practice their math and English homework was another story! I learned so much during the first school year, again meeting some incredible people who mentored and taught me so much. During the second school year with USDB I decided I wanted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I moved forward with preparations and by Christmas of 2003 they had found a replacement for my position, and I said goodbye to the Deaf class.  

Early in 2004 my application process as a missionary was a delayed a little bit, so I began to search for a part time job. One afternoon I was driving down Sunset Boulevard when I saw one of the TLC employees turning into the TLC office parking lot. It had been a year a half since I had seen her and before I knew it, I was pulling in behind her. We were so excited to see one another and catch up. TLC had expanded so much over the last year and a half. She took me around don a tour of the expanded offices, introduced me to new employees and I embraced the staff I had previously worked with. All the excitement and passion swarmed all around me and I was head over heels for TLC again.  

Staff Badge Photo (2009)

TLC had recently been awarded a new federal grant for an Early Head Start (EHS) program. They were right at the beginning phase of structuring the program, designing paperwork, creating spreadsheets for data tracking and marketing for enrollment. I shared that I was working towards leaving on a mission, but I was looking for a part time job in the meantime. I was surprised to leave that day as a new employee of TLC! This time I was working in the office helping the team create a database of sorts through Excel spreadsheets to track enrollment data and health requirements for their brand new 60 openings for EHS children. 

I quickly moved to full-time hours as it became necessary. Once we got enrollment moving and our spreadsheets were functioning well, my responsibilities broadened to more tasks with Health Services: scheduling hearing and vision screenings, requesting and receiving medical records, plus lots of other odds and ends! I ended up staying a little over a year, leaving in May 2005. It was incredible to see our organization grow through the addition of the EHS grant and the ever growing impact it was having on the families of Washington County. 

After my time as a missionary I moved to Orem, UT to pursue my education. Since my high school graduation I had taken a class here and there at Dixie State University, but nothing towards an actual degree. I was ready to move forward in my education and to help make an impact on the world. Utah Valley University (UVU) had recently begun their Deaf Education programs and I was ecstatic. In 2009, during my second year of school, I was walking the halls of UVU and it happened to be career week. I passed by a booth that had photos of infants and toddlers- one photo in particular stood out to me. A photo of toddlers sitting in brightly colored cube chairs stopped me dead in my tracks. My heart rose in my chest, and I was flooded with memories of my time at TLC. It was like being drenched in a rainstorm. It was all I could think about for days. I was deep in my deaf education program, and ironically, just a few weeks before this I had found myself dreading my interpreting service hours. This felt like a push to rethink my goals. But I pushed it aside and continued the semester.  

When summer came, things were coming up at home and my brother was needing some support and I felt like I needed to return to St. George to be with my family. I left Orem with a plan to return to my job and schooling. I had acquired new housing, registered for classes, and secured my job at a local bookstore. I headed home for the summer. 

It was down to the wire, I would say a week, maybe 10 days before I needed to return to school at UVU, and I made the decision to stay in St. George. I was so torn, but felt I needed to stay close to family. I immediately applied to DSU and registered for classes.  

Three people working together
Parents as Teachers Group Connection (2013)

A dear friend from TLC let me stay in her basement for the summer, and she was kind to allow me to stay through the end of the year. Since I didn’t have many bills, I wasn’t rushed to find a job and I just focused on school and family. I changed my degree to early childhood education and worked towards finishing an associate’s degree at DSU. A few weeks into the semester, my friend shared that TLC was preparing for the federal review of their EHS program. They had been providing services for about five years at this point. She had asked Debbie if they would like some assistance auditing files in preparation. She said yes, and I began a temp job with TLC auditing files. The review preparations went on for about six weeks, and before I knew it, I was offered a part-time position as a home visitor for early intervention. 

In early 2010, TLC was given an expansion grant from the Office Head Start that expanded the existing EHS program from 60 children to 132 children. I applied for a full-time home visitor position that would expand my responsibilities to EHS families and EI families. I was part of a lucky group of 10 additional women that joined the organization. 

Family at groundbreaking
RFK New Building Ground Breaking (2010)

Since 2009, I graduated from DSU with my bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Communication, with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. I have enjoyed six more job positions within Root for Kids that have opened my knowledge and experience to additional home visiting programs, data management, staff training and development, to leading the EHS program and now serving on our development team designing fundraising events for our incredible organization. We have rebranded to Root for Kids to better align with our mission and have expanded from one program to five. We are now serving 600+ families every month. 

The word ‘grateful’ is not enough to express how fortunate I feel to be apart of the Root for Kids organization. It is a part of who I am, it is marked in my very DNA. I am so grateful for the multiple opportunities I have had to return to the organization, for the incredible people I have the honor to observe and learn from, and for being a witness to the beautiful and inspiring work within family’s homes. There is no better place I would rather be.  

Monica and Santa Claus
Radiothon 2016

We are very fortunate to have Monica in our team! If you want to be a part of Root for Kids, check out our employment opportunities.

5 Amazing Facts About Child Development

Just the other day we were planning a family vacation to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday and a common thought came to mind – “But this trip is mostly for us right? She won’t remember anything!” As I pondered about that, I realized that the point of exposing our children to a variety of experiences early on is not so much to create beautiful memories for them (as it is for us), but to support their developing brain. She won’t remember the trip, but she will explore, laugh, learn to adapt, build trust and most importantly feel loved – all factors that positively affect child development. With 90% of the brain developing by age five, there’s no question that the first years of a child’s life are defining. Check out these five amazing facts about child development!

“Infants have a biological need for love and begin to form emotional bonds with their caregiver at birth”

A lot of parents are concerned about spoiling their babies. But there is not such thing as giving too much love to an infant! Emotional bonds play an important part in your child’s development. Starting from birth, babies learn who they are by how they are treated! (Source: Zero to Three)

“Music plays an important role in building babies’ emotional basis and helping them gain a sense of confidence”

We know that music helps babies develop a variety of skills such as language and math. But it also helps build their confidence! When babies sing songs and dance to rhythms they are having fun and gaining a sense of themselves. Try our Kindermusik class and see it for yourself!

“Stable, caring, interactive relationships with adults will benefit healthy brain development of young children”

It seems that us adults are always looking for ways to change things up but children thrive in routine and stability. The more they know what to expect from you and their environment, the more comfortable and calm they will be. At the same time, the opposite (unstable caregiving, deprivation of love, neglect, etc.) will increase the likelihood of poor health and development throughout their life. (Source: World Health Organization)

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning”

As Mister Rogers once explained, “play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Our home visiting programs provide support and education for pregnant women and families with children under five. Learn more about our programs and apply today to get the best ideas from child development specialists.

“The brain develops most rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life. The ongoing interchange between genes and different environments – within which children are born, grow, learn and live – shapes the developing brain”

Our brains are truly amazing. “During these critical years, the foundation is laid for a child’s physical and mental health, affecting everything from longevity to the lifelong capacity to learn, from the ability to adapt to change to the capacity for resilience against adverse circumstances.” (Source: World Health Organization)

For more on child development and activity ideas, follow Root for Kids on Instagram (@rootforkids)