Who We Are
Photo Home
Who We Are

> Directories
> Grantee Profiles
> National Demonstration
> National Evaluation
> Program Partners
> Publications

Research & Policy
News Room

  Free To Grow
  Mailman School
  of Public Health
  Columbia University
  722 West 168th Street,
  8th Floor
  New York, NY 10032

green corner
NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
Who We Are

National Demonstration

Overview of the National Program and Evaluation Demonstration
Free To Grow began in 1994 with five Head Start sites funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop comprehensive prevention models suited to their agencies, partners and community contexts. A process evaluation of this pilot program was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Over a five-year period, evaluators followed how each model was developed and implemented. They assessed program results and considered whether and how the program could be scaled up and sustained over time. At the end of five years, the evaluation concluded that Free To Grow showed promise. Communities developed models that worked well within the framework of Head Start. Parents, community residents, and partner organizations embraced Free To Grow's approach to prevention. And parents and communities saw the beginning of important and positive family and neighborhood changes. Across all of the communities, parents, community residents, and partner organizations valued Free To Grow for helping them become effective agents of change.

Based on these findings, Free To Grow received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations to expand into a national local matching grants evaluation and program demonstration. Fourteen of the fifteen Free To Grow communities around the country are currently participating in the four year demonstration, scheduled to run through May 2005. Total program grant awards (including local matching funds) average $140,000 annually. Matching funds are being provided by internal Head Start Quality dollars, special state or regional Head Start allocations, or by local partners, including community foundations, state or federal prevention dollars, United Way as well as partner agency staff time commitments.

A quasi-experimental process and impact evaluation is being conducted by Wake Forest University School of Medicine. This national cross-site evaluation is designed to provide insight into the following questions:

  • What is the Free To Grow model and what factors need to be in place to implement the model successfully?

  • To what extent is the Free To Grow model sustained in the demonstration sites and the groundwork laid for replication elsewhere?

  • What is the impact of Free To Grow on community partnerships, neighborhoods, and families?

  • What is the relationship between the quality, intensity, and integration of Free To Grow interventions and partnership, neighborhood, and family outcomes?

  • What family and community factors influence the impact of Free To Grow?

While the ability of Free To Grow's interventions to impact the initiative's long term goal of reducing young children's vulnerability to substance abuse and other high risk behaviors cannot be determined without a longitudinal evaluation, the four year national evaluation (scheduled to be conducted through 2006) will collect data on intermediate family and community benchmarks that the research has shown impact young children's developmental outcomes. These include family impacts such as improved family management practices, reduced levels of substance abuse among family members, increased parent/child bonding, and enhanced advocacy skills. Community level impacts that the initiative hopes to achieve include reduced social isolation, establishment of community norms that discourage alcohol and drug abuse, reduced neighborhood disorganization and increased neighborhood safety.


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.