Professional Curator

Mike Kirwan

Maternal & Child Mental Health Portfolio

United States, Nationwide

"Two-generation strategy" has become an overused catchphrase in the early childhood space, but the studies still point to the impact that aiding low-income mothers has on both women and their children. This additive effect makes strong performers in the maternal and child mental health space an attractive investment from a poverty-fighting perspective.

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Within the area of giving that I am most passionate about, I approach philanthropy from a quantitative standpoint to make sure that my dollars are maximally impactful. Though performance metrics aren't everything, they're often all that we have to differentiate programs that may seem similar at face value, and they often raise important questions that help philanthropists to understand the organizations they're seeking to fund.

While my geographic expertise is primarily in New York City as a function of my work with the Robin Hood Foundation, I also have experience engaging with nonprofits in Washington, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Tennessee.

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About the curator

I spent four years as the Senior Program Officer for Early Childhood at the Robin Hood Foundation. In addition to managing a $10M annual portfolio of 20 grantee organizations, I also oversaw Robin Hood's investments in longitudinal early childhood research and developed an innovation prize framework modeled after the X-Prize that would reward researchers and educators for producing significant gains in early language.

Prior to Robin Hood, I was a Project Manager at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University working with their Frontiers of Innovation (F.O.I.) Initiative. As part of that work, I made small-scale grants and provided implementation support to novel early childhood programs and partnerships in Seattle, WA.

6 Years in grantmaking
Experience at Robin Hood Foundation
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Opportunities in this portfolio

Center for Youth Wellness (CYW)

CYW General Operating

Nicholas Kristof's piece in The New Yorker on the Center's founder was one of the first mainstream publications to use the term "Adverse Childhood Experiences," or ACEs. The concept has since become increasingly mainstream and is vital to understanding how the intergenerational transmission of trauma and abuse can be disrupted. Dr. Burke Harris continues to be a pioneer in the space.

Read more about Center for Youth Wellness (CYW)

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Practical Resources for Effective Postpartum Parenting (PREPP)

I like this program because their primary investigator, Dr. Catherine Monk, is serving a real need in the parent skills and home visiting space. Their clinicians have the skills and experience to know when parents need more intensive intervention than they can offer, and for the parents they do end up serving, their focus on a well-defined set of skills that enhance the parent-child relationship and make parenting more rewarding can have powerful effects on parental efficacy, enjoyment, and mental health, with potential later effects on children's development. Because of the limited time frame and training scope for the model, it would be highly scalable if its current research continues to produce promising results.

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Center for Court Innovation/Fund for the City of New York (CCI)

Strong Starts Court Initiative

This is a relatively young initiative overseen by some deeply experienced child development and legal experts that provide mental health supports to families in the child welfare system. It is a strong example of the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence, whereby researchers and practitioners make use of social science methods and data to study the extent to which a legal rule or practice affects the psychological well-being of the people it affects, and then explore ways in which therapeutic consequences can be enhanced without breaching due process requirements.

Read more about Center for Court Innovation/Fund for the City of New York (CCI)

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Center for Babies, Toddlers and Families/ Early Childhood Center

The Center is the only one of its kind in the Bronx and it serves hundreds of children, parents, and families annually. Its current leader, Dr. Anne Murphy, is an innovator in the field who has developed a group-based, attachment-focused therapeutic model that is currently being subjected to a research trial.

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