Building Healthy Children

Principal Investigators

  • Sheree Toth, Ph.D.

Site Program Directors

  • Jody Todd Manly, Ph.D.
  • Mardy Sandler, LMSW – Strong Pediatrics and Social work
  • Robin Sturm Ed.D.


The United Way of Greater Rochester and The Monroe County Department of Human Services

Young families living in poverty are at high risk for family difficulties and child maltreatment. Early intervention in the first years of life to promote effective parenting, enhance mother-child relationships, address maternal mental health, and foster life competency skills offers considerable promise to scaffold healthy family development and reduce child abuse and neglect. Building Healthy Children (BHC) is a hybrid preventive intervention approach that provides multiple evidence-based interventions to promote successful family functioning and child development. Rather than a singular intervention strategy provided to all families, BHC provides selected intervention approaches tailored to meet individual families’ needs. All interventions utilized are evidence-based, with substantial efficacy demonstrated in multiple randomized clinical trials (RCT). The goal of BHC is to translate these proven interventions into the larger community and demonstrate their effectiveness more broadly to improve families’ lives and reduce involvement in the child welfare system.

To accomplish this goal, Mt. Hope Family Center has partnered with central community agencies devoted to the welfare of children and families, including the Monroe County Department of Human Services, the United Way, Strong Memorial Hospital Pediatrics and Social Work, and several pediatric and family medicine practices. Through this collaboration, young mothers who gave birth to their first child under age 21 with no prior Child Protective Services involvement are being identified in the child’s pediatric medical home. Early in the first year of the child’s life, mothers are being recruited and asked to take part in an RCT of intervention effectiveness. Mothers are randomly assigned to receive the BHC intervention or to receive screenings and referrals for services as needed. All mothers and children take part in a series of pre-intervention baseline assessments, and then are reassessed over time through age 5. Outcomes under investigation include reductions in child maltreatment and foster care risk, decreased maternal depression, and social isolation as well as improvements in parent-child relationships, parental developmental knowledge, and compliance with well-child pediatric care and immunizations.

Select Publications

Paradis, H. A., Sandler, M., Manly, J. T., & Valentine, L. (2013). Building Healthy Children: Evidence-based home visitation integrated with pediatric medical homes.  Pediatrics, 132, S174-179.