Supporting Young Children

At United Way, we believe that all young children should enter school on a path to succeed, and that to do this, we must move the entire family forward together.

In April 2023 United Way of Massachusetts Bay announced a new strategy and refocused impact areas. We are working on a new site that reflects this shift that will debut in September 2023. Until then you can visit our microsite to learn more about our new impact area: Early Education and Out-of-School Time.

A child’s first five years of life are the most critical time for brain development, but 33 percent of Massachusetts children enter kindergarten unprepared to learn.

All children have the potential to succeed in school and in life, but not all children have the same opportunities to realize that potential. Many children lack important support that prepares them for school and academic success. Without it, these children can quickly fall behind and often never catch up. Unless they can read at grade level by third grade, they’re four times less likely to graduate from high school.

Our Solution

In low-income neighborhoods, the youngest children are most vulnerable. The stresses of poverty during these critical years do tremendous harm to a growing brain.  And children whose parents are unable to engage in their development can lag as much as 6 months behind in vocabulary development by age 2.

Our solution involves the whole family, allowing parents to work and their young children to grow and thrive, supporting them by:

  • Expanding access to high-quality early education and care programs that promote early literacy and social skills.
  • Giving parents and caregivers the resources to engage with children and support healthy development, as well as the tools to screen for developmental delays if needed.
  • Scaling a 2-Generational, whole family model that enables parents to work and children to thrive.

Our Partners

We work with 53 strategic partner agencies in 142 communities to support young children. Our partners include:

  • Nurtury
  • ROCA, Inc.
  • Catholic Charities
  • UTEC
  • Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts

View all our agency partners

How We're Doing So Far:

United Way's Annual Investment in Supporting Young Children
Children enrolled in early education and care programs last year
Families receiving home visit and parent support services

We can do even more with your help.

Strategic Initiatives

We bring together partners to pilot innovative solutions that target entrenched problems, address gaps in services, and scale best practices.


The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is supporting public schools throughout the Commonwealth via summer “step up” programs which provide extra support to young learners entering school in the fall. This approach supports school districts in giving young children an extended in-person learning experience over the summer to help prepare them to enter school.  Learn More

After School and Out of School Time (ASOST) Rebound Grant

ASOST-R funding is part of a two-year grant awarded to United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and six other organizations by the Massachusetts Department of elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to help programs rebound after Covid-19.  Learn More>>


A first-of-its-kind initiative, DRIVE provides a system of universal developmental screening for young children, specifically those 0-5 years old. The program focuses on creating community involvement and pushes for change in public policy so we can all work to better understand and support our children’s early development. Learn more»

Shared Services

Shared Services provides early childhood education professionals throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts with important resources so they can focus their efforts on giving kids the best education possible instead of worrying about the administrative needs that come with an early childhood care business.  Learn more»


Make A Financial Impact

Provides two children with developmental screening.

Supplies Fine Motor Tool Kits for 100 children.

Provides training in social and emotional development.

Funds a parent-screener for one year.