On Monday morning, toddlers walk hand-in-hand with their caregiver through the colorful hallways of their school. Teachers welcome them with warm smiles as they stream into a bright room filled with learning stations in what could be any ordinary preschool.

But this preschool is unique: The Comprehensive Therapeutic Nursery (CTN) offers hope for some of the West Contra Costa’s youngest trauma survivors.

Children enrolled in the program have endured obstacles that most adults can hardly imagine. Affected by severe trauma, abuse, or neglect from an early age, many of them struggle with behavioral challenges and have been expelled from other preschools. For those children, CTN offers a critical alternative.

“We believe that things get better,” says Tiffany Straus, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Mental Health Program (ECMHP), which runs the preschool. “We work with parents, what they have, and with a deep compassion above all else.”

In addition to being a fully licensed preschool, the program provides children with comprehensive mental health and emotional development supports. It’s the only one of its kind in all of West Contra Costa County.

ECMHP is a standout example of impactful, community-based organizations that the Chamberlin Family Foundation supports. The Foundation’s work focuses on K-12 public education, but on occasion, contributes to the work of nonprofits like ECMHP that are committed to delivering transformational outcomes for vulnerable children and families. (See more examples of our community giving here.)

The teachers at ECMHP, all of whom have experience with both mental health and early childhood education, use research-based practices to drive their programming. As a result, more than 85% of children in the preschool program successfully transition into a traditional Kindergarten classroom. Families consistently report that ECMHP transforms their daily lives. As one parent put it, “We feel more comfortable and confident in everything we do… [we have] more enthusiasm about the future.”

Every year, the organization serves more than 500 local families, empowering them to overcome barriers created by poverty, domestic violence, or substance abuse. Their work involves critical mental health supports such as therapy, educational workshops, support groups, and preventative childcare consultations at more than 50 schools across the community.

At the Chamberlin Family Foundation, we are guided by the belief that every child deserves a pathway to achieve their dreams. Although ECMHP’s work succeeds outside of our primary focus on excellent public schools, we are proud to support their work in providing a fresh start for our youngest learners and families who need it most.