Ed Dankworth, a retired Navy Officer, was sitting in his home reading the New York Times and came across an article about language development in young children. He read about the appalling discrepancy in language development between young children of college professors and young children of parents dependent on public aid. Not only did he learn of the difference, but also he was also inspired that there was a solution for equalization – greater language exposure, interaction and stimulation. Dankworth concluded that a home visitation strategy would allow the kind of modeling of parenting behaviors needed to stimulate language development.
After the initial idea, he then took his cause to important agencies and people to participate in a work group, the Smart Healthy Babies Work Group. The work group completed a community needs assessment in March 1999, and the two most salient findings were in education and health. Based on their specific findings, the work group determined that its first priority was to establish a home visit program. Dankworth worked for more than three years on a committee to make his dream for the entire city come true – Smart Healthy Babies Home Visit Program (SHBHVP).
The Goal of SHBHVP is to provide support, information and education to all new parents to promote positive parenting, healthy child development and increased utilization of existing preventive health and social services. Their overall objectives are to provide an orientation to the home visitation program to all new parents in Alameda, to provide one to three home visits to those parents who identify a desire and need for a home visit, to engage a subset of those parents who are in need and want additional visits, to link new parents with available and appropriate community services, to increase the percentage of confident supported new parents, to increase the amount of time new parents engage in developmentally focused activities and to improve parent-infant interaction through modeling and teaching.
SHBHVP also wants to ensure all new parents are linked with a primary health care provider for their child. They ensure a link to a family planning service in order to plan the spacing of subsequent pregnancies, and they increase the percentage of low-income parents enrolled in a health plan such as Med-Cal or Healthy Families. Dankworth has made a huge impact on the city of Alameda and many refer to him as “The Grandfather.” His participation with SHBHVP along with his other volunteer involvements affects the lives of children, youth and their families throughout the community of Alameda. Dankworth has spent and spends endless hours recruiting political, financial and volunteer support for SHBHVP, and he works directly with the program to expand and improve its services.
Dankworth truly listens to people and reaches out to others who may know more about an issue to find out how he can facilitate change. He was never trained in the field of child development, but his efforts were undaunted and focused on positive change. Moreover, Dankworth serves on the Social Services, Human Relations Board of the City of Alameda.