Early Intervention Equity

We’re making EI work more equitably

United for Brownsville learned anecdotally from parents and social service providers early in its development that Early Intervention seemed to be difficult to access for many local families. There were some parents we talked to who raised one child elsewhere in the city and received the life-changing benefits that come from speech therapy, occupational therapy, and other EI services; however, when these same parents moved to Brownsville and tried to refer younger siblings to EI, they encountered obstacles. Other common themes were reluctance of some health and social service professionals to adequately screen and refer Brownsville children to EI, fear and stigma on behalf of parents, and long delays accessing evaluations and therapies in Brownsville.


After UB built a relationship with the Bureau of Early Intervention at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, we received local data proving that the anecdotes we’d heard locally were true. Black children in Brownsville were much less likely that children of any race citywide, and especially white children, to be referred to Early Intervention. Black and Latinx children in Brownsville dropped out of the EI enrollment process after referral at much higher rates than children citywide.


Since that time, UB has collaborated with local families and social service providers to make a demonstrable impact on Brownsville children’s access to Early intervention. As shown in figure 1, we have worked together to increase referrals of Black children in Brownsville to EI, eliminating the racial gap. As shown in figure 2, in 2021 thanks to the help of our Early Intervention Ambassador, we achieved a success rate of 78% of referrals through United for Brownsville resulting in EI services as compared to typical success rates of under 50%.

Figure 1. When UB began its EI work in 2019, there was an unprecedented increase the rates of referral of Black children in Brownsville that have continued since that time.


Figure 2. Children referred to EI through United for Brownsville are far more likely to receive services than children who are referred through other means.

Meet our Early Intervention Ambassador

Danny Herring

What is Early Intervention for?

Early Intervention (EI) provides free services to children aged 0-36 months with developmental delays. Black and Hispanic children in Brownsville access EI at much lower rates than children citywide.

What is an Early Intervention Ambassador?

As the EI Ambassador, Danny is the point person addressing this racial inequity and ensuring the developmental needs of Black and brown children are fully met. This new role developed in response to community concerns raised by parents and social service providers. Danny is an employee of United for Brownsville (UB) and Community Solutions and does not work for an EI agency, school, or hospital. Her services are free to any family or agency in Brownsville.


For parents and caregivers of young children


Danny is a friendly face to address your concerns about EI and to help you navigate the referral process, which is often confusing and stressful. She can answer questions, help troubleshoot roadblocks, and advocate for you and your child.

Danny will ensure families have access to free, quality early childhood support that not only develops children’s social and early academic skills but also shapes how children think and feel about learning. We owe it to our children to find a way for all of them to have the strongest start possible.


For social, health, and educational service providers


It doubles the impact of your work to help parents of infants and toddlers understand their roles in helping young children learn and develop. Danny’s support in talking with families and navigating the EI system will ensure your clients get the developmental interventions they need when they need them, reducing your workload.

If you already refer to EI but are concerned that some families are not getting the services they need, Danny can help you with family engagement or liaising with EI agencies and the Bureau of Early Intervention itself. Danny has a strong track record of meeting families where they are at, operating from a strength based approach and addressing concerns about mental health and related stigma in communities of color from a culturally respectful perspective.

If you do not refer to EI, Danny can help you understand the referral process and whether it is right for your organization and your clients, or she can make referrals directly and follow up on them doggedly.


Why is EI Important?


EI matters, especially for the children who are on the losing end of the opportunity and achievement gaps that start in infancy and widen as students get older. Children with developmental delays who receive EI services as early as possible are better able to stay on track and less likely to need special education later on.

Access to EI is also important at the community level and is an issue of racial equity. White children have the highest rates of referral in New York City. Black children in Brownsville are referred to EI 25% less than children citywide and follow through on those referrals 10% less than children throughout NYC. Hispanic children in Brownsville follow through on referrals 25% less than children citywide.


What qualifies Danny for this work?


Most importantly, the 21 mothers, fathers, and grandparents from Brownsville on the Family Advisory Board selected Danny for this unique role. Danny is a native Brooklynite with classroom experience as a special educational para professional and a masters in school counseling from the College of New Rochelle. She developed her passion for helping families navigate Early Intervention and special education through her experiences as a parent to a child with special needs. Danny’s goal is for all parents in Brownsville and surrounding neighborhoods to have the same access to Early Intervention and related services that have helped her own children thrive.