Brain Bags are early literacy gift bags given to new mothers before they leave the hospital. They include: a storybook, P is For Pelican, the ABCs of Pensacola, which uses landmarks in our community to build letter awareness and encourage family reading; Baby Steps, a baby book that can be personalized to help parents track early brain development milestones in the first three years of life; a toy; and a binder of community resource information and partners to help support parents. It includes library locations, screen time guidelines, Thirty Million Words Initiative teaching points, healthy lifestyle advice for first year of life, and safe sleep information.
The project was launched with a grant from IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area in late 2016. A total of 7,000 Brain Bags have been developed for the project’s first year.
The Brain Bags are assembled by Arc Gateway’s Pollack Industries. Arc offers life- and work-skills training for adults with developmental disabilities to help them contribute to the community. Assembling, storing and delivering the Brain Bags is now one of their contracted jobs. This year, at least 6,000 Brain Bags are being delivered to Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida hospitals to hand out to new mothers.
An additional 1,000 Brain Bags will be distributed through partner agencies in the community who work directly with parents of children ages birth to 3 one on one. These partners include: Early Steps (which connects parents of children under 3 with an identified developmental delay to services); Healthy Start Coalition (which uses Escambia County Health Department nurses to do home-visits with pregnant women and new mothers who are at risk of adverse birth outcomes or adverse outcomes for the child in the first year of life); Children’s Home Society (which offers family counseling and support services for clients referred through the foster care system and which operates counseling to pregnant and new teen mothers who are still in school); Children’s Home Society (which offers family counseling and support services for clients referred through the foster care system and which operates counseling to pregnant and new teen mothers who are still in school); Families First Network and Early Childhood Court.