Equity-Focused Policy Research: Building Cross-Cutting Evidence on Supports for Families with Young Children

Funding Agency:
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Research shows that the earliest years of life are a critical period of human development. Young children’s earliest relationships and experiences have a strong influence on brain development and future health and well-being (Harvard University Center on the Developing Child 2016). Young children’s foundational relationships and experiences occur in the context of families and communities.

Yet, some families do not have access to the basic necessities and resources to foster the nurturing experiences and stimulating environments that young children need to thrive. These circumstances are especially likely to affect families of color, families living in rural areas, and other groups of families who experience gaps in access to supports and face disparities in outcomes related to health and well-being. What is needed are policies that support low-income families to provide stimulating and nurturing environments to promote children’s healthy physical, social- emotional, and cognitive development and their future success in school and life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that current policies and practices fall short in supporting and facilitating families’ access to the social safety net system. Moreover, the pandemic has exacerbated the consequences of poverty, racism, and discrimination and exposed the health, economic, social, and other inequities vulnerable families experience. In the context of the pandemic, RWJF is taking steps to focus attention on and provide resources to families and communities facing the greatest strain. Newly emerging barriers to accessing essential supports are likely to exacerbate the health and economic effects of this crisis for families that already face inequities. The economic and social disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic also have the potential to draw more focused attention to the effects of historic inequities on communities of color and low-resourced communities. The disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on people of color, marginalized populations, and the low-wage workforce underscores the effects of economic and social conditions—including structural racism, segregation, and discrimination—on the physical, emotional, cognitive, and intellectual health of historically disenfranchised communities and populations.

The Equity-Focused Policy Research (EFPR) grant program seeks to fund a body of research that illuminates strategies and policies that enhance families’ equitable access to key resources for supporting their children’s healthy development. EFPR grants are guided by a research agenda that focuses on: (1) understanding the sources of inequities in families’ access to and use of key resources; (2) identifying and testing innovations to advance equity; and (3) strategies for scaling up policies and approaches that are effective in advancing equity. The agenda addresses three policy areas as providing critical resources for families: (1) access to early care and education (ECE); (2) income supports (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit [EITC] and cash transfer programs) and income generation/replacement; and (3) nutrition supports (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]).

Deadline for Brief Proposals: Feb. 16, 2021

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

  • Eligible applicant organizations include academic institutions, public entities and private nonprofit organizations, state and local government agencies, and for-profit organizations.
  • All organizations must be based in the United States or its territories.
  • Applicants also may represent partnerships between service providers or practitioners and researchers.



Amount Description

  • We expect to make up to 20 awards through this funding opportunity. We expect that awards will range from $50,000 to $200,000 each.
  • For projects that involve primary data collection through surveys, interviews, focus groups, observations, and other methods (or a combination of methods), applicants may request up to $200,000, for a project duration of up to 24 months.
  • Applicants should request amounts that are consistent with the scope and complexity of the research questions and methods they propose and for carrying out research methods aligned with the principles of equitable evaluation.

Funding Type





Community Outreach and Engagement
Social Sciences

External Deadline

February 16, 2021