Oakland Promise Brilliant Baby

Investing in the Healthy Development of Babies

The Brilliant Baby program of the Oakland Promise helps parents raise healthy, thriving children during the first critical years of their baby’s life. Brilliant Baby addresses  social determinants of health and school readiness. We do this by making an early investment in a college savings account for baby that inspires deeper attention to parenting practices, and through financial services for parents that help them address their families’ financial needs and goals. We are committed to evaluating our programs with rigorous research methods. Download our evaluation plan here.

Implementing the Brilliant Baby Program

Addressing the Social Determinants of Healthy Development

Launched in the summer of 2017, Brilliant Baby is offered to families through existing infant home visiting and pediatric medical care providers. The following organizations are implementing partners enrolling families into the program:

  • Alameda County Public Health Department, Family Health Services Division
  • UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Claremont Clinic and Special Start programs
  • Oakland Human Services Agency’s Early Head Start program
  • Brighter Beginnings
  • The Unity Council
  • Fruitvale Academy/CalSafe

A total of 1500 babies and their parents/guardians will benefit from Brilliant Baby during the first four years of the program. A formal, longitudinal evaluation led by NORC at the University of Chicago and the Center for Assets Education and Inclusion at the University of Michigan will track the impact of the program on the economic wellbeing of families and the healthy development of babies over time.  The goal is to scale the program over several years and to eventually serve all babies born into poverty in Oakland and Alameda County.

Important insights from research show that:

  • Low-income African-American babies born in West Oakland are expected to live 15 fewer years than white babies born in the more affluent Oakland Hills.
  • The toxic stress of living in poverty can damage a child’s body and brain, leading to detrimental chronic illnesses.
  • Relentless financial stress hampers the executive functioning of adults and reduces their bandwidth for parenting.
  • Children who grow up in poverty are less successful in school, less likely to graduate from high school, and have lower lifetime earnings than children who are not poor.

The Brilliant Baby Approach

Drawing on best practices and resources* from early childhood development, two generation anti-poverty strategies and the asset-building field, Brilliant Baby offers the following opportunities to low-income families with new babies:

A college savings account for babies before their first birthday:

  • Brilliant Baby establishes college savings accounts seeded with $500.
  • The Brilliant Baby college savings account is a source of inspiration to parents, and a concrete investment in their child’s bright future.
  • Children from low-income families who have as little as $500 in a college savings account in their name are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate.

*CSA Research courtesy of Prosperity Now

Support parents to improve their family’s economic well-being:

  • Brilliant Baby parents and guardians are offered the chance to participate in a Coaching & Savings Program designed to support them as they pursue their hopes and dreams for their family.  A certified and supportive financial coach helps parents set and pursue their financial goals. Parents have the opportunity to earn, through stipends and a savings match, up to an additional $500 to support their goals.


  • By supporting parents in this way and celebrating the start of their child’s college savings account, Brilliant Baby helps to reduce parental stress and depression, and bolster parents’ capacity to raise healthy, thriving babies.


Brilliant Baby is made possible by generous grants from: Marc & Lynne Benioff, Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, Koshland Family Foundation, California Wellness Foundation, Citi Community Development, California Endowment, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, Friedman Family Foundation, TomKat Foundation, Beneficial State Bank, and the David & Lucile Packard Foundation