A Family Foundation Bridges Old and New with a Gift for Children’s Mental Health



The Bainum Family Foundation based in Bethesda, Maryland, recently put up a half-million dollars to support the expansion of the Lourie Center for Children’s Social and Emotional Wellness in nearby Rockville, Maryland. The center specializes in the mental health and well-being of young children.

After a strategy shift several years ago, the once sleepy family foundation has emerged as a force in the D.C. area funding scene.

Since its strategy shift, Bainum has developed a focus on early childhood education, children’s mental health and wellness, and food security, with much of its giving focused on the poorest neighborhoods in nearby D.C. In the past, IP has covered the Bainum Family Foundation’s big gifts to promote early childhood learning in the region, but the foundation’s work to promote mental health in schools has received less attention.

Last year, the foundation committed $4.1 million to make mental health resources more widely available to kids in D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods. Some of those funds will strengthen mental health and wellness work in several local public schools. Part of the plan is to encourage teachers and school leaders to consider students’ social and emotional skills and needs in addition to academic outcomes when they make decisions.

The gift to the L0urie Center, which provides therapeutic and educational services to families, fits with the foundation’s focus on mental health in its education giving. The $500,000 will expand the center’s facilities so that it can serve 90 more children and their families.

The center’s work focuses on prevention, early intervention, education, research and training. It carries on the legacy of its founder Dr. Reginald Lourie, who was an expert in pediatric child psychiatry and infant mental health.

Many of the center’s resources are targeted at young children. The center houses a Head Start program, which provides child development services to low-income families with kids from birth to age five, a therapeutic nursery, which enrolls three- and four-year-olds with emotional or behavioral issues that would hamper their success in a traditional setting.

“Children need high-quality academics, but to thrive and develop to their full capacity, they need more,” said Barbara Bainum, the foundation’s board chair, CEO and president. “That’s why our efforts embrace the whole child beginning at birth, and support families, schools and communities to create a continuum of care. The Lourie Center’s robust and multi-faceted model shows the effectiveness of this approach and the positive outcomes it can produce.”

The center is also home to a K-8 school and outpatient mental health services that focus on early identification, treatment and prevention of behavioral and developmental problems.

The center’s work with kids in their earliest years fits with Bainum’s focus on early childhood learning, a space the funder has done a lot of work on in the D.C. area. The center also has a connection to Bainum’s old priorities.

Before the foundation shifted its strategy a few years ago, a major focus of grants was providing scholarships to poor kids who wanted to attend faith-based schools. Bainum’s founders Jane and Stewart Bainum both went to Seventh-day Adventist schools and wanted to support families who wanted the same for their children.

Even under the new strategy, Bainum maintained its Seventh-day Adventist Initiative. Before the change, the initiative was in charge of giving out those scholarships. As the foundation became more strategic, the initiative’s work shifted to better align with the foundation’s new focus.

While most of Bainum’s work focuses on early childhood education, kids’ mental health and food security in the District’s poorest neighborhoods, sometimes gifts will combine its old priorities with its new strategy. A $12.75 million gift to an early childhood learning center in Florida earlier this year was one of those gifts. The gift to the Lourie Center also has an unexpected connection to Bainum’s earlier focus.

Both gifts have Seventh-day Adventist ties. The early childhood learning center in Florida had ties to the the Florida Hospital Foundation, a Seventh-day Adventist hospital. The foundation learned about the center’s need for cash to expand through the Seventh-day Adventist Initiative’s work with the hospital. Similarly, the Lourie Center is affiliated with Adventist HealthCare, a healthcare network based in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

With Bainum’s new strategic vision and penchant for blending new work with old priorities, the funder is a family foundation worth keeping an eye on as it enters its second act.