Creating family-centered, equitable access to critical supports

What We Work For

Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone (DULCE) is transforming the way families experience healthcare. 

We proactively address sources of stress in the critical first six months of life, by creating a team of pediatric, legal, and early childhood providers to support infants and families.

Stress in early life can have both short- and long-term effects on children’s health and well-being, and on their parents. Many conditions contribute to stress, including poverty, inadequate housing, and lack of adequate nutrition. Unfortunately, these are more likely to impact families with low income, families of color, and immigrants.

How We Do It

DULCE employs a strength-based approach to help parents navigate the challenges of caring for babies, raising healthy children, and advocating for what they need.

We are transforming the way families experience the healthcare system, starting with their baby’s first routine medical visit. Families develop a relationship with a DULCE family specialist, who helps them navigate supports and creates the conditions for healthy development.

By prioritizing parent-identified needs, connecting them to supports, and building trusting relationships—parents get the support they need to raise healthy children and advocate for their well-being.


DULCE’s model was co-developed by Robert Sege, MD, Ph.D., now at Tufts Medical Center, and Samantha Morton, CEO, MLPB, and is grounded in the compelling findings from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted at Boston Medical Center in 2010-13. DULCE has a statistically significant impact on enrolled children and families, as well as the clinics that serve them. Results from the RCT published in Pediatrics in 2015 found that DULCE resulted in:

  • Accelerated access to concrete supports. DULCE families secured supports for which they were eligible at roughly twice the pace of control families.
  • Better completion rates for well-child visits and immunizations.
  • Reduced use of emergency room care by DULCE families.

Given these results and the opportunity to increase support for families with infants, multiple communities expressed interest in DULCE (particularly for families with complex needs who are not ready or willing to participate in a home visiting program). DULCE currently operates in six clinical sites. We work in partnership with community-based, early childhood organizations in five counties: Lamoille County in Vermont, Palm Beach County in Florida, and Alameda County, Los Angeles County, and Orange County in California. 

DULCE embodies a belief that all children and families should have the support they need for healthy development. The DULCE approach includes:

An existing community-based, early childhood organization that coordinates care which brings together early childhood, legal, and healthcare experts to connect families to complimentary resources and support.

Well-trained, supervised family specialists. A critical part of the primary care team, specialists are trained in Brazelton Touchpoints and the Newborn Behavioral Observations and provide direct support, fostering a trusting relationship with the medical provider and building parents’ confidence.

Partners who work together. They review cases weekly, problem-solve together, and ensure that families are connected to services.

A team that honors families’ needs and priorities. Parents know their families best. The team listens and works with parents on what their families need most.

Clinics are located in communities that can benefit most. We recognize that all families need support during the first six months of a child’s life, and work to provide equitable access to care.

DULCE Outcomes

As DULCE expands to more sites, more families will be connected to the support they need for their children to get a healthy start.

Our Experts

Stephanie Doyle

Stephanie Doyle

Senior Associate
Azieb Ermias

Azieb Ermias

Program Manager, DULCE
Amy Fine

Amy Fine

Senior Fellow
Pasty Hampton

Patsy Hampton

Senior Associate and Director, EC-LINC