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About Us

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Room to Grow recognizes that every parent needs information, support, and all the essential items for their growing baby, and, that every child deserves the opportunity to have basic needs met, to learn and grow, and to reach his or her fullest potential.

Parents raising babies in poverty have limited access to crucial resources and enriching experiences for their children. Poor families typically face multiple stressors that have a significant impact on their parenting. Parents struggling to provide basic necessities often do not have the time, resources, or information to provide stimulating experiences for their babies. While many low-income mothers receive free or low-cost prenatal services, there is little support once the baby is born.
Room to Grow addresses the many needs of these parents, who, like all parents, want to provide the best possible start in life for their children.

Room to Grow currently enrolls 300 children and their parents in our New York site and nearly 200 in Boston.


The mission of Room to Grow is to enrich the lives of babies born into poverty throughout their critical first three years of development.


Room to Grow opened in fall 1998 in a 550 square foot space in East Harlem, New York. Julie Burns, the Founder and sole staff person provided services to about 100 families referred to her by local prenatal programs. Room to Grow thrived as a place, utterly unique in concept, committed to supporting the fundamental needs of babies born into poverty during their first three years.

In 2001, the program moved to a 2,200 square foot space in the Flatiron district. Following was a period of tremendous growth for the organization, during which clinicians were hired to work with an expanding population of families, referral partnerships were formalized, and the organization's leadership body was solidified.

In 2004, Room to Grow opened a site in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, which currently serves 180 children. In November 2008, Room to Grow in Boston celebrated its first program graduates, and plans are in the works to further expand capacity there to nearly double the number of children served.


Room to Grow provides comprehensive support from the birth of the child to preschool—a period of great importance for physical, cognitive, psychological and social development. Room to Grow’s clinicians educate parents about loving, engaging, and responsive caregiving, and are a source of support for the parents to become confident in their caretaking abilities. We work with families long-term and intensively, addressing issues affecting parenting, as well as providing all the material items that every child require.

Parents are referred to Room to Grow by partner prenatal programs in New York City and Boston. They visit Room to Grow’s warm and inviting space every three months from just before the birth of their baby until their child turns three.

During their one-on-one appointments with staff clinicians, typically lasting two hours, parents receive developmental information, customized support, and needed baby items such as clothing, educational toys, books, and other essentials to ensure their child’s healthy and secure start in life. Meetings include discussion of developmental milestones and what to expect at different stages of a child’s growth, as well as support and counseling to parents on how best to manage their own emotional experiences while parenting in often stressful circumstances.

Room to Grow refers to outside services as needed, including early intervention, child care, pediatric medical care, and Head Start or other preschool options. Clinicians also make referrals aimed at improving the family’s overall situation, such as GED and job training, emergency housing, and family therapy and domestic violence counseling when necessary.


Over their three years in the program, parents become more confident in their ability to support their children, whether by learning ways to meet their infant’s emotional needs, setting limits for their toddler, or by obtaining stimulating toys, warm clothing, and books to read.


Room to Grow is implementing enhancements to our program in both New York and Boston, including follow-up visits with program graduates, an early literacy initiative, and group sessions on early childhood topics. We continue to increase our client caseload to serve more children in need.


Julie Burns, Founder and CEO of Room to Grow. A native New Yorker, Julie grew up with a strong interest in supporting children and families, and was inspired to service by her grandmother, who spent more than 25 years volunteering her time to those in need.

Julie graduated with a BA in art history from the University of Michigan--and before embarking on career in social work, she worked in the Old Masters Painting department at Christie's auction house in New York.

Julie received a master's degree in social work from New York University in 1996. It was during her work as a psychotherapist in the child and adolescent division of the Karen Horney Clinic in New York that she developed the concept for Room to Grow.

Julie recognized the profound need to help expectant parents living in poverty, and provide them with the direct support and resources for their children from the very beginning. She was equally motivated by the idea of engaging community involvement to help ensure this secure start for the children to be served by Room to Grow.

In 1998, Julie opened the first Room to Grow site in East Harlem, New York. Since then she has presided over the organization's growth in New York City and expansion to a second site in Boston, Massachusetts.


Julie Burns, CSW
Founder and CEO
Room to Grow

John Danielson
President and CEO
Chartwell Education Group

Susie Leness Gilbert

Alexandra of Greece

David Heleniak, Chair
Vice-Chairman and Managing Director
Morgan Stanley

Randall Kane
Managing Partner
Acquis Consulting Group

Rachel Mauro, Secretary
Rachel Mauro Fine Arts, Ltd.

Uma Thurman

Maggie Rokous Towles

Jennifer Rudolph Walsh
Executive Vice President and
Co-Head of Worldwide Literary Department
William Morris Agency

Laurence Zabar
Senior Vice President and
Chief Administrative Officer
New England Council


United States


Massachusetts, New York


54 West 21st Street Room 401
New York, NY 10010-7361
Phone: (212) 620-7800
EIN: 13-4012096

A Gift Card

Basic Needs


Provide clothing

Clothes and Shoes

This gift will provide appropriate clothing and shoes for all seasons, including a coat or snowsuit, sleepwear, and shoes or boots.


Toys for learning

Developmental Toys

this gift will provide developmental toys that build strong motor skills and cognitive abilities in young children.


Baby essentials

Sturdy, Safe Equipment

This gift will provide baby equipment to a family in need.


Keep babies safe

Safety Kit

this gift will provide a family in need with tools to baby-proof their homes and guidance on ensuring their child's safety.


Build love of books

Early Literacy support

Early literacy strategies that help parents support their child’s language development, and books for each child.


Build memories

One memory book

This gift will provide a lasting Memory Book that also helps parents bond to their child.