How Dr. Bernard Inspires Our Grantmaking

When asked to describe Dr. Bernard and her motivations, those who knew her used the following words:  courageous, tough, intellectual, left-of-center, pioneering, independent.  One trustee explained: “She had an enduring commitment to social justice and to disadvantaged children.”  Within her field of children’s mental health and social psychology, Dr. Bernard had particular affinity for:

  • programs designed to assist disadvantaged families in accessing services;
  • improvements to adoptive and foster care services;
  • effective, evidence-based psychosocial services and policies;
  • coordination, equity and justice in systems serving disadvantaged children and their families.

During an interview, one trustee remarked:

“Vi’s idea [for the Foundation] was great, to find innovative new projects doing something important and replicable.”

Given the Foundation’s limited funds, we seek to intervene in places where a bit of money and wisdom can improve a child’s life, a family or a system.  Dr. Bernard worked to create city-wide, national, and international collaborations to improve the human condition, especially children and families from support for the first family court in New York and the nation to the Physicians Group on Nuclear War [PUGWASH] in which she played a significant role internationally.  The following story is a metaphor for the role the Foundation seeks:

Vi really had a knack for finding missing steps in someone’s path to well-being.  A long-time client of hers was in bad shape, but wanted to stay in her home, but the fear was that she would not be able to get help if she needed it.  The one thing she needed was a telephone extension that would allow a phone to be placed closer to her bed.  So Vi went to the phone company and got them to install this extension.  This was a long time ago, when such things were more difficult. 

…this story tells you about Vi and her approach to a problem.  She would step in and figure it out, looking at all the different services being offered, and realize that none of them would work unless one added that little piece to bridge the gap.  She would bring it all together and that would make a big difference.

While extension cords (and other capital expenditures) are not prioritized, the Foundation does invite applications with the practical, problem-solving and impact-driven qualities embodied by this story and by Dr. Bernard herself.

When and where the Foundation can bridge a gap, make a connection or influence change with a smaller, but well-placed investment, these are the requests to which the Foundation feels compelled and inspired by Dr. Viola Bernard’s example to act.

Trustees look for funding opportunities that represent this ideal:  “But for Viola Bernard Foundation support, we could never have developed this program, reached those children, or tried out this new idea.”   Examples of these kinds of grants are under Exemplary Grants. (Link to section)