This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Erikson on Children under the headline “Investing in young children: A conversation with Janice Feinberg, President, Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation.” More from this issue

For nearly 20 years, the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation has provided annual unrestricted support to Erikson, and ensures that Erikson is recognized each month on Chicago’s PBS television station, WTTW.

The Feinberg Foundation was established in 1969 by brothers Bernard, Louis, Reuben, and Samuel Feinberg to honor the memory of their parents. Today, the foundation is directed by Janice Feinberg, her brother Joseph Feinberg, and Joe’s wife, Rhonda Feinberg.

We recently talked with Janice Feinberg, the Feinberg Foundation’s president, about the foundation’s long-time support of Erikson.

Why does the Feinberg Foundation support Erikson?

Feinberg: I was first introduced to Erikson by Virginia Bobins, an Erikson alumna and life trustee, as well as a passionate advocate for early childhood initiatives and all that Erikson does. I was immediately impressed by the strong leadership at Erikson and — as I have a science background — by the abundant research out there supporting the importance and impact of early childhood interventions.

Erikson is doing incredible work to prepare early childhood professionals to serve children and families effectively. The Institute also conducts original research and program evaluations that significantly add to the knowledge base on the impact of early childhood programs.
Both of these resonate with me.

After becoming involved at Erikson and learning so much about early childhood development, the Feinberg Foundation began investing in other organizations serving children and youth. Erikson was in a sense our gateway into this field. Before we began supporting Erikson, the Feinberg Foundation mainly funded medical research, Jewish communal organizations, and the arts. Today, we also support community-based organizations that improve the lives of the economically underserved population of Chicago, serve the needs of abused or neglected youth, and support children in at-risk or in economically disadvantaged households.

Why do you believe that supporting early childhood is important?

Feinberg: All children don’t start on an equal playing field. If socioeconomic disadvantage, family disruption, or diagnosed disabilities interfere with early childhood development, there is more likelihood of problems later in life. It doesn’t make sense to support programs targeting at-risk youth without also contributing to organizations that focus on early interventions that can impact the risk trajectory.

I tell people that if you want to invest your money somewhere that will make a difference in our world, early childhood could be the place to make your investment. The high returns on investment are well documented.

The foundation generously includes Erikson as one of the organizations that receives on-air recognition on WTTW. How did this evolve?

Feinberg: The Feinberg Foundation is a long-time supporter of WTTW and receives on-air recognition for this support. Not wanting an opportunity to go to waste, we added to the on-air recognition the organizations we support. In 2007, we decided to highlight what we considered “underrecognized” organizations doing important work. Erikson is one of those organizations and now appears monthly on WTTW.

We hope that more and more people learn about the critical work Erikson does, and that our investments contribute to the success of Erikson and to the success of children and families throughout Chicago and the U.S.