FRAMEWORKS INSTITUTE 2009

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS 2009

FROM FRAMEWORKS INSTITUTE

Despite years of research and public discourse about child development and related issues,

there is considerable evidence to suggest that the public, policy makers and the media still do not understand the crucial issues underlying this debate, nor do advocates and policy makers know the best way to incorporate the science of early childhood development in order to promote positive change for children. – Frameworks Institute

Aren’t most children in this country doing just fine?

It is critical that we respond to the very real problems facing our children today – bullying, lack of empathy, teen pregnancy, substance abuse epidemic – so that our country continues to be prosperous and successful into the future. We now know that toxic stress in early childhood, caused by things like extreme poverty, abuse or severe maternal depression, damages the developing brain. As a society, we must develop environments for children to create buffers of support to make stress more tolerable.

Do early childhood programs really benefit all children, even those who aren’t poor?

The development of the brain’s architecture is not different for higher income or lower income kids. Like the construction of a home, the building process begins with laying the foundation, framing the rooms and wiring the electrical system in a predictable sequence. Early experiences literally shape how the brain gets built; a strong foundation in the early years increases the probability of positive outcomes. A weak foundation increases the odds of later difficulties. That’s why we want these early experiences to be top-notch for all children.

Aren’t we asking government to make up for what parents are not doing? Isn’t it better for parents to take care of their own kids rather than send them to child care?

Innovative states have been able to design high-quality early education programs for children — programs that have solved problems and shown significant long-term improvements for children. We need to make this a national priority. If a child is put in a day care center with caretakers who are overwhelmed by too many children or by their lack of training or unfamiliarity with these particular children, that has consequences for the “serve and return” process that is the basis for child development. Parents at home also need tools and support. We have to make sure that all children and families have access to the innovations that we know work.

Isn’t it true that data shows that early childhood programs aren’t very effective in the long-term? They cost a lot, but children still don’t do well in school later on.

We can design innovative programs that lead to long-term successful outcomes for children and a prosperous future for our communities. These early childhood development programs are important because early experiences lay the groundwork for all of the development that follows. Trying to change behavior or build new skills on a foundation of brain circuits that were not wired properly when they were first formed requires more work and is less effective. Remedial education, clinical treatment and other professional interventions are more costly and produce less desirable outcomes than the provision of nurturing, protective relationships and appropriate learning experiences earlier in life.

We’ve been investing in child care programs for many years. Why haven’t we seen more progress in educational outcomes?

Because the brain is a highly integrated organ, you cannot focus on developing just one part of the child without paying equal attention to the development of capacities. Social and emotional development are intertwined with learning. Simply put, you can’t develop one part and ignore the others, and expect a good outcome. By constantly updating and implementing support based our understanding of what works for children at different stages of development, we can make the best long-term return on society’s short-term investments in children.

“Since 2001, FrameWorks has been working on this topic — most recently in collaboration with the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, the National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation, and the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University.”

from the frameworks institute