Annie E. Casey Foundation report: The first eight years are crucial

12 Nov

Moi wrote in Jonathan Cohn’s ‘The Two Year Window’ Moi has got plenty to say about hypocrites of the conservative persuasion, those who espouse family values, but don’t live up to them or who support corporate welfare while tossing out that old bromide that individuals must pull themselves up by their bootstraps even if they don’t have shoes.
Because of changes in family structure and the fact that many children are now being raised by single parents, who often lack the time or resources to care for them, we as a society must make children and education a priority, even in a time of lack. I know that many of the conservative persuasion will harp on about personal responsibility, yada, yada, yada. Moi promotes birth control and condoms, so don’t harp on that. Fact is children, didn’t ask to be born to any particular parent or set of parents.

Jonathan Cohn reported about an unprecedented experiment which occurred in Romanian orphanages in the New Republic article, The Two Year Window. There are very few experiments involving humans because of ethical considerations.

Nelson had traveled to Romania to take part in a cutting-edge experiment. It was ten years after the fall of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose scheme for increasing the country’s population through bans on birth control and abortion had filled state-run institutions with children their parents couldn’t support. Images from the orphanages had prompted an outpouring of international aid and a rush from parents around the world to adopt the children. But ten years later, the new government remained convinced that the institutions were a good idea—and was still warehousing at least 60,000 kids, some of them born after the old regime’s fall, in facilities where many received almost no meaningful human interaction. With backing from the MacArthur Foundation, and help from a sympathetic Romanian official, Nelson and colleagues from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland prevailed upon the government to allow them to remove some of the children from the orphanages and place them with foster families. Then, the researchers would observe how they fared over time in comparison with the children still in the orphanages. They would also track a third set of children, who were with their original parents, as a control group.
In the field of child development, this study—now known as the Bucharest Early Intervention Project—was nearly unprecedented. Most such research is performed on animals, because it would be unethical to expose human subjects to neglect or abuse. But here the investigators were taking a group of children out of danger. The orphanages, moreover, provided a sufficiently large sample of kids, all from the same place and all raised in the same miserable conditions. The only variable would be the removal from the institutions, allowing researchers to isolate the effects of neglect on the brain….
Drury, Nelson, and their collaborators are still learning about the orphans. But one upshot of their work is already clear. Childhood adversity can damage the brain as surely as inhaling toxic substances or absorbing a blow to the head can. And after the age of two, much of that damage can be difficult to repair, even for children who go on to receive the nurturing they were denied in their early years. This is a revelation with profound implication—and not just for the Romanian orphans.
APPROXIMATELY SEVEN MILLION American infants, toddlers, and preschoolers get care from somebody other than a relative, whether through organized day care centers or more informal arrangements, according to the Census Bureau. And much of that care is not very good. One widely cited study of child care in four states, by researchers in Colorado, found that only 8 percent of infant care centers were of “good” or “excellent” quality, while 40 percent were “poor.” The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found that three in four infant caregivers provide only minimal cognitive and language stimulation—and that more than half of young children in non-maternal care receive “only some” or “hardly any” positive caregiving. http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/magazine/97268/the-two-year-window?page=0,0&passthru=YzBlNDJmMmRkZTliNDgwZDY4MDhhYmIwMjYyYzhlMjg

Because the ranks of poor children are growing in the U.S., this study portends some grave challenges not only for particular children, but this society and this country. Adequate early learning opportunities and adequate early parenting is essential for proper development in children. https://drwilda.com/2011/12/18/jonathan-cohns-the-two-year-window/

Christina Samuels reported in the Education Week article, Study: Many Young Children Lagging in Cognitive Skills at Age 8:

An analysis of 13,000 young children tracked from kindergarten entry through middle school found that only about a third of them were on track with cognitive skills by 3rd grade, underlining the need for a comprehensive early-childhood education, particularly for low-income children, according to a new report from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The foundation, which publishes an annual ranking of child well-being called the Kids Count Data Book, released its findings Monday in a policy report called The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.
The findings are based on the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten, a federally-funded data collection effort that tracked children who were in kindergarten in 1998-99 school year to spring 2007, when most would have been in 8th grade. The federal data collection process asked the participating children questions to assess their literacy, math skills, and science skills. The foundation defines scoring at or above the national average on all three subjects as meeting cognitive development benchmarks.
The data analysis showed that by 3rd grade, 56 percent were on track with physical development, 70 percent with social and emotional growth, and 74 percent in their level of school engagement.
But digging into the numbers revealed disparities between the overall group’s well-being, and the well-being of black children, Hispanic children, and children growing up in poverty. For example, 19 percent of 3rd graders in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line—in 2001, that was $35,920 for a family of four—were hitting their cognitive development milestones. In comparison, 50 percent of children in families above that income level hit that mark.
The analysis also showed that 14 percent of black children and 19 percent of Hispanic children were on track in cognitive development.
The results were striking, said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy for the foundation. Also noteworthy was the connection between family education and income. In more than half of the low-income families with children under age 8, the head of the household had a high school degree or less. In half of the higher-income families, the head of the household had at least a bachelor’s degree.
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2013/11/study_many_young_children_lagging_in_cognitive_skills_at_age_8.html

Here is the press release from Annie E. Casey:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 4, 2013
Contact:
Kimberly Varner | 202.706.7404
Sue Lin Chong | 410.223.2836
Can America’s Kids Succeed? Critical Investments Should Target the First Eight Years of Life, Report Finds
Only 36 percent of third graders on track in cognitive development; low-income and minority children faring even worse.
BALTIMORE — The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest KIDS COUNT® policy report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, presents a strong case for investing in the early years of a child’s life. Decades of brain and child development research show that kids who enter kindergarten with below-average language and cognitive skills can catch up — but only if they are physically healthy and have strong social and emotional skills.
“All children need nurturing and plentiful opportunities to develop during their crucial first eight years,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Foundation. “Today’s complicated world can strain families’ ability to ensure their children are receiving all the stimulation and care they need to develop to their full potential.”
The report details how a child’s early development across critical areas of well-being is essential to make the effective transition into elementary school and for long-term school success. According to a newly released analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal study that began to track 13,000 children who were in kindergarten in 1998-99, by third grade, only 36 percent of children were on track in cognitive knowledge and skills, 56 percent in their physical well-being, 70 percent in their social and emotional growth and 74 percent in their level of school engagement.
The analysis shows that just 19 percent of third-graders in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level and 50 percent of those in families with incomes above that level had developed age-appropriate cognitive skills. This picture is particularly troubling for children of color, with 14 percent of black children and 19 percent of Hispanic children on track in cognitive development. Children who don’t meet these key developmental milestones often struggle to catch up in school and graduate on time and are less likely to achieve the kind of economic success and stability necessary to support a family themselves.
For children to succeed, classroom learning should be integrated with other aspects of child development, such as social, emotional and physical development, to create opportunities for children to develop the full array of competencies they will need in life. Many states and communities have already begun the work of bringing the programs and services for young children and families into a cohesive system. To prepare all of America’s children for success, the report sets forth three broad policy recommendations:
• Support parents so they can effectively care and provide for their children. States and the federal government should make it easier for parents to navigate the array of programs that can help families by aligning and streamlining benefits packages. Children also benefit when their parents have opportunities to gain education and skills, and when their parents have well-paying, good jobs and the chance to build a career.
• Increase access to high-quality birth-through-age-8 programs, beginning with investments that target low-income children. The report urges states to adopt Early Learning and Development Standards that set clear expectations for child development. Investing to ensure that all children reach important benchmarks, such as grade-level reading proficiency by third grade, will pay long term dividends. In addition to having high-quality care and education for all kids, states should ensure access to affordable and comprehensive health care with timely screenings that can catch disabilities or developmental delays in young children.
• Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of children’s development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children. States should use consistent measures of child development that provide broad assessments of well-being, including progress across key aspects of development. Coordinated educational efforts should use transition planning models that help children move successfully through the birth-through-8 system.
The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success includes data on early childhood development for every state, the District of Columbia and the nation. Additional information is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.
###
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visitwww.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Download the news release — Can America’s Kids Succeed? Critical Investments Should Target the First Eight Years of Life, Report Finds — as a PDF.
http://www.aecf.org/~/media/Pubs/Initiatives/KIDS%20COUNT/F/FirstEightYears/AECFTheFirstEightYears2013.pdf

Cohn recognizes that in a time of economic distress it is difficult to call for massive spending on parent support and early learning programs, but that is what he says the implications of the Romanian study are if early damage to poor children is to be avoided. A conference where MIT was a participant described the economic benefit of early childhood programs web.mit.edu/workplacecenter/docs/Full%20Report.pdf NPR has an audio debate about the MIT report http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4605569

Legislators are correct in their prudence about the budget, but the question is whether they are being, as the saying goes, “penny wise and pound foolish.” So much of economic development and full employment is based on an educated and skilled population. Third world countries are undeveloped for many reasons including unsustainable debt, corruption, and being disadvantaged in the world system of trade. One of the primary reasons that third world countries are third world is the limited education opportunity for the majority of their population.

Politics has always been a tough business, the Ides of March is one example of how brutal politics can be. Many times those who serve do so under tough conditions, often with little thanks. Still it is time to recognize that there must be some investments made for the future and early childhood programs are an example of necessary investment. Just as there are those who reflex ably say no to school choice, there are those who just as reflex ably say no to investing in this country’s future.
Cohn’s article is a must read.

Resources:

The changing face of poverty
Millions of Americans live in poverty, more families are suffering and hunger is seen growing. (more) http://money.cnn.com/2004/12/22/news/economy/poverty_overview/index.htm

Hard at work but can’t buy food
While the ranks of the working poor grow in number, should employers step up to stop the trend? (more) http://money.cnn.com/2004/12/16/news/economy/poverty_corporate/index.htm

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