“EARLY CHILDHOOD IS A TIME OF GREAT PROMISE and rapid change when the architecture of the developing brain is most open to the influence of relationships and experiences. Yet, at the same time, significant disadvantages in the life circumstances of young children can undermine their development, limit their future economic and social mobility, and threaten the vitality, productivity, and sustainability of an entire country.”
With these words, a new research study from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University is introduced documenting the importance of early child development and the need for high quality early child care, not only for individual families, but for an entire nation. “When we give to children today what they need to learn, develop, and thrive, they give back to society in the future through a lifetime of productive citizenship.” The study, From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts, documents the vital necessity in today’s world for a society to ensure that all of its children get a healthy start in life. “At a time when the discourse around early child investments is dominated by debates over preschool for 4-year-olds,” it concludes, “the biological sciences cry out for attending to a missing niche in the field – new strategies in the prenatal-to-three period for families facing adversity.” Since the earliest years are the time when the child is “acquiring the building blocks of executive function and self-regulation,” adversity during this period “disrupts the foundations of learning, behavior, and health.”
Recent advances in the sciences related to early child development have added to an alreadyestablished body of knowledge in the field that can have an impact on current policy and practice. The study, divided into chapters on The Science of Early Child Development, Lessons Learned from Five Decades of Program Evaluation Research, and Creating a Research and Development Engine to Produce Breakthrough Impacts at Scale, concludes with a Call to Action for the advancement of science and national policy on early child development and care.
“The possibility for substantial progress in our ability to dramatically improve the life prospects of all young children is real,” says the clarion call conclusion of the study. “The time to aim higher is now.”
A copy of the entire report may be obtained without charge by downloading From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impactsat www.developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/from-best-practices-to-breakthrough-impacts/