On October 3, 2000, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies released From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, an update and synthesis of current scientific knowledge of child development from birth to age five. Guided by the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Jack Shonkoff, Chair and Deborah Phillips, Study Director), the report addresses how scientific advances can be used to shape early childhood policy, services and research. Four of their key findings are:
Early experiences affect the development of the brain and lay the foundation for intelligence, emotional health, and moral development, but the focus on the period from "zero-to-three" is too narrow.
1) Healthy early development depends on nurturing and dependable relationships.
2) How young children feel is as important as how they think, particularly with regard to school readiness.
3) And although society is changing, the needs of young children are not being met in the process.
4) Ultimately, the report recommends that our society make a major reassessment of how we address the needs of young children. Other key recommendations are outlined below.
>Increase the resources allocated to the emotional and social needs of young children.
>Give incentives to mental health professionals to work in early childhood settings.
>Design a public health campaign that focuses on poor nutrition, infections, exposure to environmental toxins, drugs and other biological hazards to healthy brain development.
>Create more well-designed early intervention programs for children at risk.
>Make early intervention programs more accessible to full-time working parents, especially those who work non-standard hours.
>Design early intervention programs that deal with the full range of problems that families face, including substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues, and that make referrals for treatment and assessment as needed.
>Create a presidential task force to review all existing public investments in early childhood and create a scientifically based ten-year strategic plan that will:
-Foster close consistent relationships between children and qualified caregivers;
-Deal with the needs of children with developmental delays or chronic health problems;
-Ensure that all childcare settings are safe, stimulating and compatible with the values of the families they serve.
>Encourage Congress and the Presidential Council of Economic Advisors to develop tax, wage and income support policies that ensure that children with working parents do not live below the poverty line and that no child lives in "deep and persistent poverty."
>Expand coverage of the Family And Medical Leave Act to all working parents.
>Allow welfare recipients with very young children to be excused from TANF work requirements for lengthier periods of time.
>Provide financial support to low-income parents who have not been able to take any leave under FMLA because they could not afford to forgo their paycheck.
>Provide pay increases and professional development opportunities to child care professionals.
>Conduct further research on how different types of interventions affect children from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
>Undertake systematic and methodical evaluations of early intervention efforts.
>Foster greater collaboration among neuroscientists, child-development researchers, and molecular geneticists to learn more about how environmental and biogenetic factors work together to influence early development.
>The education, health and human services fields should work together to analyze the professional development challenges that face the early childhood field. To do so, they should form a collaborative of professional organizations and representatives from a variety of institutions that prepare individuals to work with children and families.
Read the entire book From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000); Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Author)