The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation is an in-the-works documentary series and multimedia initiative that seeks to “reframe the way we look at early child health and development.” By dynamically weaving the science of child development with the personal stories of families struggling to provide high-quality early experiences for their children, the film aims to demonstrate how current United States social policies and the society they influence deny our children, and our nation, the reality of an equitable, thriving nation.
Early Childhood in the United States
“We talk a good game in this country about being family friendly, but in providing for the economic and social needs of our families, we are woefully behind other countries,” says Judith Lichtman, Senior Advisor at the National Partnership for Women and Families in the beginning of this clip from The Raising of America. For example, did you know that among rich nations, the United States ranks:
- 16th for affordability of child care
- 22nd for quality of child care
- 31st for availability of child care
These statistics are alarming given that what a child experiences during the early years, both good and bad, has a lifelong impact on the child’s ability to regulate emotions, control impulses, and more. Explains Jack Shonkoff, MD, of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, “Few of us remember what we experienced when we were toddlers. But the brain remembers, the body remembers… If we don’t do it right early, it’s harder later. We pay for it later.”
The Future of Our Nation
The need for policy change, for societal change, that supports families and brings communities together to raise healthy children is echoed by parents and economic and early childhood experts alike throughout the video. Reflects one parent, “I’m entrusting someone else to keep her [daughter] safe, to teach her, to help her grow in all areas- developmentally, spiritually- we can’t do it alone.” Laura Lovett, a historian at the University of Massachusetts agrees, “Once you imagine that every family stands on its own, you’re really making it impossible to create a national vision of everyone doing well together.”
Policy change is crucial, many emphasize, not only for each individual child’s health and development, but if we are to realize a just, equitable, and successful society. “The part of this argument that I like the most is the social equality aspect of it. What’s socially fair is also economically efficient… If you are… somebody asking Where should I put my money? In the stock market, or in a young child? You’d say In a young child. Because you’re going to get a bigger payback in terms of… reduced litany of social problems,” says James Heckman, economist at the University of Chicago.
All Our Kin’s response to this initiative is “YES! Thank you!” With President Obama’s recent proposal to increase investment in early childhood care and education, this initiative is well-timed, though a conversation about the United States’ policy gap in supporting families and caregivers is long overdue. We hope that this increased spotlight on the importance of early childhood will lead to increased support and respect for caregivers of all kinds- parents, relatives, family child care providers, and center providers alike.
Set for release in Winter 2013/2014, The Raising of America Project will include an hour-long documentary on PBS along with shorter video learning modules, an online learning center, and a national public engagement campaign. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Database, a directory of early childhood organizations, initiatives, and resources, can be accessed now at www.raisingofamerica.org/database. Visit the site to look around, learn more, and add your own organization to the directory.