29 July 2009

American Recovery Act Stimulus Money to Uphold Tennessee Foster Care Payments

In Tennessee, the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) pays foster and adoptive families between 22 and 29 dollars a day to cover the living expenses for children removed from their parents’ custody for maltreatment. The payments are low; however, they do help the compassionate families who help these troubled children pay the bills and purchase household neccessities.

Earlier this year, as our state confronted the staggering recession-induced deficit, Governor Bredeson asked every state agency to make budget cuts of up to 20 percent. Tennessee DCS complied and developed a list of almost 55 million in plausible cuts (encompassing generally everything the organization does that it is not legally required to do).

According to Doug Swisher, budget director at Tennessee DCS, the state’s board payment program barely escaped cuts in the most recent budget round. At the last minute, it was saved by the Reinvestment stimulus package, which gave DCS 10 million dollars in funding to help cover more of the $46 million dollar cost of the board payment program.

This is good news for Shelby County, where 925 children were in care as of June 30, 2007. Over 20% of these children were between birth and four years of age—the time period in which the most rapid cognitive, social and emotional development takes place. It is critically important that these susceptible infants and toddlers have access to the crucial resources they need for healthy growth - and the DCS board payment program helps transitional and adoptive families meet the basic needs of these children.

“Abused and neglected children are among the most vulnerable citizens in this country,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights, a New York-based children’s advocacy organization. “We know that child abuse tends to increase during difficult economic times, so for the state to receive an increase in federal funds that will in any way help to protect these kids is not only important, but a very good thing” (Ross, 2009, p.1).

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.


Ross, J. (2009, July 20). Stimulus saves, but doesn't raise, foster care payments. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090720/NEWS01/907200342/Stimulus+saves++but+doesn+t+raise++foster+care+payments

TN Department of Children's Services. Annual Report FY 2009. Nashville, TN: Author. http://www.state.tn.us/youth

27 July 2009

Making the Connection between Poor Early Behavioral Development and Later Life Criminality

"Aggressive behavior is typically associated with older children. Research suggests however, that it may actually peak in the second year of life and steadily decline after that. Most children learn to regulate physical aggression during the preschool years, but a significant number of boys and girls will continue to display this behavior as adolescents and adults” (Tremblay et al. 2005).

Between 2 ½ and 5 years of age, a child is laying the foundation for how they will deal with their own aggression and how well they learn to restrain themselves (Tremblay et al., 2005). Healthy early childhood behavioral development has been linked to many later life outcomes, including a propensity for violent and aggressive behavior during adolescence and the likelihood that youth will engage in criminal behavior. Put simply, a child who does not learn to manage aggression in early childhood is much more likely to act violently as an adolescent, commit crimes, and go to prison (Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber, 1998; Nagin and Tremblay, April 2001).

Several studies have linked a child’s early life to their development of persistent aggressive tendencies. Boys with a high level of hyperactivity and a high level of opposition in kindergarten are nine times more likely to be aggressive and violent as adolescents than boys with low levels of hyperactivity and aggression. Having a teen-age mother or a mother with a low level of education are also significant predictors of a boys’ later life aggression and violence. Together, these two factors also increase the likelihood that a boy will be persistently violent through adolescence (Nagin and Tremblay, April 2001).

A 2005 study revealed that the children of younger mothers with low levels of education were more aggressive during the first 3 years of life. Having a mother who smoked during pregnancy, a mother who displayed anti-social behavior and having younger siblings were also linked to a child’s propensity to be more aggressive (Tremblay et al, 2005). Most recently, a study using data from the Fragile Families Project at Princeton revealed a strong correlation between having an incarcerated father and early and persistent aggressive behavior in boys. Paternal incarceration is much less likely to lead to the development of aggressive behavior in girls (Wildeman, July 2009).

These findings are particularly disturbing given the home and family environment in which many children in Shelby County grow up. Currently, 15% of children born in Shelby County have a mother who is in her teens and 28% of children are born to a mother without a high school diploma (Tennessee Department of Health, 2006). National level data indicate that 4% of children born each year in Shelby County will have a parent in state or federal prison at some point during their childhood, which is twice the current national rate of 2%. 22.4% of children in the U.S. with incarcerated parents are under the age of 5 (Glaze and Maruschak, August 2008). Since Shelby County current has the nation’s 3rd highest incarceration rate, it is likely that many more children will have a parent who spends some time behind bars (Sullivan, April 2008). More than a decade of research has connected these factors with the early onset of aggressive behavior in young children in Memphis, and suggests that this behavior will persist and will lead to successive generations of crime and incarceration for Memphis residents.

How can we intervene in the lives of at-risk children to help improve their socio-emotional and behavioral development? Since many of the risk factors associated with the development of high aggression are associated with a child’s early home life, services that help young and at-risk parents, such as nationally proven home visiting programs could help parents of vulnerable children teach their children how to deal with behavioral development prior to kindergarten entry.

Additionally, the U.S. Army has done much innovative work to integrate children’s mental health services into Part C, Early Intervention Services that are targeted to children from birth to age 3. They helped integrate mental health care into Early Intervention Services through training non-mental health care staff to recognize and understand social and emotional developmental issues that children experience (Grabert, July 2009).

Tennessee’s Department of Human Services (DHS) has also been working with the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds to implement the Strengthening Families program through early care and education providers around the state (TN DHS, 2009). This program uses early care and education providers to give families access to 5 protective factors that help prevent child abuse and neglect. They include: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need and children’s social and emotional development (Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2008). The implementation of this program will not only help prevent abuse and neglect, but will also enable parents to assist their children in healthy social, emotional and behavioral development.


Center for the Study of Social Policy (2008). “The Five Protective Factors,” Strengthening Families. Washington D.C.: Author. Accessed July 24, 2009

Grabert, John C. (July 2009). “Integrating Early Childhood Mental Health Into Early Intervention Services,” Zero to Three, 29, 6: 13-17.

Glaze, Lauren E. and Laura M. Maruschak (August 2008, revised Jan. 2009). Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Accessed July 24, 2009. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pptmc.pdf

Kagan, Sharon Lynn, Evelyn Moore and Sue Bredekamp, Eds. (1995). Reconsidering Children’s Early Development and Learning: Toward Common Views and Vocabulary. Washington, D.C.: National Education Goals Panel.

Loeber R, Stouthamer-Loeber M (1998). “Development of juvenile aggression and violence: some common misconceptions and controversies,” American Psychology, no. 53: 242-259.

Nagin, Daniel, and Richard Tremblay. 2001. “Parental and Early Childhood Predictors of Persistent Physical Aggression in Boys from Kindergarten to High School.” Archives of General Psychiatry 58:389-394.

Sullivan, Bartholomew (April 11, 2008). “Shelby County has nation's third-highest jail incarceration rate, study finds,” The Commercial Appeal. Accessed July 23, 2009. <>

Tennessee Department of Health. Office of Policy, Planning and Assessment, Division of Health Statistics. Birth Statistical System, 2006. Nashville, Tennessee.

Tennessee Department of Human Services (2009). State Child Care Development Fund Plan: 2009-2010. Available from Gail Crawford with the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

Tremblay, Richard, Daniel Nagin, Jean Seguin, Mark Zoccolillo, Phillip Zelazo, Michel Boivin, Daniel Perusse, and Christa Japel (2005). The Early Development of Physical Aggression in Children. Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy. Accessed July 21, 2009 <>

Wildeman, Christopher (July 2009). "Paternal Incarceration and Children's Physically Aggressive Behaviors: Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study," Working Paper 2008-02-FF <> Accessed July 23, 2009.

24 July 2009

Increasing Health Care Coverage For Low-Income Children: Grant Funding Allocated for Enrollment Initiatives

The first three years of life provide an incomparable time frame in which to maximize the healthy growth of infants and toddlers, as well as prevent and monitor the physical and cognitive delays that our youngest citizens could face as they develop into adults. By guaranteeing that all young families have access to quality, exhaustive, and organized health care services, policymakers and government leaders can take a primary role in promoting and investing in the wellness of children in their communities.

CoverKids, a government program designed to provide health insurance to children in low-income and working class families, was introduced in March of 2007. By February of this year, 4, 054 Shelby County children were enrolled in the program. By May 31, 2009, 4, 909 local children were enrolled in CoverKids (Wilemon, 2009), representing an enrollment increase of 21% over the four month period.* Although enrollment in CoverKids is increasing, health care coverage for children remains a critical issue in Memphis and across the state. In Tennessee, there are approximately 126,000 uninsured children (Wilemon, 2009).

Federal Funding Grants Should Help Increase Participation in Children’s Health Insurance Programs

The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama) has allocated over $40 million dollars in grant funding specifically for programs working to increase enrollment in State Children’s Health Insurance Programs. The grant money for outreach efforts is available to states and community-based organizations. Nonprofit groups that advance efforts for children’s health initiatives can find more information at www.grants.gov. Grant funding will be awarded by the end of September.

Steven Broderick, communications director for U.S. Rep. Steven Cohen, encourages any nonprofit organization interested in children’s health initiatives to contact Cohen’s office for advice (Phone Number – 901.544.4131).

“[Community organizations] are in the trenches, “Broderick said. “They know where these kids are. It’s a matter of going to the parent, who may not understand how the programs work or may not know the program is there, and telling them we can get health insurance for your kid” (Wilemon, 2009).

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.
The Center for Urban Child Policy at The Urban Child Institute. (2009, March 22). Covering Kid’s Health Needs. Memphis, TN.
Wilemon, T. (2009, July 9). Grants to put more kids on SCHIP. Memphis Daily News, 124 (133). Retrieved on July 14, 2009 from

*For more information on Tennessee health care coverage for children in poor and working class families, including income eligibility and benefits information, please see Covering Kids’ Health Needs at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Download.php?fileId=49c7c28dc50bb8.34476521.

16 July 2009

Ensuring Quality in Pre-K Classrooms Improves Outcomes for Kids

Young children learn through their interactions with the people and places that surround them. When those interactions are secure, nurturing and stimulating, a solid foundation is laid for optimal early childhood brain development. In turn, children’s later success in school and life rests on the foundation of early brain development (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2006).

One vital input to optimal early childhood development is insuring that all children have access to high quality early learning experiences. For many years, more affluent families have sent their children to high-quality, center-based early childhood education programs; but their cost has placed these opportunities out of the reach of lower-income families.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University recently released the latest edition of their longitudinal study of pre-kindergarten student achievement in New Jersey - The APPLES Blossom: Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study Results through 2nd Grade. The study follows children from their entry into the pre-school program at age 3 up through second grade. The study finds that children who participate in public pre-kindergarten in New Jersey, “ perform better in oral language and conceptual knowledge, reading skills and mathematics” than children who don’t attend pre-k. Moreover, attending pre-k reduces the likelihood that a child will be held back a grade by half (Hester, July 2009).

How can public pre-schools consistently improve children’s performance in their first years of school? By creating a unified set of quality standards for all pre-k classrooms. Currently, New Jersey’s Abbott pre-school programs serve about 43,000 children a year, roughly 80% of eligible students, and participation in the program rose dramatically after the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated the following quality guidelines:

~ Maximum classroom size of 15 students;
~ Certified teachers with early childhood expertise;
~ Assistant teachers in every classroom;
~ Comprehensive services; and
~ A developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to meet learning standards (Hester, July 2009).

Through careful enforcement of these guidelines, the Abbott program delivers a high quality pre-K experience across both public and private providers.
This May, the Tennessee Legislature voted to require that private child care programs must have earned a 3-star rating to be a public pre-K provider (TN State Legislature, 2009). This is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to providing high quality pre-K. Even better would be for Tennessee to follow New Jersey’s example and mandate that a single set of quality standards apply to all pre-K classrooms, regardless of the provider.

This strategy has proven not only to improve outcomes for the youngest children, but has also increased the public’s support for state-supported pre-kindergarten. Those are results that will help guarantee a strong start for children, and a strong future for proven best-practice programs.


Hester, Tom (July 13, 2009). “Study: N.J’s Abbott Pre-school Program Working,” New Jersey Newsroom.com. Accessed July 14, 2009. http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/study-njs-abbott-preschool-program-working

Frede, Ellen, Kwanghee Jung, W. Steven Barnett, and Alexandra Figueras (June 2009). The APPLES Blossom: Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES), Preliminary Results through 2nd Grade. Rutgers: National Institute for Early Educational Research. Accessed July 2009 http://nieer.org/pdf/apples_second_grade_results.pdf

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2006). Early Influences on Brain Architecture. Accessed June 2009. < http://www.developingchild.net/pubs/persp/Early_Influences/Early_Influences.html>

Tennessee State Legislature (2009). Bill Summary, Public Chapter 226. Author. Accessed July 14, 2009.

13 July 2009

Safe from the Start: Implications of Domestic Violence on the Youngest Memphians

Bringing home a newborn can overwhelm a family, throwing parents off balance as they readjust their lives around their baby’s needs. Meanwhile, research tells us that even the youngest babies are profoundly affected by the conditions in which they develop: first in the womb, and then once they come home.

Sadly, an expectant mother is a third more likely to be exposed to violence than a woman who is not pregnant. In turn, when a child in utero is exposed to domestic violence, they have a heightened risk of prematurity, irregular crying, eating and rest cycles, and they are more vulnerable to infections. Additionally, abused mothers have a harder time relating to their babies, and they are more likely to engage in punishing behaviors and child abuse. Almost 45% of child abuse related deaths occur during the first 12 months of an infant’s life, and one third of abused babies under age 1 are harmed during the first week of life (Lieberman, Diaz, & Horn, 2009).

Fast Facts (Memphis Area Women’s Council, 2004):

- As recently as 2004, Shelby County has the 6th highest rate of domestic homicide in the country.

- Approximately 700-800 cases of domestic violence are reported each month; just a small fraction of cases are actually reported.

How can we strengthen vulnerable families and promote maximum social, emotional and cognitive growth in our youngest children?

Policy Implications (Lawrence, 2002):

1. Very young children can gain from early support and skill building. Studies suggest that the early impact of domestic violence on infants and toddlers and the circular nature of domestic violence (i.e. children who are exposed to domestic violence are more likely to become involved in harmful relationships as adults) emphasizes the need to begin programs early and to take a generational approach to addressing domestic violence issues.

2. Heightened income assistance may make women less susceptible to intrapersonal violence. Women with higher levels of steady employment and income are less susceptible to abuse and may make improved decisions about marriage and relationships.

3. Prompt notice of family abuse should be supported. A modest disclosure rate to welfare professionals, combined with heightened frequency of intrapersonal violence among TANF recipients, is a grave problem and should be taken into consideration in developing policies and programs to improve child well-being. Community awareness of child maltreatment reporting laws is key- welfare professionals cannot strengthen vulnerable families by themselves. Currently, TN Department of Children's Services is transitioning from one track (maltreatment investigations) to three tracks (investigations, assessments, information/outreach). If community members have a solid knowledge of how the new system works to help abused and neglected children, the maltreatment reporting rate could increase (Williams, 2009).

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org.


Lawrence, S. (2002, December). Domestic violence and welfare policy: Research findings that can

inform policies on marriage and child well-being. National Center for Children in Poverty. NY:

Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

Lieberman, A.F., Diaz, M., & Van Horn, P. (2009, May). Safer beginnings: Perinatal child-parent

psychotherapy for newborns and mothers exposed to domestic violence. Journal of Zero To

Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, 29(5), 17-22.

Memphis Area Women’s Council: Women’s Policy Action Summit. (2004, April). Retrieved on July 6,

2009 from

Willams, N. (2009, July). Personal communication.

10 July 2009

North Carolina’s Smart Start: A Model for Putting Young Children on the Right Path to Success in School and Life

80% of a child’s brain development occurs during the first 36 months of her life. During this vital period, cognitive, social, emotional and physical developmental processes are progressing or faltering together. Early brain development, which is the foundation for all later life learning, occurs as a child interacts with the people in her life. When her interactions are secure and stimulating and her caregivers provide her with the resources and protections she needs to foster optimal brain development, she arrives at kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in school and life (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004).

The state of North Carolina created the early care and education portion of their ECCS, Smart Start initiative, through an act of the legislature in 1993 to “assure that every child in the state arrived at school healthy and ready to succeed” (Smart Start, 2007). When they began in 1994, they had 12 local partner organizations, working in 18 counties across the state to provide services such as home visiting and early care and education services to at-risk children. As of 2006, the Smart Start Initiative has $260 million in funding for its programs, with about 20% of funding coming from private organizations and 80% of the funding provided through government programs. Their funding is used by 79 partner agencies in all 100 counties to provide access to programs that support children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development (Doctors et al, 2007).

When they began, only 20% of children in the state attended a high quality early child care prior to kindergarten. Today 80% of the children in the state attend high quality child care. Additionally, more children have all of their vaccinations and a medical home during their crucial early brain developmental years. These improvements in the quality and availability of services that support young children’s developmental needs have translated into very real gains for children in later life outcome measures.

How well does it work? Children in North Carolina score higher on kindergarten readiness exams when they’ve participated in Smart Start programs. And these gains last: When they reach 4th grade, North Carolina’s children score markedly better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the national level achievement test than they did when Smart Start began offering services in 1994 (Smart Start, 2007).

Tennessee is joining other states right now in formulating an Early Childhood Comprehensive System. We hope that it will create the improved outcomes for at-risk children that have been demonstrated in North Carolina. As budgets are shrinking and the number of poor and at-risk children is expanding at an alarming rate, it is good to see federal, state and local governments partnering with parents and advocates for children to make smart policy that will improve the well-being of our children now and in the future. This is the kind of investing that has the power to improve the well-being of our children and our state.

Doctors, Jennifer V., Barbara Gebhard, Lynn Jones and Albert Wat (2007). Common Vision, Different Paths: Five States’ Journeys toward Comprehensive Prenatal-to-Five Systems. Zero to Three and Pre-K Now. Accessed February and July 2009. http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Pre-k_education/CommonVision_Dec2007.pdf

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships. Working Paper No.1. Accessed May 2009. < http://www.developingchild.net/pubs/wp/Young_Children_Environment_Relationships.pdf>

North Carolina Partnership for Children (2007). Smart Start National Technical Assistance Center Overview. Author. Accessed July 2009 http://www.smartstart-nc.org/ntac/index.htm

07 July 2009

Linking Investments in Quality Child Care to Kindergarten Readiness

A child’s most rapid brain development will occur between birth and age 3. The quality of that early brain development is dependent on a child having access to safe, supportive and stimulating early environments (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004). For many children in Shelby County, particularly children growing up in disadvantaged households, many of their waking hours in early childhood are spent in child care outside the home. Currently about 19,200 children in Shelby County are in Department of Human Services (DHS) supported care, approximately 5,000 are in public pre-K and around 3,300 children are in Early Head Start and Head Start (DHS, 2008; Memphis City Schools, 2009; Shelby County Schools, 2009; Warr, 2009; CUCP estimate based on CLASP, 2006) . Given that reality, it follows that the quality and stability of child care situations will have a large influence on the early brain development and later kindergarten readiness of at-risk children in Memphis.

When we talk about quality in early childcare, what do we mean? Traditionally, there have been various structural aspects of child care, such as teacher/child ratios, furnishings and physical space that have been our main metrics of quality in child care. While these aspects of quality are certainly important to protecting children’s health and safety, they do not fully address the issue of helping prepare children for kindergarten and school success. The Infant/Toddler Rating Scales (ITERS-R) used by DHS to observe infant/toddler child care providers do provide guidelines about how caregivers should use language and interact with children (Harms et al, 2006). However, the guidelines are not very specific or directive in terms of helping providers understand children’s developmental needs at various points over their first 36 months of life. The Department of Human Services is unique for being the only state DHS in the nation to conduct ITERS-R evaluations of all child care providers on a yearly basis (CLASP, 2006).

According to the National Education Goals Panel, kindergarten readiness includes dimensions of cognition, language skills and usage, gross and fine motor skills, social-emotional development, and interest in learning (Children Now, May 2009). Recent research on improving children’s kindergarten readiness skills indicates that language usage and cognition are two of the most important metrics for improving children’s kindergarten readiness, as demonstrated on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Willms, n.d; St. Pierre et al, 2003). However, it is often precisely in dimensions of fostering language growth and cognition that child care for at-risk children is often lacking (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998, p. 147, Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1995, as referenced in St. Pierre et al, 2003).

According to the Child Care Development Fund Plan of fiscal year 2009-2010, all publicly supported child care services in Tennessee, including public pre-K, Head Start, Early Head Start and DHS child care providers are required to learn and utilize the Tennessee Early Learning Developmental Standards (TN-ELDS) as of this fiscal year to tailor their child services to providing developmentally appropriate services (DHS, 2009). All three state agencies involved in creating the guidelines (DHS, the Department of Education and the Department of Health) have worked together to create a training program for providers to learn them and structure their services around them. They contain significantly more guidance for providers about the skills and abilities they need to foster in children from birth forward on all dimensions recognized in promoting kindergarten readiness. Currently 10 different national level curriculums for early child care, including Perry High Scope, have created crosswalks from their curricular models to TN-ELDS. In the next fiscal year, usage of the TN-ELDS will also be incorporated into the Quality Rating System assessments that DHS conducts on all providers in its Star Rating System. We would like to applaud the Department of Human Services, the Department of Education and the Department of Health for collaborating on creating the TN-ELDS and in so doing, striving to make a systematic improvement in the quality of child care available to at-risk children in Shelby County and Tennessee. They also have plans to collaborate with UT Knoxville on a study to determine if their investments in provider education and training opportunities improves children’s kindergarten readiness (DHS, 2009). We eagerly await the findings of their study.


Bredekamp, S. & T. Rosegrant (1995). Reaching potentials through national standards: Panacea

or pipe dream. In S. Bredekamp & T. Rosegrant (eds.), Reaching potentials: Transforming

early childhood curriculum and assessment (pp.5-14). Washington, DC: National Association

for the Education of Young Children.

Center for Law and Social Policy (2006). Tennessee Child Care Evaluation and Report Card Program, Star Quality Child Care Program. Author. Accessed May 2009.

Center for Law and Social Policy (2006). Head Start by the Numbers. Author. Accessed May 2009 < http://www.clasp.org/ChildCareAndEarlyEducation/mappir2006tn.pdf>

Children Now (May 2009). Kindergarten Readiness Data: Improving Children’s Success in School. Author. Accessed July 2009 < http://publications.childrennow.org/assets/pdf/preschool/prek09_policybrief.pdf>

Harms, Thelma, Debby Cryer & Richard M. Clifford (2006). Infant/Toddler Rating Scale – Revised Edition. New York: Teachers College Press.

Memphis City Schools (2009). Data on Pre-K Classrooms obtained from system school websites by CUCP, June 2009. < http://www.mcsk12.net/school_search.asp?menuItem=ALL>

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships. Working Paper No. 1. Retrieved [May 2009] from <www.developingchild.net/pubs/wp/environment_of_relationships.pdf>

Shelby County Schools (2009). Data on Pre-K Classrooms obtained from system school websites by CUCP, June 2009. < http://www.scsk12.org/scs/schools/schools.html#es>

Snow, C.E., M.S. Burns & P. Griffin (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children.

Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

St. Pierre, Robert, Anne Ricciuti, Fumiyo Tao, Cindy Creps, Janet Swartz, Wang Lee, Amanda Parsad, and Tracy Rimdzius (2003). Third National Even Start Evaluation: Program Impacts and Implications for Improvement. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. Accessed June 2009 < http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/disadv/evenstartthird/toc.html>

Tennessee Department of Human Services (October 2008). Subsidized Child Care Fiscal Year 2009. Obtained directly from DHS by CUCP in October 2008.

Tennessee Department of Human Services (2009). State Child Care Development Fund Plan 2009-2010. Author. Accessed June 2009 <http://state.tn.us/humanserv/adfam/cc_main.htm>

Also available directly from Gail Crawford, Director of Infant/Toddler Services for DHS.

Warr, Mike (2009). Private communication between Katie Devlin, CUCP and Mike Warr, director of Porter Leath.

Willms, Doug (n.d.). “Wait to Fail”: Presentation of Dr. Doug Willms. Canadian Education Association. Accessed July 2009. < http://www.cea-ace.ca/media/Willms_Transcript.pdf>

02 July 2009

A Nutritious Diet Promotes Optimal Brain Development In Young Children: Suggestions for Parents and Policymakers

Providing young children with a balanced diet can be challenging. Nationwide, nutritional studies suggest that over 50% of babies and toddlers do not receive approved intakes of critical nutrients needed for optimal cognitive development. How important is good nutrition during the first three years of life? Recent research provides convincing evidence that food intake in early childhood has persistent effects. Academic performance, adult aptitude, bone stamina, height, and risk of obesity are a few variables impacted by early childhood nutrition (Roberts & Heyman, 2000).

Awareness of babies’ and toddlers’ cognitive, social and emotional growth can provide solid guidelines for shaping and supporting healthy eating habits. With basic assistance from families and providers, young children can maintain their innate ability to self-adjust calorie consumption to preserve a healthy weight and eat an age-appropriate combination of snacks and meals.

Suggestions for Parents and Providers:

1. Utilize the power of dietary variety. A mixed diet with a revolving supply of various fruits, vegetables and proteins can provide the correct balance of nutrients needed for long-lasting health.

2. Expect imitation- of parents, caregivers and others. Gaining knowledge by modeling behavior is part of the social inclination we all share and is a good approach, as the advancement of humankind indicates. It is extremely important for families and providers to be positive role models for young children. When a 12-month-old sees her mother enjoying healthy foods, she has a desire to do the same.

3. Get babies’ and toddlers’ interested in food. Planting a seed, making a meal as a family and even conversing about groceries while browsing together at the market are all useful ways to make unintriguing foods (i.e. vegetables) appealing.

Suggestions for Policymakers (Zero to Three):

Families who lack basic resources and are at risk for food insecurity purchase less food overall; furthermore, they are more likely to purchase food with low nutritional value or skip meals altogether. Government supported child food-based programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Food Stamp Program provide economic assistance, healthy foods, and health education to many at-risk families. Additionally, by providing for the dietary needs of young children, these programs provide parents with the opportunity to pay for other critical needs such as early education, medication, and housing costs. Policy leaders should completely fund these initiatives and revise eligibility to encompass all infants and toddlers living in households who may face food insecurity. Also, the nutritional supports offered by child nutrition programs must be frequently amended to reflect recent nutrition research and adequately funded to guarantee that benefits completely cover the financial cost of a nutritious dietary plan.


Roberts, S.B. & Heyman, M.B. (2000). How to feed babies and toddlers in the 21st century. Zero To Three Policy Network.

Zero to Three. (2009). Early Experiences Matter Policy Guide. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org.