Nurturing Early Childhood Development in Times of Austerity

dad16According to a paper titled Nurturing early childhood development in times of austerity in BC, “Canada has the weakest public funding for early childhood development among wealthy countries. The consequences of this lack of investment can be seen in the state of early childhood development in British Columbia.”
This paper describes the findings of  study that identified communities with higher levels of vulnerability on the Early Development Instrument (EDI) that managed to change the trend of vulnerability.

According to this analysis, the following elements enable this change:

  • The federal and provincial government must take a strong leadership role in creating policies and funding for employment, income, housing, parental leave and child care. This sets a well-furnished stage for the work of local agencies and individuals.
  • Initiatives to improve early childhood development outcomes must be broad-based and not simply targeted at low-income or high-risk families. Research shows that vulnerability occurs across all income levels, and that universal approaches are most effective.
  • Government must provide leadership with policies and funding, but must also partner with local agencies and individuals. This type of partnership harnesses the power of active and engaged community members.
  • Local committees that include representatives from all levels of government, schools and community agencies, are an ideal way to support improvements to early childhood development. Communities with this type of committee tend to have lower levels of developmental vulnerability.

A comprehensive system for monitoring early childhood development

The late Dr. Clyde Hertzman, past director of the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia, and a leader of the pan-Canadian Early Child Development Monitoring Network, describes a proposed system for monitoring early childhood development & it’s determinants.

This system includes 5 elements:

  1. Population measures: measures that are taken of all children at a given point (such as at birth, 18 months or Kindergarten). An example includes the Early Development Instrument ‘EDI‘.
  2. Longitudinal Studies: random samples of children that begin at or before birth and intensively track influences and outcomes for individuals;
  3. Administrative Data Linkages: Bring together birth, health and education data (shared measurement~!)
  4. Social Indicators: ‘baskets’ of variables of social factors that effect children’s development, including socioeconomic and social capital factors
  5. Early Child Development program and policy databases that track all of the public investments that are made by a society into early childhood