Over the past two decades, local First 5 Commissions across the state have joined with fellow advocates to increase awareness of the importance of supporting young children and their families during this critical period of rapid and foundational brain development in early childhood. Through a combination of research, professional expertise, and families’ lived experiences, it is now commonly understood that a child’s relationships and experiences in the earliest years of life shape the architecture of their developing brain. Safe, nurturing relationships and experiences build healthy brains, creating a strong foundation for positive outcomes in health, learning, and behavior across the life course.
We also have a far deeper understanding of how trauma, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as chronic toxic stress, physical and/or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, a caregiver experiencing mental illness, substance use or incarceration, exposure to family violence, and the accumulated effects of poverty – can disrupt children’s developing brains, weakening the foundation on which all other health, development, and learning occurs.
In addition, there is a growing evidence and recognition that institutionalized discrimination and segregation based on race are detrimental to early childhood development and that policies and practices that create systemic barriers to opportunities and resources are the true root causes of most disparities in children’s health, well-being and readiness to succeed in kindergarten.