Addiction is a Preventable Developmental Disease

“Addiction is a preventable developmental disease that starts in childhood and adolescence,” reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). A quick glance at the research on addiction risk and protective factors available through NIDA and the Centers for Disease Control reads like an extended testimonial for quality early childhood care and education. That is the message the Permanent Fund’s Rick Davis and Julie Coffey of Building Bright Futures brought to to The :30 Show on WCAX-TV recently.

So much to say, so little time

Five minutes on TV goes by very quickly. This subject is worthy of an hour-long special, but that can be saved for a future blog post. Here are a few highlights of the WCAX interview, and the essential connections you want to hold onto for community conversations about early childhood and drug addiction.

Three critical early childhood and addiction connections

1. Brain development science from birth to age 5

Brain development before age 5

2. Quality early childhood environments increase protective factors (and adverse experiences increase vulnerability to addiction and other health problems)

The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative has an extensive collection of resources on the physical and emotional links between early childhood experiences and addiction.

BrainDevelopment-Addiction_AlbertaFamilyWellness

3. Poor early childhood environments increase risk factors and the likelihood of poor outcomes

quality early education offers protectionWhat Vermont is doing

There is a long way to go before every Vermont child has a safe, stimulating and nurturing early childhood environment from birth to age 5 — but there are some bright spots. As of January 2014, there are a few signs of progress:

  • H.270, a bill to expand access to pre-kindergarten education
  • Federal Race-to-the-Top grant to build capacity in Vermont’s early childhood system
  • Additional funding for childcare in the new Pathways out of Poverty
  • Early childhood action planning, following a statewide summit

Resources

Topics in Brief: Drug Abuse Prevention (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (Centers for Disease Control)

Building Bright Futures

Early Childhood Research: A Roundup of Recent Favorites

For those of us interested in effecting positive change in systems for early care, health and education, there have been a wealth of research studies and reports released in recent months. Here are a few of those I found most valuable.

baby with alphabet blocks

Children, dollars and sense

Researchers at the Brookings Institution recently released a brief estimating the cost and benefits of a “sustained approach to intervention” that goes from birth through adolescence. Specifically, they focus on interventions at four stages of life: birth, early childhood, elementary school, and high school. Based on evidence of real large-scale programs that have demonstrated effectiveness, the researchers conclude that the benefits due to greater academic achievement and adult outcomes (e.g., income) would outweigh the costs of investing in such a sustained approach.

Child Care Aware just released its 2013 update of their cost of child care report, which includes state-by-state data on average child care cost for infants, 4-year-olds, and school-age children in both center-based and home-based settings. Child care continues to be one of the highest budget items for families, rivaling college costs in some cases.

Pre-Kindergarten

A team of researchers summarized decades of research on pre-kindergarten education in a recent paper from the Society for Research in Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development. The researchers concluded that large-scale, publicly-funded pre-k can produce both short- and long-term benefits. Key to getting such results include the quality of curricula and teacher-child interactions, the availability of effective coaches and mentors for pre-k teachers, the duration of services (number of hours and years) especially for low-income children, and strategic inclusion of family supports and comprehensive services. As part of the release of the paper, the New America Foundation organized a panel to discuss its findings and implications for policy.

The importance of the first eight years

The Alliance for Early Success, in collaboration with Child Trends, released a paper that lays out the research basis for focusing on the first eight years of life as a core strategy for improving outcomes for children and families. The publication identifies a number of research-based policy choices that state leaders can make in the areas of health, family support, and learning. It further lays out choices state policymakers can make regarding standards (for both children and services), screening and assessment, and accountability systems to promote effective program implementation. As a whole, this publication can help inform a comprehensive state strategy to build a strong foundation for success as children progresses from the early childhood to the early elementary years.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation also released a paper about the importance of the first eight years. The publication calls attention to data about the well-being of 3rd graders’ cognitive development, social-emotional development, engagement in school, and physical health, highlighting disparities among income and racial groups. It issues a call to action at both the federal and state levels in three areas: strengthening family supports; improving early care and education, K-3, health care, and other services; coordinating services for children from birth through age 8. Specific recommendations are offered under each of these three areas.