• November 2018
  • Vol. 19, No. 9

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Principles Aimed at Improving Outcomes for Children and Families

The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University released a brief that highlights three principles that can guide decision-makers in choosing among policy alternatives, designing new approaches, and shifting existing practice in ways that will help lead to better outcomes for children and their families.

The following are the three principles:

  • Support responsive relationships—This principle focuses on nurturing resilience and serve-and-return interactions between infants and young children and their parents and other caregivers. Serve-and-return interactions happen when an infant or young child "serves" (e.g., babbles, gestures, or cries) and an adult "returns" by responding appropriately (e.g., eye contact, words, a hug). These interactions help build and strengthen neural connections in the child's developing brain.
  • Strengthen core life skills—These skills include executive functioning and self-regulation, which help the person to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, remember rules and goals, make healthy choices, and control impulses. They are important for learning and development. 
  • Reduce sources of stress—Excessive stress caused by poverty, community violence, substance use, or mental illness can have negative long-term consequences for children and families, which can trigger the body's stress response system. This can make it difficult to engage executive functioning skills and can lead to toxic stress, which disrupts healthy brain development.

The brief also provides suggestions on how these principles can be applied, such as using them to assess current policies and operations, evaluate proposed changes in policy or system operations, or to assist in developing new policies or program strategies to ensure healthy brain development in young children and to support the well-being of families.

3 Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children and Families is available at https://46y5eh11fhgw3ve3ytpwxt9r-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/HCDC_3PrinciplesPolicyPractice.pdf (408 KB).

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