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Past Program

Oct 05 - Oct 12, 2005

Early Childhood Development: Improving Linkages between Research, Practice and Policy

Session 428

Abstract

Children are enormously resilient - responding and adapting quickly to changing circumstances, learning and growing in even the most difficult situations, drawing upon reserves and strengths we still don't fully understand. However, children are also highly vulnerable, particularly in the earliest years of life. There is an expanding body of research, data and experience that strongly suggests that the most important development period in the life of every human being occurs in the first three years - and that some damage sustained in this period can jeopardize the ability to develop to full capacity later in life. A primary goal of this session is, through exchanging information, ideas and practices, to more clearly identify what children need, universally, in order to thrive and develop to their fullest capacities; how to most effectively meet those needs; and consider strategies to help limit the most damaging influences that jeopardize their future abilities.

Considerable focus has been given to understanding the basic physical, cognitive and emotional needs of children. It is clear that malnutrition, physical violence and emotional neglect, amongst a long list of possibilities, all impede development. But new advances in research and practice are providing insight into the more subtle influencers of early child development. Brain imaging has revealed that brain development in the earliest years of life sets the stage for future development and we are beginning to understand how different interactions with children encourage or impede that development. We also are beginning to observe the important role that men play in helping children to develop. We are still investigating what gender differences might reveal about children's needs or responses that might differ based on sex. We are beginning to understand the impact of more subtle differences in models of care - as applied to children generally, as well as to those that are in or have survived crisis situations. And we understand enough to know that many of the formal care and education systems that exist are not predicated on goals of fostering resiliency in children and minimizing harm. Nor, indeed, are many of the public policies and societal priorities that directly impact the lives of children.

The session will focus on methods that effectively apply the knowledge and understanding we have regarding children's needs and optimal development and will consider these methods in a cross-cultural context, identifying common principles and practices. We will also look at the continuing gaps in our knowledge and focus in particular on issues related to gender and the important role of men in providing care. Additionally, we will consider important transition phases in the development process of children, including ageing and the attendant changing needs of children, and the important transition from informal to formal care and education systems. Finally, we will focus on how to better align all aspects of children's development, considering their needs from a trans-disciplinary perspective. In this respect, we will discuss strategies to inform not just families and institutions how to better support children's optimal growth and development, but also strategies to help prioritize children's needs on the public agenda, educating community leaders, policy-makers and advocates - with the ultimate goal of assuring that public policies serve to enhance children's development, not undermine it.

This session has been made possible by a generous grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The fee for this session is 3,600 EURO. The fee covers the cost of the program, accommodations, and meals.

Limited financial aid is available and is awarded based on need. Applicants who believe they qualify for assistance should explain their circumstances in a letter, which should be submitted with their application.