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Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston
Director, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

Degree:  M.D., New York University, (1972)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.496.1224
Fax:  617.496.1229
Office:  50 Church Street 4th Floor
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Faculty Assistant:  Yaimani Rivera

Profile

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital; and Director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He currently serves as chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a group of distinguished scholars whose mission is to bring credible science to bear on public policy affecting young children, and chairs the JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress, which is developing new knowledge and measurement capacity to assess the biological, bio-behavioral, and health consequences of excessive stress system activation. In 2011, Dr. Shonkoff launched Frontiers of Innovation, a multi-sectoral collaboration among researchers, practitioners, policymakers, investors, and experts in systems change who are committed to developing more effective intervention strategies to catalyze breakthrough impacts on the development and health of young children and families experiencing significant adversity.

Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Shonkoff served as Chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families and chaired a blue-ribbon committee that produced the landmark report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. He also served as a member of the Panel on Child Care Policy, the Committee on the Assessment of Family Violence Interventions, and the Roundtable on Head Start Research.

Dr. Shonkoff has received multiple honors, including elected membership to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, elected membership to the American Pediatric Society, designated National Associate of the National Academies, the C. Anderson Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children from the Society for Research in Child Development.

Dr. Shonkoff has served on numerous professional networks and public interest advisory boards, including the core scientific group of the MacArthur Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Executive Committee of the Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has authored more than 150 publications, including nine books; co-edited two editions of the widely heralded Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention; and served on the editorial board of several scholarly journals, including Child Development.

Dr. Shonkoff completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, medical education at New York University School of Medicine, pediatric training at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and fellowship in developmental pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. He has been a visiting professor or delivered named lectureships at more than 30 universities in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Prior to assuming his current position, he was the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Dean of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Sponsored Projects


FRONTIERS OF INNOVATION (FOI) (2016-2016)
Tikun Olam Foundation

The Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative was launched in 2011 to accelerate the development and adoption of a diverse portfolio of science-based innovations to achieve greater impacts than usual practice. Over the past year, the leadership team has advanced this agenda by developing a rigorous but flexible translational science model that supports teams of researchers, practitioners, community members, and parents in identifying unmet needs and co-developing creative, new strategies to address them.
The FOI target population includes young children and families whose life prospects are compromised by adversity related to economic hardship and limited parent education, with or without a variety of additional sources of excessive stress such as child maltreatment, maternal depression, parental substance abuse, family violence, and racial and ethnic discrimination. The FOI network extends across the United States and Canada, with a recent expansion that includes new partners in Mexico and Brazil. The need we are addressing is the absence of an active R&D platform in the early childhood field (particularly in the first three years after birth) to confront the longstanding over-reliance on “evidence-based” programs that produce statistically significant but small magnitude impacts rather than a balanced agenda that includes the design and testing of innovative strategies that are aiming for substantially larger impacts at scale.
The ultimate goal is to create a replicable and scalable model for building the capacity of a growing number of change agents (both at Harvard and in the field) to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity. The grant from the Tikun Olam Foundation will support our ability to build on lessons learned over the past four years and launch a new FOI project team to design, test, and evaluate another innovative intervention strategy.


Alliance for Early Success (2015-2017)
Alliance for Early Success

It is our goal to continue to broaden understanding and application of the scientific knowledge base by practitioners and policymakers to help inform decision-making and new interventions grounded in science.


Frontiers of Innovation Initiative (2015-2015)
Annie E. Casey Foundation

We believe that unprecedented reductions in school failure, economic insecurity, criminal behavior, and chronic disease can be produced through a new way of thinking fueled by 21st century science; a new way of working that embraces creative risk-taking; and a new type of leadership across multiple fields that is driven by constructive dissatisfaction with modest, incremental change. The Center on the Developing Child is particularly concerned about the needs of children who face the cumulative burdens of poverty, maltreatment, violence, racial and ethnic discrimination, and family mental illness.

This grant supports core operating support to advance the work of the Frontiers of Innovation initiative, specifically focused on the following core areas of work to be undertaken during the grant period:

FOI is building significant capacity to develop a model and infrastructure to support intervention development and evaluation that allows FOI partners with hypotheses about how to improve outcomes for young children, to develop and test these ideas through scientific methods to help us understand better what's working, how it's working, and for whom.

A critical foundation of our R&D Platform, this translational science process builds the capacity of on-the-ground project teams made up of practitioners, researchers and model developers to ensure high-quality implementation and evaluation of science-based strategies. This team is creating the centralized capacity for facilitating and supporting the development of (a) new interventions strategies and materials, (b) highly precise theories of change associated with these interventions, and (c) measurement and evaluation of both child and caregiver outcomes that is closely tied to the theories – within individual pilots and across the entire portfolio. The team provides technical assistance to FOI partners to ensure the consistent development, implementation and evaluation of science-based strategies to promote cumulative learning across the FOI network.


Science-based Innovation to Improve Child Outcomes in a Global Context (2015-2018)
Omidyar Network

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard (HCDC) has developed an evolving theory of change which proposes that in order to achieve significantly greater impacts on the learning capacity, health, and economic and social mobility of disadvantaged, young children we must transform the lives of the adults who care for them. With this objective in mind, growing evidence indicates that both effective parenting and economic self-sufficiency depend on the critical importance of executive function and self-regulation skills. These capabilities are often referred to as “life skills” as they enable adults across the socioeconomic spectrum to care for themselves and their children, manage households, seek and maintain employment or other economic activities, achieve financial self-sufficiency and social stability, and participate as contributing members of a mutually supportive and sustainable community. The foundational nature of these capabilities and their prolonged period of development provide a promising focus for creative thinking about new, intergenerational strategies. Our theory of change hypothesizes that building caregivers’ capacities in these domains will lead to breakthrough improvements in their children’s development and ultimately reduce the cycles of poverty, disease, violence, and trauma that have such profound consequences for societies across the globe.
Over the past three years, the Center has been pursuing this mission by creating an R&D platform in North America under the auspices of the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative. This effort is spawning a network of incubators that are driving the design and testing of new intervention strategies and building a learning community that is connecting highly motivated people and organizations to accelerate the pace of science-informed innovation. This movement has engaged a diverse group of leaders across sectors, communities, and professions who are eager to work together in the pursuit of transformative change.

Drawing on our experience in North America, HCDC is eager to help build a broader movement to achieve breakthrough outcomes for children around the world. Together with partner organizations on the ground, the Center proposes to create innovation incubators in Brazil and Mexico.


Research Network on Toxic Stress and Health (2015-2020)
JPB Foundation

A growing body of evidence indicates that children who experience significant adversity are at increased risk for lifelong programs in learning, behavior, and health. This compelling knowledge base underscores three significant, unmet needs: (1) valid and reliable biological and bio-behavioral measures (or “biomarkers”) of “toxic stress” to identify children who are at higher risk of chronic disease in adulthood; (2) more effective intervention strategies to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the long-term health consequences of significant adversity in early childhood; and (3) biomarkers that are sensitive to change and can thus be used to assess the short-term and medium-term effects of intervention strategies whose ultimate impacts on physical and mental health may not be apparent until decades later.

The proposed Research Network is committed to reducing the prevalence of lifelong health impairments caused by toxic stress in early childhood. Our approach to achieving this goal focuses on three objectives: (1) to develop a reliable, predictive panel of biomarkers (including both biological and bio-behavioral measures) that can identify children, youth, and parents showing evidence of toxic stress, and that can be collected in pediatric primary care settings; (2) to conduct basic, animal and human research on critical periods in development and individual differences in stress susceptibility, thereby informing the timing and design of a suite of new interventions that address the roots of stress-related diseases early in the life cycle; and (3) to build a strong, community-based infrastructure through which scientists, practitioners, parents, and community leaders can apply new scientific insights and innovative measures to the development of more effective interventions in the first three postnatal years.


Core Support for the Center on the Developing Child (2015-2017)
Buffett Early Childhood Fund

Our mission for the next decade is to leverage the power of rapidly advancing knowledge to drive science-based innovation that achieves substantially better outcomes than the best of what the field has been able to accomplish to date. In order to pursue that mission, The Center on the Developing Child, in response to the Buffett Early Childhood Foundation’s invitation to request continuing core support over the next two years, will focus on the following list of six selected examples of work that will be done in as a result of core support:
1.Producing a “core story of innovation” that provides a clear and compelling description of the process and goals that drive our science-based innovation agenda.
2.Expanding the Center’s capacity to help motivated programs and” innovation clusters” to design, implement, and evaluate new, science-based, intervention strategies.
3.Launching 3-5 new Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) clusters over the next three years.
4.Hiring a new Director of Leadership Initiatives and Programs.
5.Producing a core document (and associated products for broad distribution) about the essential capabilities needed by adults to succeed as parents and wage-earners.
6.Continued Rapid Response for the Alliance for Early Success.


Frontiers of Innovation (2015-2016)
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Our core theory of change is that significantly improved outcomes for children facing adversity require transforming the lives of their parents and the environments in which they live. To achieve this goal, FOI practitioners and researchers are co-designing and testing new intervention strategies in collaboration with families receiving services. In addition to this cocreation model, we are eager to better understand how to work with – and improve – the contexts in which families live. The extensive expertise of RWJF in building community capacity to promote health provides a rich opportunity to inform the thinking and work of the FOI community as it grows. We see immense potential for reciprocal learning between the Center and Foundation as we embark on these efforts with similar goals and complementary methods.


Center on the Developing Child: Frontiers of Innovation (2015-2016)
Bezos Family Foundation

Our ultimate goal is meaningful change in policy and practice that produces substantially larger impacts than current best practices on the learning capacity, health, and future economic and social mobility of vulnerable young children. We aim to catalyze a new era in early childhood investment that mobilizes science to stimulate fresh thinking. We are particularly concerned about the needs of children who face the cumulative burdens of poverty, maltreatment, violence, racial and ethnic discrimination, and family mental illness.

The signature feature of Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) is its commitment to the ongoing construction and testing of enhanced theories of change that are grounded in science and drive the design of new, explicit strategies focused on specific causal mechanisms to produce breakthrough gains on important outcomes. These new theories of change are informed by advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics, with a particular focus on the science of adversity and resilience. New ideas and testable hypotheses that are generated from these theories are combined with the experiences and ideas of those working directly with children and families in the field, thereby leading to the co-design of new intervention strategies. Mining the most current science to continuously search for ideas that can inform advances in policy and practice is critical to this work, and is a foundational piece of our knowledge pipeline.

In collaboration with a broad network of people and organizations across North America, FOI is catalyzing the co-design, testing, and targeted scaling of a growing portfolio of science-based intervention strategies to produce breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity. This initiative is driven by two core elements that are essential to achieving our vision of significantly larger impacts than current best practice: (1) a core knowledge base that combines insights from advances in science, sophisticated program evaluation, and on-the-ground experience; and (2) a culture of innovation that adapts proven methods from the private sector to promote entrepreneurial thinking, responsible risk-taking, and fast-cycle learning. To build upon the accomplishments made possible by our previous grant from the Bezos Family Foundation, we are seeking continued funding to seed and expand additional, promising new ideas as well as provide core support for the Center on the Developing Child that can be earmarked for key personnel expenses and essential infrastructure costs to sustain operations.


The Awareness of the Impact of Toxic Stress on Healthy Development (2015-2015)
Agency of Healthcare Administration

The purpose of the Agency for Health Care Administration contract to Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention (FSU Center) is to transition the infant and early childhood mental health knowledge, especially the impact of trauma on children, gained over the past decade into Florida’s Medicaid managed care system. This contract gives FSU Center an opportunity to work with health care experts to develop technical assistance materials to promote early social and emotional development in young children and to address the impact of trauma on vulnerable children.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC) has the unique and varied expertise in the areas toxic stress, trauma, and infant and early childhood mental health that is needed to develop technical assistance materials for the Florida MMA health plans and their network of providers. As such, HCDC is modifying the Washington Interagency Initiative Modules it has created based on the FSU Center specification and creating an approximately five-minute Video – In Brief: Early Childhood Mental Health related to infant and early childhood mental health.


An Investment Opportunity at the Scientific Frontiers of Early Childhood Health and Development (2014-2017)
Hemera Foundation


Support for fostering the development and deployment of breakthrough innovations and strategies for poverty alleviation through the Frontiers of Innovation initiative (2014-2015)
Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Scope of this project is to:
- Provide seed funding and support pilot implementation of ideas resulting from the June 2014 design workshop on improving outcomes for babies in foster care;
- Launch pilots of co-designed strategies for working collaboratively with parents in creating daily, regularized family routines in four sites and evaluate executive function skills, child development, child literacy and parental stress levels of participants pre-, during, and post-intervention;
- Build a core group of leaders to help set the strategic direction for Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) and take on leadership for parts of the portfolio;
- With Phil Fisher at the University of Oregon and Holly Schindler at the University of Washington develop a measurement and data collection framework and infrastructure in order to collect data from FOI-sponsored pilots and increase cross-site and cross-strategy learning;
Organize Building Adult Capabilities Working Group to identify, measure and develop strategies related to executive function and emotional regulation for adults facing high levels of adversity and produce summary report in the fall of 2014 that reviews the knowledge base in this area and implications for intervention, including approaches that impact two generations.


Enhancing the Center’s Communications Capacity, Products, and Platforms for Science-Based Knowledge Dissemination (2014-2017)
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will provide core anchor funding for the Center to bring its communications capacity to the next level. By combining an uncompromising focus on scientific credibility and empirically validated communications with a new drive toward innovation, the Center’s aim is to create a dynamic platform for shaping a climate that demands new ideas that achieve breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.
The Center will build on the well-established track record of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, the immediate groundswell of excitement and participation in our three-year-old Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative, the exponential growth in demand for our communications products and presentations, and successful experimentation with new media and technology through the following strategies:
• Convene scientists and scholars to synthesize cutting-edge science and mine it for new insights that could catalyze fresh thinking about policies and programs.
• Conduct and apply communications research to effectively translate science into language and stories that lead to changes in policy and practice.
• Produce and disseminate translated content about both science and innovation in multiple forms to spark new ideas and help build a climate in which innovators and early adopters will find support for their work and for constructive dissatisfaction with the status quo.
• Engage with media and public audiences focused on relevant policy, practice, and community issues to build greater understanding and support for science-based innovation that achieve breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.


Frontiers of Innovation, Detroit (2014-2014)
The Skillman Foundation

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child (“Harvard Center”) will work as a partner with Center for Social Science Policy (CSSP) in helping the Skillman Foundation and other Detroit organizations develop a plan for the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) Leadership initiative. Specifically, the Harvard Center will, with CSSP:
• Help prepare materials to share with potential funders for this initiative, and participate in meetings with funders;
• Help plan a “design day” to be held with local leaders in Detroit to further develop the desired results, format and content of the Fellowship initiative;
• Set forth a longer range plan for the Fellowship program and a financing strategy to accompany the plan; and
Specify the roles that the Harvard Center and CSSP will play and how these will be staffed.


Planning Grant to Establish a Research Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health (2013-2014)
JPB Foundation

A growing body of empirical evidence indicates that significant adversity during childhood (e.g., from abuse or neglect, exposure to violence, deep and persistent poverty, and/or the cumulative burdens of racial or ethnic discrimination) can contribute to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and chronic health impairments such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes cancer, and depression, among many others. Science also tells us that the later we wait to address the needs of vulnerable children the more challenging it will be to improve their life outcomes, particularly for those who experience physiological disruptions from the wear and tear effects of over-activated stress response systems (“toxic stress”). The ultimate goal of the project is to lower barriers to opportunity by improving the health of children who are experiencing excessive adversity. The beneficiaries include both the children whose lives are enhanced and the society that will reap the fruits of a healthier and more productive adult population.

The project entails two parallel, exploratory meetings of scientists and practitioners separately, followed by a third convening of a selected subset of each constituency that would serve as an initial core for the envisioned consortium. Recognizing that priorities for both laboratory-based investigation and community-based action are determined by the meeting participants, a preliminary menu of potential topics includes the following:

1) Advancing the frontiers of scientific research:
•construct a developmental framework to study the differential effects of biological embedding of significant adversity related to age, beginning in the prenatal period and extending into adulthood.
•investigate the “wear and tear” impacts of cumulative stress activation over time in contrast to the distinctive effects of specific adversities during sensitive or critical periods in the development of different biological structures and functions.
•push the boundaries of research on neuroplasticity and explore hypotheses about the possibilities of reopening critical periods that are currently viewed as immutable.
•explore multiple biological responses to chronic stress (e.g. elevated inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and increased insulin resistance) to elucidate causal mechanisms of adult diseases that are associated with adverse childhood experiences.
•seek greater insights in the domains of gene- environment interaction to advance our understanding of individual differences in vulnerability and resilience.

2) Advancing the frontiers of preventive intervention:
•create a network of community-based settings that are well positioned to serve as laboratories for translating insights from basic science into innovative approaches to the provision of primary health care for children experiencing significant adversity.
•formulate new theories of change to catalyze more effective intervention strategies to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the adverse consequences of toxic stress in children.
•design and test promising new approaches in a diversity of community settings.

3) Mastering the complex challenges of measuring toxic stress by capitalizing on the intellectual strengths and practical experiences of a collaborating network of scientists and practitioners:
•generate a rigorous battery of metrics that reflects both cutting-edge scientific thinking and pragmatic implementation considerations.
•leverage both animal and human studies, while paying careful attention to the benefits of what can be studied in animals only and the caveats against unwarranted generalizations and inappropriate applications to human health and development.


Frontiers of Innovation Initiative (2013-2013)
Annie E. Casey Foundation


Proposal for "A Better Start" Program (2013-2014)
Big Lottery Fund UK


General Operating Support for Expanding the Center's Capacity to Communicate the Science of Early Childhood Education (2013-2014)
Child Welfare Fund

A remarkable explosion of new knowledge about the developing brain and human genome, linked to advances in the behavioral and social sciences, tells us that early experiences are built into our bodies and that early childhood is a time of both great promise and considerable risk. What is it about poverty, maltreatment, and discrimination that gets under the skin and affects a lifetime of learning, behavior, and health? What can breakthroughs in neuroscience and molecular biology teach practitioners and policy makers about how to promote the early foundations of academic achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, and successful parenting of the next generation? These are the kinds of questions that drive the work of the Center on the Developing Child (CDC) at Harvard.
Science does not speak for itself in the worlds of policy and practice. If we wish to promote sound investments in young children and their families based on the best available knowledge, then current advances in the biological and social sciences must be translated into accessible language that overcomes existing misconceptions and other barriers to understanding. To inform both constructive public discourse and effective intervention strategies, these translated findings must then be communicated through a variety of media and formats that provide a wide range of entrance points for multiple audiences. With these concepts in mind, the Center employs the following three-stage process:
•Knowledge Synthesis – a critical analysis of cutting-edge science and program evaluation research to identify core concepts and evidence-based findings that are broadly accepted by the scientific community.
•Knowledge Translation – the identification of gaps in understanding between scientists and the public, and the development of effective language to communicate accurate scientific information in a way that can inform constructive discourse and sound decision making.
•Knowledge Communication – the production and dissemination of a wide variety of publications and educational media via print, the Web, and in-person presentations to policy makers, civic leaders, and practitioners in our role as “knowledge brokers” (in contrast to partisan advocates).
This substantial investment in knowledge translation as well as public engagement is a signature characteristic that distinguishes the Center on the Developing Child. In keeping with our rapidly growing innovation agenda, the Center must continue to explore new ways of using a variety of media and advanced technologies to catalyze creative thinking across disciplines and sectors, to support the design and testing of more effective interventions, and to disseminate our findings in a way that transforms the policy and practice climate, both in the United States and globally.
Support from the Child Welfare Fund is used to accelerate the production of web, multimedia, and print content that explain: (1) the science of early childhood development; (2) the impact of that science on current best practices in policy and practice; and (3) the work of our Frontiers of Innovation community to produce significantly greater outcomes for vulnerable, young children. CDC employs multiple media to address the following four inter-related objectives: (1) tell the “story of innovation” in policy and practice; (2) support creative strategies to facilitate virtual collaboration among learning communities across the nation; (3) achieve broader dissemination via social media; and (4) explore options to contract with freelance content producers and creators.


Collaborative Research Agenda: Center on the Developing Child and University of WA I-LABS (2013-2015)
Bezos Family Foundation

Previous research typically compares bilingual to monolingual individuals and often in one of the two languages spoken by bilinguals. It is likely that bilingual samples are inherently more heterogeneous, compared to monolingual samples, particularly in language performance. Recognizing the diversity in bilingual populations, beyond English proficiency, is imperative for gaining a comprehensive understanding of language and cognition in emerging or fluent bilinguals. Furthermore, previous research generally focused on documenting bilingual children’s language or cognitive abilities, but rarely both. Often, most of the language assessments are administered in English, usually a second or non-native language of bilingual children. Particularly for emerging bilinguals, language assessments alone may not reflect meaningful information about a child’s learning potential. In education settings that are linguistically diverse, it is challenging to assess language competency in all represented heritage languages. One possibility is to assess cognitive ability with measures that rely on minimal language processing beyond comprehension of the instructions in children’s preferred home, or heritage, language. The present study was designed (1) to evaluate the relationship between home language environment, executive functions, and pre-literacy skills in Spanish-English bilingual preschoolers; (2) to test the feasibility of the language and background questionnaires for parents.


Building Community Partnerships to Address the Roots of Racial and Ethnic Disparities (2013-2014)
William K. Kellogg Foundation


Buffett Early Childhood Fund (2013-2015)
Buffett Early Childhood Fund

The Buffett Early Childhood Fund supports the Forum, Council, and general operations of the Center of the Developing Child.


Drawing on the Advances in Science to Drive Innovation in Early Childhood Policy and Practice (2013-2014)
Barr Foundation

Early education and care (EEC) providers play an essential role in facilitating young children’s development. As a result, early childhood quality improvement efforts often include attention to educator competencies such as instruction and relationship quality. Yet, these efforts have placed little emphasis on an essential set of skills – EEC providers’ capacities for social, emotional, and cognitive regulation. These skills, including stress management, coping and emotional regulation, and relationship-building, influence educators’ instructional and classroom practices and therefore children’s outcomes.
Self-regulatory skills are needed by everyone who works with young children, and early childhood educators have stressful jobs under the best of conditions. But this stress
is magnified in vulnerable communities, because young children living with the adversities of poverty exhibit more behavior problems, on average, than their peers (Evans et al.,2004; Gunnar, 2000). In these same settings, early childhood educators often face significant personal stresses. For example, research has found moderate to high rates of depression among Head Start staff (HHS/ACF/OPRE, 2006) and 61% of full-time early childhood staff earn roughly the equivalent of the poverty level income for a family of four (U.S. GAO, 2012).
It is not surprising, then, that high rates of off-task behavior and cycles of negative interactions among adults and children are common in EEC settings in disadvantaged communities (Raver, 2004). In such circumstances, a negative feedback loop can emerge in which stressed, dysregulated children and chaotic environments strain EEC providers, interrupting their interactions with children and hindering their ability to manage behavior, cope with challenges, and provide high quality instruction. This cycle may help to explain alarmingly high rates of behavior problems and even expulsions among preschoolers and kindergarteners (Gilliam, 2005; Gilliam & Shahar, 2006).
To break this cycle, this project aims to build EEC providers’ self-regulatory skills, including emotional regulation, stress management, executive functioning, and ability to communicate calmly and warmly with children, in order to support the high quality interactions and skill modeling that support children’s self-regulation.
An intervention in which project staff work with EEC providers at one Boston site to help them understand and work toward strong self-regulation will be developed and implemented. The intervention will include reflective exercises, discussion, case studies, video, and other interactive strategies that have been shown to be effective.
An intervention focused on providers’ self-regulation could improve the learning environment through a two-fold process: first, by increasing providers' awareness of their own reactions to stressors, and second, by strengthening their abilities to manage their classrooms and develop students’ own self-regulatory capacities. The expected result is that EEC providers’ improved self-regulation will affect individual students and also the overall classroom climate, or the dynamic relationships among students, teachers, and peers (Pianta & Hamre, 2009), such that an entire classroom of students could be shifted toward cycles of greater self-regulation.
To build EEC providers’ self-regulatory capacity, several opportunities within the EEC setting will be harnessed. These include providers’ deep knowledge from the field, the chance to get ongoing feedback and input from providers, and the chance to develop and test new strategies in real time.


Leveraging the FOI Community to Build an Innovation System in Washington (2012-2014)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) Initiative is the leading edge of the Center’s commitment to stimulate new thinking in early childhood policy and practice. The FOI community now includes more than 400 active members from across North America. Its purpose is to galvanize the field by stimulating creativity, supporting experimentation, and learning from failure. To this end, FOI views current best practices as a promising starting point, not a final destination. Its aim is to catalyze substantially greater impacts on the lives of young children whose needs are not being addressed adequately by existing programs. Its strategy draws on advances in the biological, behavioral, and social sciences to: (1) identify causal mechanisms that influence developmental trajectories; (2) formulate theories of change about how to produce better outcomes; and (3) design and test new intervention approaches and measure their effectiveness in reducing barriers to learning and strengthening the foundations of lifelong physical and mental health.

Over the course of this grant, FOI: (1) is producing professional development materials to help staff representing multiple state agencies better understand the basic science of child development generally and the promotion of executive function and self-regulation skills more specifically; (2) is supporting the creation of small learning communities, building on existing relationships at the site and policy level and connecting to other learning communities across North America; (3) is supporting the Washington cross-agency working group to sustain its current gains and momentum during the upcoming executive branch transition in January and to share lessons learned with the broader national FOI community of states and Canadian provinces; and (4) is beginning conversations with stakeholders at the community level to explore mutual interests and is beginning to chart a path toward enhanced collaboration within the state.

The FOI community is driven by constructive dissatisfaction with the status quo combined with the conviction that we can and must do better. Although quality improvements in existing programs and system-building efforts to coordinate services and enhance access are clearly important, they are unlikely to be enough to produce breakthrough impacts for children who face the cumulative burdens of low family income, limited parent education, and social exclusion. Those efforts must be supplemented by strategies linked to knowledge-based theories of change and a new generation of programs, communities, and states that are willing to co-design and test new approaches that will play a critical role in creating the future of early childhood policy and practice.

The signature feature of FOI is its commitment to the ongoing construction of theories of change that are grounded in science and drive the design of explicit strategies focused on specific causal mechanisms to produce breakthrough gains on important outcomes. The intervention models that have been generated in the past year — and are currently in various stages of development, implementation, and testing — are based on approaches that have been heavily influenced by the biology of adversity. This reflects growing interest in the extent to which excessive activation of stress response systems can lead to disruptions in developing brain architecture that create barriers to learning, as well as impairments in other maturing organs and metabolic regulatory functions that lead to lifelong problems in health.


Translating the Science of Child Development in Brazil (2012-2014)
Bernard van Leer Foundation

Healthy child development is the foundation of strong communities, economic prosperity, and a just society. Núcleo Ciência Pela Infância (NCPI) seeks to leverage scientific knowledge to inform new strategies that will improve well-being and life outcomes for vulnerable children and support sustainable social and economic development in Brazil.

As a collaborative initiative, NCPI draws on the full breadth and depth of intellectual and institutional resources at five leading partner organizations: Fundação Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal (FMCSV), the Medical School at the University of São Paulo, INSPER, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC), and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

One strategic component of the NCPI program essential to achieving these goals is to conduct systematic and empirical communications research to determine the most effective ways to translate and communicate the science of child development to non-scientific audiences in a Brazilian cultural context.

As part of the initial three-year program strategy for NCPI, FWI has worked with FMCSV and HCDC to develop a research plan with two overarching goals: (1) to build the best possible approach to communicating the science of child development in a Brazilian context, and (2) to create local capacity to lead this research effort over the long term in Brazil.


Translating the Science of Child Development in Brazil (2012-2014)
Bernard van Leer Foundation

Healthy child development is the foundation of strong communities, economic prosperity, and a just society. Núcleo Ciência Pela Infância (NCPI) seeks to leverage scientific knowledge to inform new strategies that will improve well-being and life outcomes for vulnerable children and support sustainable social and economic development in Brazil.
A body of scientific evidence shows that early experiences affect biological systems that can influence learning, behavior, and health. This revolution in new knowledge about the developing brain and human genome, linked to advances in the behavioral and social sciences, offers new opportunities for more effective strategies to improve outcomes in education, economic development, health, and social welfare.
NCPI draws on the full breadth and depth of intellectual and institutional resources at five leading partner organizations: Fundação Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal (FMCSV), the Medical School at the University of São Paulo, INSPER, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC), and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.
NCPI is committed to building a unified science of child development to explain the early roots of lifelong health, learning, and behavior in Brazil;translating and communicating science effectively to inform the public discourse around issues that affect children and families; and preparing leaders to leverage the science of healthy development in the design and implementation of innovative policies and programs that reduce preventable disparities and promote well-being for all Brazilian children.
One component of the NCPI program essential to achieving these goals is to conduct systematic and empirical communications research to determine the most effective ways to translate and communicate the science of child development to non-scientific audiences in a Brazil.
FMCSV and HCDC are leading the communications research effort on behalf of the NCPI partners. They are working with the FrameWorks Institute (FWI), which has been a long-time strategic partner of HCDC in translating developmental science for non-scientific audiences. FWI is an independent nonprofit research organization that advances the nonprofit sector’s communications capacity by identifying, translating and modeling relevant scholarly research for framing the public discourse about social problems.
The approach being taken in Brazil is based on the experience that FWI and HCDC have had in translating science for public leaders in the United States. This task of translating the science of early childhood development begins by determining what needs translating, then identifies obstacles to public understanding, and concludes by developing and verifying the impact of simplifying models or metaphors that improve public thinking (e.g. “brain architecture,” “serve and return,” and “toxic stress”). This partnership between FWI and HCDC illustrates how the challenge of science translation can be addressed within a mutually respectful, ongoing, collaborative process in which scientists, communications researchers, and other key stakeholders can become co-producers of a broadly understood yet sophisticated scientific message. When conveyed in a clear and concise story, this can increase the probability that the science will be well understood, repeated accurately, and applied in an informed way to the formulation and implementation of policies and practices that will make a measureable difference in the lives of young children and their families.
As part of the initial three-year program strategy for NCPI, FWI has worked with FMCSV and HCDC to develop a research plan with two overarching goals: (1) to build the best possible approach to communicating the science of child development in a Brazilian context, and (2) to create local capacity to lead this research effort over the long term in Brazil.


Early Design and Development Phase of Saving Brains Platform (2012-2014)
TruePoint Center

Grand Challenges Canada's Saving Brains program has an ambitious goal: to protect the brains of more than 200 million young children worldwide. The strategy pursued to achieve this goal tackles three primary roadblocks:

1. The inability to compare competing approaches to enhance cognitive development in the first thousand days
2. The lack of understanding of the return on investment from interventions to promote human capital formation
3. The lack of technologies and service delivery models that can overcome social, cultural and market barriers, preventing promising interventions from being brought to scale where most needed.

In November 2012, Grand Challenges Canada launched an RFP that sought to develop multiple sites in developing countries that are capable of innovating at scale to protect the brain development. However, to really have impact against the problem of 200 million children not achieving their full developmental potential, these sites cannot operate in isolation and Grand Challenges Canada cannot operate alone. Instead, the Saving Brains grantees need to be enabled to share learnings to accelerate progress, and Grand Challenges Canada needs to work with partners who bring distinctive resources and strategies to the child development arena. Even in a single jurisdiction - a state, province or country - no one institution can bring together the scientific, social, technical, behavioral and organizational tools to provide a comprehensive solution at scale to this challenge. And even a coalition of actors cannot be expected to come up with a "silver bullet" solution that will eliminate the need for adaptation and innovation. Rather, to achieve transformative impact requires continuous learning among diverse innovators, both within and across jurisdictions.

Grand Challenges Canada has invited the True Point Center in collaboration with the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University to develop the proposed Saving Brains Platform (the "Platform") as a mechanism to enable grantees to share learnings, and for like-minded organizations to work together on scalable and sustainable solutions, in order to transform the future for young children. The Platform needs to be a responsive resource to enable the success of the Saving Brains projects by sharing learning, linking partners and ultimately leveraging resources from multiple partners. Therefore, its design and development needs to be accomplished through engagement with Grand Challenges Canada, its partners and their grantees.

The Saving Brains Platform is envisioned to perform four functions:

1. Create a learning community centered on a shared theory of change and a common metrics and evaluation framework, which together help ensure shared understanding of causal pathways and shared measurement of progress.
2. Provide leadership development for key actors within the Saving Brains community to support their ability to lead large-scale systems change necessary to create and sustain innovation at scale.
3. Foster private sector engagement as a critical aspect to achieve the desired level of scale and impact for Saving Brains.
4. Develop technology systems that are aligned with shared metrics and can support system change within large institutions.


Leveraging Science to Advance Early Childhood Policy and Practice (2012-2015)
Alliance for Early Success

The Center on the Developing Child (CDC) is committed to catalyzing a new, science-driven era in early childhood policy and practice to dramatically improve the life prospects of all children, particularly those who face significant adversity. By building, synthesizing, and translating the science of early childhood development and its implications for policy and practice, and by strategically engaging with policymakers and others around the translated knowledge, the Center helps to create a climate of receptivity to new policies, programs, and practices that will further enhance the healthy development of young children. This three-year commitment from the Alliance for Success supports four interrelated streams of work:
1. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council) and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum) as drivers of the content for Center communications products/tools that translate science and research for policy audiences;
2. Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) work with state policymakers, particularly in Washington state, and the synthesis and communication of that work’s results to other states;
3.Targeted dissemination to state policymakers of Center communications products and materials through CDC's Early Childhood Innovation Partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA);
4. Rapid response to Alliance members’ requests for presentations, materials, and consultation on applying and communicating the science of early childhood development.


Proposal for Continuing Support of the Innovation Portfolio of the Center on the Developing Child (2012-2012)
Casey Family Programs


To Support and Enhance the Center's Knowledge Translation and Communication Capacity (2011-2014)
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Science does not speak for itself. For policymakers and practitioners to make sound decisions based on the best knowledge available, the implications of recent advances in the biological and social sciences must be translated into accessible language and communicated in a variety of formats to accommodate a wide range of learning styles and preferences for accessing information. To this end, the Center has developed a three-stage knowledge transfer process: (1) Knowledge Synthesis – a critical analysis of cutting-edge science and program evaluation research to identify core concepts and evidence-based findings that are broadly accepted by the scientific community; (2) Knowledge Translation – the identification of gaps in understanding between scientists and the public, and the development of effective language to communicate accurate scientific information in a way that can inform sound public discourse; and (3) Knowledge Communication – the production and dissemination of a wide variety of publications and educational media via print, the Web, and in-person presentations.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation supports the Center as it expands this multidimensional process of knowledge synthesis, translation, and communication. An intensified focus of this endeavor resides in the developmental significance and underlying neurobiology of two critical issues – chronic neglect and resilience in the face of adversity. Requested funds will be used to enhance all three phases of the process by supporting the staff infrastructure and associated expenses required for high-quality execution and high-impact products. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council) and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum) work collaboratively in this effort to build a strong foundation of scientific knowledge to inform all aspects of the work. This process begins with the production of an initial draft of a working paper about the developmental impacts of chronic neglect, including a neurobiological perspective on what happens to the brain when it receives limited or inappropriate stimulation, and a discussion of the relevance of this scientific knowledge for rethinking both policy and practice in child protective services. The production of this paper will also be informed by extensive communications research already conducted by the FrameWorks Institute on this topic. In keeping with the Center’s mission to provide multiple ways for audiences to access this kind of information, funding support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation underwrites the resources needed not only to support the writing, editing, designing, and printing of a working paper, but also to extend its reach with a 2-page “InBrief” version of the content, a 3-5 minute video featuring interviews with the authors that is suitable for use on the web or in presentations, and an interactive web feature.


Proposal to Advance the Frontiers of Innovation in Early Childhood Policy and Practice (2011-2014)
Bezos Family Foundation

The overarching goal of this initiative is to improve life outcomes for vulnerable, young children. Our core strategy is to mobilize advances in scientific knowledge to inform the design and implementation of a dynamic framework for a new era in early childhood policy and practice that embraces creativity, invites experimentation, and learns from failure. We view existing best practices as a promising starting point and we are committed to helping the field move above and beyond the current focus on increased quality improvement, enhanced staff development, appropriate measures of accountability, and expanded funding to serve more children and families. Our ultimate aim is to catalyze substantially greater
impacts on the lives of young children whose needs are not addressed adequately by existing programs, with a strong emphasis on those who face the cumulative burdens of economic hardship, limited parent education, racial or ethnic discrimination, and other sources of structural inequity. Our signature approach draws on advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and the behavioral and social sciences to inform both the design of testable, new interventions and the measurement of their effectiveness over time. This strategy requires the continuous refinement of new theories of change that are grounded in a growing scientific understanding of the causal mechanisms that explain how early experiences are built into the body and influence lifelong outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health. To this end, our current work plan is focused on three core objectives:

(1) To build a dynamic “Frontiers of Innovation” community composed of scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative individuals who are motivated to engage in the kind of transformational thinking that is needed to break down disciplinary barriers and catalyze significant change in early childhood policy and practice.

(2) To create and support an initial network of selected states and community-based sites that are both motivated and prepared to engage in an interactive process of “Innovation by Design” through piloting creative, new policies and practices, as well as contributing to active, cross-site learning that will be supported by the Early Childhood Innovation Partnership (ECIP) based at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

(3) To build and sustain a sophisticated communications infrastructure with the capacity to promote knowledge-based collaboration across the domains of education, health, and a broad range of human services in order to help build more effective systems that are guided by an integrated science of early childhood health and development.


Proposal for Continuing Support of the Innovation Portfolio of the Center on the Developing Child (2011-2011)
Casey Family Foundation

In follow-up to a successful first year of investment by Casey Family Programs (CFP), the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (Center) continues to drive significant innovation in early childhood policy and practice. The overarching goal of this effort is to leverage new knowledge in the service of generating and testing innovative intervention models to produce substantially greater impacts on learning, behavior, and health outcomes than existing programs and policies, particularly for the most disadvantaged children and families. After an intensive one-year strategic planning process, the Center on the Developing Child focuses its efforts on three core areas of greatest potential for impact: (1) reducing developmental barriers to learning; (2) strengthening the early childhood foundations of lifelong physical and mental health; and (3) enhancing the economic and social stability of the environment of relationships in which young children develop. Each of these areas requires different kinds of work in order to effect needed changes along different timelines. In support of this work, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council), the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum), and the FrameWorks Institute (which the Center commissions to execute communications research), each play critically important roles.

Working collaboratively, the Council and Forum are building a foundation of current knowledge upon which the ECIP can build its work to catalyze, develop, and test innovative interventions. Both groups play important roles in the critical task of educating policymakers, civic leaders, and the general public about the rapidly growing science of early childhood development and research on the effectiveness factors of interventions.

The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child is a multi-disciplinary collaboration of 17 scientists and scholars from universities across the U.S. and Canada, which aims to bring the science of early childhood and early brain development to bear on public policy decision-making by synthesizing and communicating science concepts in a meaningful, accessible way. Established in 2003, the Council is committed to an evidence-based approach to building broad-based public will that transcends political partisanship and recognizes the complementary responsibilities of family, community, workplace, and government to promote the well-being of all young children.

The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs was established to complement the Council’s work by attempting to answer questions about the impacts of investments in early childhood services. This interdisciplinary group of 10 researchers from several universities assesses, interprets, and translates program evaluation research for policymakers, primarily at the state level.

Complementing the work of the Council and Forum, and essential to the impact of both in the policy arena, is the Center’s longstanding partnership with the FrameWorks Institute to conduct research on effective communication strategies for explaining the science of child development to non-scientists. CFP funding contributes to the initiation of an approximately 18-month investigation focused on how to communicate with policymakers about building resilience, including the concept of “buffering” experiences and relationships, epigenetics as a process underlying resilience, the cultural and biological components of resilience, and interventions related to both building resilience and addressing the apparent lack of resilience in young children. In addition, the FrameWorks team consults with the ECIP, using previously conducted research as a baseline for discussion on how to effectively communicate the initiative’s focus on reducing developmental barriers to learning.


Early Childhood Innovations Partnerships (2010-2013)
William K. Kellogg Foundation

The Early Childhood Innovation Project (ECIP) is designed to provide policymakers and service providers guidance on how to augment the impacts of early childhood interventions for children who experience significant adversity related to economic hardship with or without other risk factors, as well as to address the compelling need to redefine the health dimension of this dynamic area of public policy. Building on more than four decades of scientific advances and program experience, the goal of the ECIP is to catalyze transformational thinking in the service of developing and testing new theories of change to guide innovations in policy and programs designed to enhance healthy development and improve the life prospects of vulnerable, young children. To this end, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University is drawing on its existing partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices as well as collaborating with selected scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative thinkers who are motivated to drive significant innovation in the early childhood field. Three thematic areas have emerged as leading candidates for initial attention: (1) re-conceptualizing the health dimension of early childhood policy; (2) formulating and testing more effective strategies to reduce toxic stress in young children through innovative approaches to transforming the lives of their parents; and (3) developing and testing more effective strategies to reduce barriers to early learning, particularly those related to emotional difficulties and behavior problems. The primary beneficiaries of this initiative will be a national population of vulnerable young children whose future life prospects are currently compromised by adversity related to economic hardship and limited parent education, as well as a variety of associated sources of excessive stress such as child maltreatment, maternal depression, parental substance abuse, and family violence, among others.We expect that children who participate in the innovative interventions developed through this project will achieve better long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health in comparison to graduates of existing programs.


The Early Childhood Innovation Project (2010-2013)
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Building on more than four decades of scientific advances and program experience, the mission of the Early Childhood Innovation Project is to catalyze transformational thinking about how to promote the healthy development of young children who are at risk for poor life outcomes. The Center on the Developing Child is working collaboratively with the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, along with selected scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative thinkers who are motivated to drive significant innovation in early childhood policy and practice. Multiple mechanisms are used to solicit this broad range of perspectives, including interviews, workshops, and “idea incubators” or think tanks. The aim is to combine scientific insights with practical implementation and policy experience to generate new action strategies that are grounded in well-established scientific principles that can be applied across agencies and sectors, likely to produce greater impacts than current interventions; positioned to mobilize both public and private-sector resources; and designed to be feasible and replicable in a broad diversity of political, economic, social, and cultural environments. Three themes have emerged as leading candidates for initial attention: (1) re-conceptualizing the health dimension of early childhood policy; (2) formulating and testing more effective strategies to reduce toxic stress in young children through innovative approaches to transforming the lives of their parents; and (3) developing and testing more effective strategies to reduce barriers to early learning, particularly those related to emotional difficulties and behavior problems. The knowledge gathered from these activities will inform a collaborative network of community-based demonstration sites for testing new intervention models and state-based laboratories for piloting innovative policy approaches – and then leveraging what we learn to inform the future direction of early childhood policy and practice.

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