Family is the Foundation Paper by FRP Canada


[quote]Nothing is more important in the world today than the nurturing that children receive in the first three years of life, for it is in these earliest years that the capacities for trust, empathy and affection originate. If the emotional needs of the child are not met during these years, permanent emotional damage can result.” -Dr. Elliot Barker[/quote]

In their paper Family is the Foundation, FRP Canada addresses the reorganization of early childhood services in Canada towards an educational model and offers policy recommendations for ensuring that community organizations and family support programs continue to receive funding to support families as a whole.

This paper incorporates recent studies in neurobiology, genetics, health science, sociology, psychology, linguistics and epidemiology to reach the following conclusions:

  • An infant’s brain is malleable and highly sensitive to its environment, even before birth.
  • Warm, responsive, authoritative parenting and low stress environments are associated with positive child development.
  • Harsh or unresponsive parenting and high stress environments are associated with impaired child development.
  • Each stage of a child’s development depends upon the foundation set in place during the previous stage.
  • Positive social and emotional development sets the stagefor successful cognitive development; qualities such as curiosity, confidence, persistence, self-control and willingness to risk making mistakes contribute to learning and reduce the likelihood of aggressive behaviour and bullying.
  • Factors that impact early child development have long-lasting effects across many domains including physical and emotional health.
  • Impaired development, once reflected in the structures of the brain, is difficult to repair.
  • Parenting and the early family environment have the most significant impact on children’s long term outcomes.

Family is the Foundation recognizes the positive outcomes of a number of longitudinal research studies in both the States and Ontario that have found that “well-designed and resourced preschool program[s] can be beneficial, especially for children from disadvantaged circumstances.” FRP Canada adds that each of the profiled programs included a wide range of family support components within their design. Examples of this support include supports to help parents reach their educational or employment goals, home visits, parent resource rooms and support groups, connecting families to health services and other community supports, and continued involvement with the family once the child entered elementary school.

Policy Recommendations

Family is the Foundation offers three policy recommendations regarding the reorganization of early childhood development programs across Canada:

  1. Acknowledge the primary influence of the family:  Giving priority to programs supporting families during pregnancy nd when children are very young; incorporating family centre principles into early learning and care programs; ensuring that families receive comprehensive support after children start school; and ensuring high quality environments for young children at home and in early child care settings.
  2. Build an integrated system through partnerships: Keep the provision of comprehensive supports for families within community agencies; develop meaningful partnerships between schools and community partners; encourage sharing, collaboration and respect between school and community early care and learning programs; and recognize the value of both formal and informal relationships.
  3. Retain and expand family support programs in the community: Recognize the long standing contribution of these programs; provide adequate funding for them; and ensuring that community programs maintain autonomy within school settings.

[quote]What I keep coming back to is that it’s like pouring cement. If you don’t mix the batch right, you are stuck with it, and you have to get at it with a sledgehammer later – it’s a slow, difficult and almost impossible process. In the first three years of the child’s life, the cement is setting, and parents (with the support of the community) ought to set every other priority aside and to their best.” Dr. Elliot Barker presenting to the Senate Subcommittee on Childhood Experiences as Causes of Criminal Behaviour, 1977[/quote]

Read the entire paper here.