alt Early Childhood Development
The first years of life are an especially critical time in which a baby's brain development and overall well-being are particularly influenced by their environment. Research on brain and child development shows that a child's early experiences and relationships deeply influence all areas of development, including social, emotional, intellectual, motor and language.1 Babies who are raised with loving, engaging, and responsive caregiving, and within a secure and stimulating environment, have the best chance for optimal brain development and ongoing healthy development.

For a child born into an impoverished environment, the capacity for healthy development is compromised by multiple risk factors, including a lack of basic comforts, poor nutrition, minimal opportunities for stimulation and enriching activity, unpredictable or unstable surroundings, and maternal depression. Parents who struggle daily to provide basic necessities for their family may not have the time, resources, or information to provide their babies with the stimulating experiences and safe environment optimal for healthy development. Research shows that without such opportunities, these babies are at a significant disadvantage later in life.2

Did you know?
Babies can recognize their mother's voice in the very first days of life.
The newborn's interest in staring at other babies turns into the capacity for cooperation, empathy, and friendship.
Children who receive reliable, warm and responsive caregiving by the end of their first year are unlikely to produce increases in the stress hormone cortisol, while those with insecure attachment are likely to show elevations in cortisol in situations that upset them.
Researchers who examine the life histories of children who have thrived despite many challenges have consistently found that these children have had at least one stable, supportive relationship with an adult early in life.
The cerebral cortex - the area of the brain in charge of language, thinking, memory, and attention - adds about 70% of its final DNA after birth and thus is directly influenced by early experiences.

In the United States:

2.7 million children under the age of three live in poverty.3
Another 5.4 million children under the age of three live in low-income families (defined as living in families with incomes below 200% of the poverty line).3
More children under the age of three live in poverty than children in any other age group.3
The federal poverty guideline for a family of three is $17,600-but many researchers believe that grossly underestimates how much it takes to support a family.3

In New York City:
Of the 308 babies born every day, 171 (or 55%) are being born into poor families.4
A growing share of working families do not earn enough to make it over the federal poverty line.5

Single mother families constitute two-thirds of New York's poor families with children.5

In Boston:
Of the 22 babies born every day, at least 10 (or 48%) are born into poor families.6
Over 45% of female-headed single-parent households with children under five fall under federal poverty levels.7
1 in 5 children under age 3 visiting Boston Medical Center is malnourished.8
In a November 2007 study, the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked MA last in the nation on overall well-being of low-income children.9

1 Zero to Three, Healthy Minds: Nurturing Your Child's Development from 0-2 Months
2 Zero to Three/Ounce of Prevention Fund, Starting Smart:
How Early Experiences Affect Brain Development
3 National Center for Children in Poverty (2007).
Basic Facts About Low-Income Children, Birth to Age 3
4 Citizens Committee for Children of New York, Inc. (2008); data for 2005. Keeping Track of New York City's Children
5 Community Service Society (2006). Poverty in New York City 2005: More Families Working, More Working Families Poor.
A CSS Annual Report
6 Boston Public Health Commission, January 2004 to January 2005 data (statistic refers to families receiving Medicaid or other public insurance at the time of birth)
7 Boston Redevelopment Authority (2002). Boston Poverty Data over the Decade of the 1990s
8 Courtesy of C-SNAP:
9 Kids Count/Annie E. Casey Foundation, (2007). States Ranked on the Basis of Child Well-Being for Children in Low-income Families.
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