"The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation": A Film Review

by jill ciganek

As nannies, we know how important the formative, early years of childhood are, and how they set the foundation for the rest of a child's life. Parents, educators, healthcare professionals, and experts in all realms agree, so why then does America trail nearly all other industrialized nations in our children's wellbeing?

The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation, a documentary debuting on public television in the United States on November 9, 2015, explores this topic and its implications for the future of our country.

The film provides some staggering statistics regarding how our family and social policies stack up against those of other developed nations, and it's not good. Take for instance, the fact that the United States ranks 26th out of 29 in the wellbeing of our children, and that 40% of American mothers are back to work by the time their babies are just 3 months old. Probably one of the most disappointing facts regarding the lack of parental and early childhood support is the fact that “...every major economy on the planet guarantees paid maternity leave except the U.S.”

Parents in America today are struggling. This is apparent to everyone who is a parent, knows a parent, or has worked with parents and their young children. Parents are pressed for time and money today more than ever before, and our society is not supporting them. In fact, the film contends, our policies actually discourage the raising of strong families and children. The lack of affordable high-quality childcare for all children, especially those born into poverty, as well as the lack of guaranteed paid time off for parents, are setting up families for failure. Failing our youngest generation will only set our entire nation up for failure down the road.

The Raising of America cites important studies and interviews with medical experts regarding how critical the earliest years of life are for brain development. In fact, it has been shown that children who are raised by parents who are under constant stress actually show changes in their brain development throughout life, including higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and are more prone to emotional, behavioral, and learning problems. But, just like many parts of the body, if we address the underlying issues and reduce the stress levels on families by providing them with more support, the brain can heal.

The film contends that an investment in our children is an investment in the future of our society as a whole and an issue that should be taken seriously by all of its members, not just those who have children. I think most people realize this, but unfortunately we are still lacking in our willingness to put policies in place that guarantee early childhood care and parental leave. But it's time for us to catch up with our peer nations.

In the words of early childhood teacher Aiyauna Terry, “...invest in these children. They're not going to fail you, but we can't fail them now.”

The Raising of America is a compelling, thought-provoking documentary that premieres on public television in November. Check your local listings or find out more information online at www.raisingofamerica.org.