Child Trends: A History of Thought Leadership
For almost 40 years, Child Trends has been a leading institution in the effort to improve the lives and prospects of all children and youth through rigorous research. Our work has helped shape the public policies that affect children and families, strengthened a wide array of social services, and increased public awareness of child and youth issues.
Building the nation’s data on children and youth
Child Trends was established in 1979 by the Foundation for Child Development (FCD). Long a leader in promoting the use of data in decision-making about children, FCD recognized the need for a national organization “to improve the quality, scope, and use of statistical information about children.” Child Trends was incubated in FCD’s New York offices, and moved to Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s.
Within a few years, Child Trends established itself as an indispensable data resource for policymakers, leading foundations, and the general public.
In 2002, Child Trends took its data expertise online, launching the Child Trends DataBank, which remains one of the most accessible and comprehensive sources of data on U.S. children, youth, and families. The Child Trends DataBank includes regularly updated data on more than 125 indicators of the well-being of children and youth, with clear summaries of the underlying research, explanation of important trends, and downloadable tables and graphs.
Expanding the Nation’s Knowledge Base
Understanding data and trends is necessary, but not always sufficient, when it comes to crafting effective policies and programs for children and youth. There is also a deep and rich body of research into child development that can improve policies and programs as well. Over the decades, Child Trends’ researchers have made significant contributions to that research base, and their knowledge of the scientific literature guides all of our work. As a result, Child Trends has been at the forefront of research on most of the major child and youth issues of recent decades.
Teen childbearing. Beginning in the early 1980s, Child Trends was in the vanguard of research organizations studying the factors that contributed to the increase in teen childbearing through the 1980s and early 1990s, and to its subsequent substantial decline. We led the field in reporting and analyzing trends at the state and local levels and among teens of different ages, income levels, and races. In particular, we brought a two-generation focus to the issue of teen pregnancy and childbearing, emphasizing its impact on both teen parents and their children.
Among our accomplishments:
Child poverty. Since the 1960s, children have been the largest age group of Americans living in poverty. Child Trends has long tracked child poverty, analyzed its implications, examined the family factors associated with it, and assessed the effectiveness of policies and programs to address child poverty. Among our many contributions:
Some of the earliest statistical profiles of children in poverty, beginning in the 1980s and continuing to this day.
Early childhood. Our work on poverty and welfare reminded the nation that welfare affects two generations—parents and children—and that these issues were and are especially prominent for very young children. Early childhood initiatives have become central to the nation’s efforts to support the health, development, and school readiness of young children in low-income families. As public policies evolved, they often reflected Child Trends’ contributions, helping to expand the scope and quality of early care and education. Of particular note:
The role of fathers in children’s lives. Child Trends was among the first research organizations to focus on the role of fathers in children’s lives. We have since pursued research into more complex family structures as well.
Child welfare. Research and evaluation related to children in the foster care and child protection systems took root at Child Trends in 2006, and has grown steadily ever since.
Education. For years, Child Trends has provided critical statistical support to the U.S. Department of Education. More recently, our education portfolio has expanded to include some of the most pressing issues in the field.
Hispanic children. A hallmark of Child Trends has always been its ability to shine a light on groups of children overlooked by research, policy, and programs. Hispanic children and youth are one example. In 2014, we launched the Child Trends Hispanic Institute to help fill a critical gap in the knowledge of the fastest-growing group of children in the United States. In just the first few years, we have:
Sharing Our Knowledge with the Nation
At Child Trends, we believe that sharing knowledge is as important as developing it. Since 1995, we have invested in the skillful, strategic communication of research to policymakers, funders, programs, the media, and the general public. As a result, Child Trends has emerged as a respected thought leader on issues related to children and youth. Among our communications accomplishments:
Our rich history is a tribute to the contributions of hundreds of employees, clients, and partners we have been privileged to work with over the years. But our work is far from done. At a time when one child in five still lives in poverty, and when racial, ethnic, and other forms of discrimination still exist, and when sufficient and appropriate supports for children, youth, and families are at best a work in progress, Child Trends remains as committed as ever to its mission:
Child Trends improves the lives and prospects of children and youth by conducting high-quality research and sharing the resulting knowledge with practitioners and policymakers.