Department - Early Childhood

Early childhood is a time of rapid change and critical milestones during which the trajectory of a child’s development and well-being is shaped by the people, programs, and services with which they interact. Many children and families, however, do not receive the supports they need to reach their full potential. Child Trends’ early childhood team believes that all children, from birth through age 8, should thrive in safe and nurturing families, and that programs and services for young children and their families should be of high quality and informed by research.  

Our team’s more than 70 staff members bring a wealth of knowledge about early childhood to improve access, quality, and opportunities for children, families, and educators. Our early childhood program area has three units:  

  • Healthy Beginnings and Supported Families  
  • Equitable Quality and Access  
  • Early Childhood Systems Building  

Researchers within our units study the needs of young children and their families as they grow, learn, and access early childhood services in their communities. We examine a range of programs and services for families with young children, including home visiting, early childhood education (including care in home-, center- and school-based settings, and early elementary school), health and mental health, and economic supports. We also study multiple contexts for young children, including supports for engaging their families, provisions for the well-being of the early childhood workforce, neighborhood resources, and high-quality systems of services that promote positive experiences and outcomes. 

We embed equity in our research by addressing the discriminatory structures and policies that have negatively impacted the children, families, and workforce members—both historically and at present—who have been marginalized by racism and systemic inequities. Our research also uses a strengths-based approach that focuses on the family and community assets that create positive conditions for children’s development. We include children, families, and early childhood educators as partners in the research process, and we value their unique perspectives based on their own experiences. We also examine our own biases and assumptions and strive to ensure that our team is equipped with the knowledge and strategies needed to conduct equitable research across our projects.  

We receive funding from the federal government, state agencies, communities, and foundations to conduct research, evaluation, policy analysis, and training and technical assistance projects. Our work seeks to improve policies and practices at all levels of the early childhood system by conducting statewide and programmatic evaluations, analyzing national datasets, and conducting research studies on critical issues. We promote clear communication of our research, and our resources and reports address complex topics in easy-to-understand terms. We seek collaboration with policymakers and practitioners to help them address a range of early childhood issues and translate research into actions that can improve the lives of young children.