The news is filled with alarming statistics on child health and well-being. Rates of anxiety and depression are skyrocketing; racial disparities persist in childhood trauma; early childhood education remains inaccessible for many American children.
And yet, there are signs of hope. Many modern social, technological, and economic changes have the potential to improve child health. Stigma around mental illness is decreasing. Innovations in urban design are improving neighborhood health. Scientific research is correcting and expanding our understanding of child development. Medical advances are addressing previously unknown or untreated conditions.
In a time of such rapid change, it’s difficult to know where we stand. What are the most serious challenges facing our nation’s children? What leaders and resources already exist in those spaces? How can we creatively and collaboratively work toward a society in which all children can flourish? These questions are not easily answered. And even more complexity is introduced by differing views of the family and of childhood, of what it means to flourish or to achieve justice.
One organization in this space, KnowledgeWorks, generates comprehensive forecasts on the future of learning and education. This time, it has partnered with ideas lab Capita to explore how technological, social, and economic changes will alter the reality of being a child in America. The result is “Foundations for Flourishing Futures: A Look Ahead for Young Children and Families.” This ten-year forecast explores five areas:
Health by the Numbers: Emerging technologies and new understandings of community-level health are reshaping how young children’s and families’ well-being are measured and supported.
Learning in Flux: Social and economic uncertainty and new research into the importance of relationships are influencing approaches to early learning.
The Autonomy Gaps: New notions about young children’s autonomy, along with increasing inequity, are creating cultural and generational tensions and are widening disparities among children’s access to free expression.
Stretched Social Fabric: Shifting support structures and information sources are changing the ways in which increasingly diverse families navigate and access resources.
Care at the Core: New economic and employment realities and the aging of the population are creating tensions related to caregiving structures and values.
In each of these five categories, the forecast identifies key challenges, and possible strategies for ensuring the flourishing of our nation’s children.
As I’ve written before, a child’s early-life relationships lay the foundation for her well-being for the rest of her life. It is imperative that political, educational, and medical leaders understand the rapid changes occuring in our society so that they can direct our response toward true flourishing for all children. Reading “Foundations for Flourishing Futures” is a good place to start.