By Nancy Kunkler, public relations manager, Alliance
In reporting on a new effort by Great Britain to decrease or prevent toxic stress in children, the Washington Post article,“The brain science behind Britain’s new parenting classes,” said, “Behind the controversial new family agenda was a deceptively simple lesson from neuroscience.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced his proposal to spend more than $100 million over the next five years on “relationship support” or state-backed parenting classes. The Washington Post explained, “An intervention in the early years, he bets, could prevent a host of problems later.”
While underpinned by “deceptively simple” concepts, the proposal is controversial because some in the British media called it an invasion of privacy and intrusive on personal parenting decisions. With this example, we can see that while utilization of neurosciences continues to make inroads in policy and practice, there is still much to do in educating the public on its benefits for children and families—and the larger community.
Cameron cited the research of Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, in his announcement of the initiative. Shonkoff says the prevention of harmful toxic stress in children is a noble effort, but he told the Washington Post that one must ensure that policies support the entire family. Can a woman afford to attend the parenting classes when she does not have paid time off? Will young parents be able to attend the classes if they do not have adequate child care? Shonkoff says, "We meet the needs of children by meeting the needs of parents.”
These concerns show the importance of policy and systems change taking place hand in hand. Sound familiar? The primary purpose of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Change in Mind initiative is to show how our sector can be a true influencer of aligning appropriate systems with the science. Change in Mind is making that a reality through its 15-member cohort.
It will be interesting to see how this effort goes for Cameron. It may provide a good roadmap—and advice on avoiding specific potholes—for similar efforts here in the U.S.