About the Documentary Series

The Raising of America is the first national, fully integrated media/public engagement project that aims to reframe the way Americans look at early child health and development.

The Documentary Series

The Raising of America Series is a five-part documentary series that explores the question: Why are so many children in America faring so poorly? What are the consequences for the nation’s future? How might we, as a nation, do better? The series investigates these questions through different lenses: What does science tell us about the enduring importance of early life experiences on the brain and body? What it is like to be a parent today? And what policies and structures help or hinder the raising of healthy, happy and compassionate children? The Signature Hour covers all three of these issues. The four subsequent episodes each dive in for a closer look.

A Note on Terminology

We’ve borrowed a lot for this project from many brilliant experts, not just concepts and counsel but even terminology, and we are thankful for their generous assistance.

The Campaign—Sparking a National Conversation

The Raising of America Campaign films and resources are being used by hundreds of organizations concerned about the futures of young children and their families. Campaign Partners and others are holding community dialogs, policy forums, classes, trainings and other events to spark new conversations about what we as municipalities, states and the nation can do to make a strong start the birthright of every infant in the U.S, perhaps the most prudent investment any nation can make. Campaign Partners include both nationwide organizations with a broad reach and community organizations which dig in at the local level.

The Companion Website (www.raisingofamerica.org) 

The Raising of America Companion Website is the online, interactive hub for learning about the project and the issues. It provides interactive learning activities, discussion guides, toolkits, video clips, and background information. The website is also the go-to hub for resources to host effective screening events, and to link up with other organizations working to strengthen young children, families and communities.

What is the Series About?

Recent studies underscore repeatedly how a child’s earliest surroundings and interactions shape the developing brain, building the foundations for life-long emotional, intellectual and even physical health and development. Exposure to a nurturing or adverse environment in the early years affects how we think, feel and relate to others as we age, our capacities for empathy, impulse control and even love.

When parents are pressed for time, money and resources, their babies pay the price. Child well-being in the U.S. has fallen to 26th out of 29 rich nations. An increasing number of children grow up with learning, behavioral and physical health challenges. But our kids’ health is not all that’s at risk, researchers argue. By squeezing young families and under-investing in early childhood we are also under-developing America. If we want children to do better in school and in life—and the nation to prosper—we can’t wait until they enter kindergarten.

The studies are many, they are strong and they are persuasive. Yet little or no popular media until now have translated these scientific findings into a compelling new story capable of changing the way parents, practitioners, policy makers and the public think about society’s responsibilities and interest in these first crucial years. The conventional default explanations of child development—good vs. bad parents, genetics and cultural dysfunction—still predominate. Perhaps not coincidentally, little progress has been made in improving outcomes for America’s children.

The Raising of America seeks to spark a first-ever national conversation which asks: what can be done to better assure the conditions all babies and young children need to thrive? Will the U.S. squander its own future, or will it invest in its youngest children and their families?

About the Episodes


The Signature Hour (58 min)

The Signature Hour interweaves discoveries from neuroscience with the stories of families and communities struggling to provide the nurturing environments all babies and young children need to thrive—while too often hindered by social conditions that put their children on low developmental paths. It reveals how stressors on parents can drip down on their infants and young children, literally altering the wiring of their developing brains with enduring effects. Why are so many children faring so poorly in the richest nation on the planet? How might we do better?


When Childcare for All Wasn’t Just a Fairy Tale (32 min)

Imagine how things might be different today if high-quality early care and education had been available to every family that wanted it for the past four decades. It almost happened!


(32 min)

Studies show that investing in high-quality early care and education pays for itself in many ways and many times over. So, why aren’t we investing?


Confronting Childhood PTSD in America’s Shell-Shocked Cities (42 min)

Too many of our children, especially children of color living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, have endured trauma and show symptoms that look very much like PTSD—except there is no post. How might they and their neighborhoods heal?


How the Outside Gets Under the Skin (35 min)

Discoveries in the exciting new field of epigenetics suggest that fetal and early child environments literally become part of us. They alter not our genes (they’re fixed) but the epigenetic volume controls which switch genes on and off—with enduring consequences for behaviors and mental and physical health.

The Raising of America is available on DVD and video streaming from California Newsreel at www.newsreel.org. The opening signature hour will be broadcast by public television stations beginning November 2015 (check local listings).

The Raising of America was produced by the San Francisco-based film production and distribution center, California Newsreel, in partnership with Vital Pictures of Boston.

The signature hour is distributed by American Public Television.

The presenting station is Twin Cities Public Television (TPT).


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