About the Documentary Series

The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation is changing the way Americans look at early child health and development.

The acclaimed five-part documentary series and companion tools illustrate how a strong start for all our kids can lead to better individual outcomes AND a healthier, safer, more prosperous and equitable America.

Changing the Conversation

The way we talk changes the way we work. More than 700 Partners and countless others are using The Raising of America to change the conversation about why some children thrive while others flounder—and society’s role during the crucial early years.

Screenings in classrooms, trainings, policy forums and community dialogs are sparking new conversations which go beyond ‘parenting’ to ask how organizations, municipalities, states and even the nation might better assure the conditions every child needs for a strong start.

What is the Series About?

Why are so many children in the richest country on the planet faring so poorly? What are the consequences for the nation’s future? How might we do better?

Neuroscience underscores how a child’s earliest surrounding and interactions shape the developing brain, building the foundations for life-long cognitive and emotional development, even mental and physical health.

But too often families and communities are pressed by lack of time, money and resources. Job insecurity and low wages, lack of paid family leave, childcare that is both poor quality and unaffordable, racial stigma, and of course the trauma of adverse child experiences and racial exclusion can all get ‘under the skin’ of young children altering brain architecture. The costs? More emotional, behavior, substance abuse and learning problems later in life.

But it’s not only our children who are at risk. Our current policies are under-developing America. If we want our children to do better in school and in life, we can’t wait until they enter kindergarten.

The series’ Signature Hour asks how we might make a strong start the birthright of every infant in the U.S. The four additional episodes dive in for a closer look. Will the U.S. invest in its youngest children and their families, or will it squander its own future?

The Episodes


The Signature Hour (58 min)

The Signature Hour interweaves discoveries from neuroscience with the stories of families and communities doing all they can to provide the nurturing environments all babies and young children need to thrive—while too often hindered by social conditions. And when parents are pressed, babies pay the price. The consequences may last a lifetime, shaping both individual outcomes—learning, earning and mental and physical health—as well as the future health, prosperity and equity of the nation. Improving conditions for families with young children is perhaps the most prudent investment any nation can make.


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

Imagine how things would be different today if high-quality childcare and pre-K was available to every family who wanted it for the past four decades. It almost happened!


(32 min)

Economists are worried. Not because we’re spending too much but we’re investing too little where it matters most. Studies indicate that high quality early care and ed pays for itself in many ways and many times over.


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 but the epigenetic ‘dimmer switches’ which turn genes on and off—with enduring consequences for behaviors and mental and physical health.

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 Raising of America is available on DVD and video streaming from California Newsreel at www.newsreel.org.

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 to public television stations by American Public Television.

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