The Raising of America Project

The Raising of America will reframe the way we look at early child health and development.

This documentary series and multimedia initiative by the producers of UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? explores how a strong start for all our kids leads not only to better individual life course outcomes (learning, earning and physical and mental health) but also to a healthier, safer, better educated, more prosperous, and more equitable America.

The Raising of America includes:

  • A one-hour documentary for PBS broadcast and national video release with several 30-minute supporting episodes
  • A nationwide Public Engagement Campaign
  • An interactive companion website

The series will be released on video in early 2015, with the PBS broadcast still to be determined. The companion website will launch with the series release.

More than 300 organizations have already joined the campaign which will kick off with launch events organized in cities across the county to advance the national dialogue on early child health and development.

About the Documentary

Scientists are now beginning to understand how who we become is shaped not just by our genes but also by our interactions with the environment. As the Berkeley Media Studies Group puts it, "What surrounds us shapes us." Early experience, beginning in utero, affects how our genes express themselves, shaping the architecture of our developing brains, our metabolism and other regulatory systems—for better and for worse.

What infants and toddlers need to thrive is no mystery: a safe, stable and stimulating environment. But too many of our babies enter life with the playing field already tilted against them. 24% of our children are born into poverty and 69% of those are children of color. They and their families face multiple adversities that threaten to "short circuit" the wiring of their developing brains with potential cumulative, long-term consequences.

Working families face many pressures from long workweeks and commutes, stagnant wages, and high costs for quality child care to the fear of losing a job or even a home. Too many parents and caregivers are squeezed by stressful and chaotic conditions. These stressors can 'drip down' on young children and trigger the release of toxic chemicals which can alter brain development and other systems that influence cognitive, socio-emotional and physical health through the life course.

But the new scientific findings also suggest how changing public policies and strengthening communities can better protect and transform life prospects for all our children—especially our most vulnerable—while yielding huge, society-wide payoffs: lower medical and welfare costs, less violence and substance abuse, a better educated and more productive workforce and a narrowed achievement gap.

The Raising of America and its ensemble of multimedia tools will help users break free of the conventional mentalist and family bubble paradigms and better understand why a nurturing child ecology is not only the right of every infant, it's the cornerstone of a healthier, stronger and more equitable future for our nation.

More about the documentary

The Needs Assessment

Rather than pre-determine The Raising of America, California Newsreel first conducted an Environmental Scan and Needs Assessment to identify priorities for the content, form and delivery platforms of media that can advance the work of the field.
 Download the full report

The scan and needs assessment enabled us to learn who the stakeholders are, their missions and constituencies, the settings in which they work, the media they use, the obstacles they face and how, where and with whom stakeholders might best use the content we are producing.

Through hundreds of interviews, surveys and scans of key organizations in the field, the assessment yielded:
  1. A survey of the child development field, including the range of programs, goals, constituencies, messaging concerns and media needs.
  2. Priorities for media content, including core concepts, promising stories, key science, useful formats and delivery platforms.
  3. An impact strategy for using The Raising of America to reframe how the public, stakeholders and policy makers think about the life-long significance of the social determinants of early childhood development.

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