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Preview of documentary series 'The Raising of America' coming March 2

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

LAWRENCE — How are we doing with early-childhood health and development in America? How can we bring people together to address the challenges and improve communities? "The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation" is a forthcoming documentary series and public-engagement campaign intended to spark meaningful discussion and action.

Two University of Kansas research centers are partnering with the film’s producer, California Newsreel, to present a free preview screening of the series’ hourlong signature episode at 7 p.m. March 2 at Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence, with a town-hall-style discussion afterward. The program is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged; to register, click the "The Raising of America" link at www.cppr.ku.edu.

Hosted by the Achievement & Assessment Institute’s Center for Public Partnerships & Research (CPPR) and the School of Social Welfare’s Center for Children & Families (CCF) this special evening will bring together a diverse array of community members from the Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City metro areas to discover and discuss how strong early-childhood investments generate significant and positive long-term returns for our communities and our nation.

The series’ signature episode details the challenges we face nationally and the potential consequences of continuing to underserve our youngest children — in a recent survey of key social, educational and economic indicators in the world’s 29 wealthiest countries, the United States ranked 26th in child well-being. Economists, educators, businesspeople and parents are among the many and diverse voices calling for action in "The Raising of America."

“The unfortunate fact is that as a nation, we are in many ways failing our most precious and vulnerable resource — our children — by not meaningfully addressing crucial areas that are critical to their development,” says CPPR Director Jackie Counts. “Creating sustainable responses to the many challenges identified in this film series will demand a variety of community members working together. From parents to grandparents, from faith-based groups to businesspeople, from educators to physicians, we all have a stake in ensuring that all of our children receive the best of all possible starts to life.”

Kansas City Star multimedia reporter Dave Helling will lead the post-screening discussion with panelists including Dr. Dennis Cooley, a Topeka pediatrician; John Vandewalle, a board member of the Alliance for Childhood Education; and Janice Smith, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet & Trust Fund.

“As a society, we are always looking for solutions to issues such as chronic health and mental health conditions, poverty, violence and academic achievement,” said CCF Director Amy Mendenhall. “However, the easiest, most efficient solution would be to stop focusing on the end outcomes and start focusing on the beginning by investing in young children and their families.

“We already have some great organizations and agencies, such as Success by 6 Coalition of Douglas County, that work to ensure young children and families have the resources and supports that they need to thrive, but until everyone recognizes the importance of investing in early childhood, these efforts will have limited impact.” 

More about "The Raising of America"
"The Raising of America" is produced by California Newsreel, the country's oldest nonprofit documentary production and distribution organization, in conjunction with Vital Pictures in Boston. California Newsreel has created numerous award-winning documentaries, including "UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?," an exploration of health inequity in America, and "RACE: The Power of an Illusion," which questions the very idea of race as biology.

More about the Center for Public Partnerships & Research
Part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute at KU, the Center for Public Partnerships and Research (CPPR) helps partners address complex social issues through research and evaluation, systems development, professional development, technical assistance and performance-management systems. CPPR currently has more than 45 grants in the areas of early childhood, child welfare, child-abuse prevention, K-12 education and at-risk families.

More about the Center for Children & Families
The Center for Children & Families (CCF) is a research and training center in the School of Social Welfare composed of faculty, staff and students actively involved in research, evaluation, policy analysis, program planning and training in areas relevant to children and families. Research initiatives and activities include children’s mental health, child welfare, children’s health, family wellbeing and community outreach. 

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