A Literature Review on Early Childhood Development: Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island




Gale, Kristine Star

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PURPOSE AND BACKGROUND The Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island [CHF or Foundation], formerly known as the Queen Alexandra Foundation, began in 1927 fundraising to support children diagnosed with polio and other illnesses in the Vancouver Island area. Today, the Foundation continues to focus on improving the health outcomes of Vancouver Island children and families through the following impact areas: children and youth living with complex needs, early childhood development [ECD] and youth mental health. To inform the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality and enhance access to programs and resources for families and their children, in fall 2019, the Foundation identified a need for general literature review on ECD. APPROACH The literature review provides a synthesis of methodologically diverse ECD literature and data from high income countries [HIC]. The examination of the literature had the following objectives: • Define, contextualizes and affirms the importance of ECD • Highlights general themes and trends from the literature • Utilizes a smart practice approach to identify specific examples of ECD services in consideration of these themes and trends. This review also identified vulnerabilities and resilience of children below the age of six, race, socioeconomic status [SES] and ethnicity, and the changing landscape of ECD service systems as areas for future research. MAIN FINDINGS The literature review produced the following main findings: • Children’s formative years are of incredible value, a time when both threats and benefits to life-long development are intensified; how children’s early environments are understood and/or augmented can support healthy human development on individual and societal scales. • Health and nutrition, early learning and childcare, safety and race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status are general themes in ECD; these themes are interconnected and complex, requiring ECD service responses rooted in nurturing care, utilizing multisector and integrated approaches. • Equitable access to ECD services, a reduction of barriers within HIC’s ECD service systems, can be considered an international measure of quality ECD. • Smart ECD practices utilize people and place-based approaches and community driven development with the intended goal of supporting or initiating ECD systems’ change.   RECOMMENDATIONS The following recommendations were developed for the Vancouver Island Children’s Health Foundation and the field of early childhood development in general: CHF recommendations: • Utilize a logic model or program cycle to clarify the Foundation’s existing collaboration[s], and engagement[s] with ECD stakeholders and to identify desired outcomes and impacts. • Conduct cyclical jurisdictional scans of ECD service delivery that include primary data collection from service providers and users. Utilize this data to inform systems’ initiatives and disseminate this information widely. • Engage and invest with partners on Vancouver Island in the development, adoption and improvement of research tools, methods and analyses of vulnerabilities and resilience of children ages 0 – 6. • Prioritize and leverage local and Indigenous communities’ expertise and leadership in ECD processes and governance. ECD field recommendations: • Evaluate standard ECD research methods and analyses of SES; invest in enhancements that address the shortcomings of these methods or analyses or highlight their visibility in research findings. • Invest in the development and adoption of improved research tools, methods and analyses for vulnerabilities and resilience of children ages 0 – 6.



early childhood development