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New Forum Highlights Children

November 18, 1999

Judith Zwolak

Millions of parents across the country rely on day-care providers to care for their young children while they're at work. Most likely, nearly all of these parents also worry about whether they're doing the best thing for their kids. To shed some light on child-care's effect on children, the inaugural event of a new Newcomb College lecture series will present the latest research findings of a national study on child-care and development.

Deborah Lowe Vandell, professor of psychology and child and family studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, will present Does Childcare Quality Really Matter? on Thursday, Dec. 2, at the first Newcomb Forum on Child Development. Vandell is one of the principal investigators in the Early Child Care Study of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Since 1990, researchers at the institute and 14 universities across the country have studied more than 1,300 families and their children from 10 locations nationwide. Researchers followed the children, who were less than 1-month old at the time they were enrolled in the study, through their first-grade year.

Investigators are studying how different forms of early care affect social, emotional, cognitive and language development. In the next phase of the study, researchers will follow the children throughout the elementary school years. The results of the investigation are already having an impact on child-care policies in the United States, says the forum's organizer, Jeffrey Lockman, associate professor of psychology.

"This study was undertaken in part to address the controversy of putting children in day-care," Lockman says. "In turn, the findings are going to help direct social policy on day-care in the next century." He says Vandell will highlight the most recent findings from this study and relate them to child-care policies in New Orleans and Louisiana. "Vandell's presentation is an auspicious start for the Newcomb Forum on Child Development," Lockman says.

Sponsored jointly by Newcomb College and the Department of Psychology, the forum will bring a leading researcher in the field of child development to the campus each year.

"Newcomb College and the Newcomb Children's Center have been recognized nationally as leaders for their early childhood-development program," Lockman says. "We want to extend that role by having the center be associated with bringing the latest research on child development to the New Orleans community."

Lockman adds that the children's center, which includes the Newcomb Nursery School and the Newcomb Childcare Center, serves not only the children enrolled there and their families, but also assists the academic mission of the university by training child-care professionals and incorporating the latest research in its programs. The forum, which is free and open to the public, is on Dec. 2 in the Freeman Auditorium, Woldenberg Art Center at Newcomb College, at 7 p.m.

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