The Raising of America is a five-part public television documentary series that explores the question: Why are so many children in America faring so poorly? What are the consequences for the nation’s future? How might we, as a nation, do better? The program is intended to spark community action to improve early childhood opportunities.

Previously, the St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council held forums featuring the showing of segments from The Raising of America followed by presentations from local experts and Q&A.

Following are summaries of the forums.


“Building a Comprehensive Early Childhood System”
August 23, 2016


What is a comprehensive early childhood system? What have other cities done to move toward having one? What are the next steps for St. Louis? These topics were explored at the St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council’s Aug. 23, 2016, forum in The Raising of America series.

Katie Rahn, Ed.D., executive director of SouthSide Early Childhood Center, discussed the definition and key elements of an early childhood system, including six key strategies. She also reviewed Detroit’s experience in focusing on highest need neighborhoods, promoting its Quality Rating and Improvement System, and building a solid data foundation with a needs assessment. She suggested that an early childhood system for the St. Louis region should draw on blended funding sources.

Attendees also viewed the segment, “When Childcare for All Wasn’t Just a Fairytale,” from The Raising of America series. The video described how universal child care was provided during World War II, and in 1970 a universal child care bill passed Congress but was vetoed by President Richard Nixon.

Read a summary of the forum

Watch the video

Download Katie Rahn’s slides


Links to reports referenced in her presentation:

— Early Childhood Systems Working Group Planning Tool

— IFF Report, A Snapshot of Early Childhood Education in Detroit


The Deeper Impact: How Children’s Genes Respond to Trauma and Toxic Stress
May 3, 2016


Forum Summary and Bibliography (PDF)
Speaker Slides (PDF)


Viewing: “DNA Is Not Destiny” explores how current research finds that everything from the diets of pregnant mothers, to toxic exposures to trauma, to parental neglect, to poverty, have been linked to changes in genetic expression. The program also shows  how improved social conditions can provide the biological foundation for healthier, more successful lives.

Presenter: John Constantino, MD, Director of the William Greenleaf Elliot Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, and Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, discussed what the science tells us, how this effects children in our region, and what we can do as a community to improve social conditions so all children have the greatest chance to thrive.


Confronting Childhood Trauma in Neighborhoods of Poverty and Color
Feb. 29, 2016


IMGP4088bSummary of the Feb. 29 Forum
Bibliography – Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
Bibliography – Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-Informed Resources for Schools

Viewing: “Wounded Places: Confronting Childhood Trauma in America’s Shell-Shocked Cities,” travels to Philadelphia and Oakland to show how a long history of disinvestment and racial exclusion have ravaged entire neighborhoods and exposed children to multiple adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs). The video profiles families and young people who have been traumatized not just by shootings, but by fear, uncertainty and a sense of futurelessness.

Presentation: Nancy Spargo, AM, LCSW, chief executive officer and co-founder, St. Louis Center for Family Development, and chair of the Regional Early Childhood Council’s Public Awareness & Advocacy Committee


Early Childhood: The Foundation of Our Region’s Future
Nov. 17, 2015

Forum Summary (PDF)

CY8C9713-webMore than 180 community stakeholders attended the Nov. 17 forum, “Early Childhood: The Foundation of Our Region’s Future,” at the Nine Network for Public Media, exploring how many children in the St. Louis region start their first years without adequate early learning opportunities, and what we can do about it. The forum featured:

– Showing of segment of the provocative new public television documentary The Raising of America, describing the urgent need to improve early child care and education in the United States
– Address by Michael Scully, Regional President for St. Louis and Southern Illinois, PNC Financial Services, who described his company’s commitment to early childhood.
– Panel discussion with Becky James-Hatter, CEO, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, and Co-Chair, Ferguson Commission Child Well-Being & Educational Equity Workgroup; Anne Klein, former Vice President of Education Strategies, St. Louis Regional Chamber; Maya Moody, D.O., F.A.A.P., Pediatrician, Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Center; Jason Purnell, Ph.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor, Brown School, Washington University, lead author, For the Sake of All, 2014 study of health disparities in the St. Louis area; Moderated by Jim Kirchherr, Nine Network of Public Media

Panelists called for legislative measures supporting early childhood development, and for more family friendly policies in the workplace. The link between early childhood education and an educated workforce and consumer community is the important point to emphasize with business, they said.

Media Coverage on the Forum:


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 17, 2015

By Nancy Cambria


St. Louis Public Radio “St. Louis on the Air,” Nov. 16, 2015

“How will expanding access to early childhood education help the region?”
Guests: Shelly Williams, Nine Network/American Graduate; Michael Scully, PNC; Katie Rahn, Southside Early Childhood Center