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Town hall will focus on how Utah can give all children a strong start in life.

By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications

Utah is committed to its young children and families, which is reflected in the state’s strong showing in most measures of child well-being. But can we do even better? Knowing that early experiences get “under the skin,” how can we optimize infant care so that children born today will reach their full potential tomorrow? What does science say about how optimal care — by parents, relatives and professional caregivers — can be supported?

Those questions will be the focus of a town hall meeting set for March 23 and sponsored by the College of Social and Behavioral Science, the Family and Consumer Studies and Psychology departments.

The town hall meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Hinckley Caucus Room, Building 73. The free event is open to all.

The town hall will begin with a screening of a video segment from the PBS series “The Raising of America” and a panel discussion, moderated by KUTV Anchor Mary Nickles, with the following U experts: Elisabeth Conradt, assistant professor, psychology; Cathleen Zick, associate dean, College of Social and Behavioral Science and professor of family and consumer studies; Russ Isabella, associate professor, family and consumer studies; and Lee Raby, assistant professor, psychology.

Cheryl Wright, an associate professor of Family and Consumer Studies, said the town hall meeting will highlight U research that is relevant to Utah parents, caregivers and policy makers and draw attention to the “incredibly important work that parents, caregivers and grandparents are doing in raising the next generation.”

Research has shown investments in early childhood pay off in better educated citizens who hold higher skilled jobs, contribute more taxes and are less likely to incur social costs.

“Children can deal with pretty much anything if their parents can buffer the stress,” said Ilse Dekoeyer-Laros, a psychology professor at the U. “The problem right now is so many parents are stressed, due to work, life experiences and other demands, and can’t be buffers for their children. This event will raise awareness that child rearing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Parents and other caregivers need support — so they can be a better resource for children.”