IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

What is the Forum on Child and Family Statistics?

By Grace Kena

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, is a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to the well-being of children and their families. The Forum on Child and Family Statistics’ mission is to promote coordination and collaboration among member agencies and to improve efforts to collect and report Federal data on children and families. This forum is unique in that it compiles key findings across many domains of children’s lives. 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has been involved with the Forum on Child and Family Statistics since the early stages of its development. Founded in 1994, the Forum on Child and Family Statistics was formally established by Executive Order No. 13045 in 1997. The Forum’s main activity is to produce the report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, which is a collection of national indicators of child well-being. Through the report, the Forum aims to improve the reporting of Federal data on children and families; make these data available in an easy-to-use, nontechnical format; and stimulate discussions among policymakers and the public, and between the statistical and policy communities.

Using Federal data, the America’s Children series presents a set of key indicators on aspects of children’s lives that measure their well-being and influence the likelihood that a child will become a well-educated, economically secure, productive, and healthy adult. While there are many, interrelated aspects of children’s well-being, America’s Children reports on seven major domains:  family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. Currently, 23 agencies contribute to the report, including NCES, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Economic Research Service, the U. S. Census Bureau, and the National Center for Health Statistics and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

The Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published the America’s Children report since 1997. Beginning in 2004, the Forum started producing a brief report, America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being in even-numbered years; the full report is still published in odd years. Although this shortened version of the report focuses on selected indicators, data for all indicators are updated on the website each year. In 2014, the Forum published a one-time, special issue report titled America’s Young Adults. In addition to producing reports, the Forum collaborates with partner and other organizations on a number of research projects and in supporting conferences, workshops, and policy seminars. Most recently, NCES experts participated in a day-long workshop on Measuring and Reporting Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood. NCES experts also authored the 2013 special feature on the academic knowledge and skills of kindergarten students using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K: 2011).
 
The 2015 America’s Children report shows several improvements in children’s well-being. The number of babies born prematurely has continued to decline, and recently, the percentage of children with asthma has decreased. High school completion rates have increased, particularly for Hispanic students. On the other hand, some aspects have not improved. The percentage of children experiencing a major depressive episode has continued to increase over the past several years. 

This year’s report also contains a special feature on health care quality, which provides information on well-child and well-adolescent visits, preschool vision screenings, asthma management plans, and access to care.

Learn more about the Forum on Child and Family Statistics and its activities, and the 2015 America’s Children report at the website. Also, tune in to a recent podcast describing findings from the latest report.

This Father's Day, Let’s Celebrate Fathers of Children with Disabilities

By Amy Sussman, NCSER Program Officer

When researchers study the impact of families on children, they usually investigate the role of mothers on their typically developing children. In an era when fathers are participating in child care responsibilities more than ever before, it should be no surprise that they also have a strong influence on their children’s education and development. Dr. Brent McBride of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been examining the role of fathers for over 30 years, carrying out both basic and applied research to inform and guide the development of initiatives aimed at supporting men in their efforts to parent young children. His more recent work on fathers investigates the impact of fathers of children with disabilities and/or developmental delays. Through a grant funded by the Institute's National Center for Special Education Research, Dr. McBride has been exploring data available from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort to investigate the roles fathers play in families of children with disabilities, a challenging parenting context. I recently asked him to describe how his interest in this subject emerged and to share some of his findings and their implications.

How did you become interested in studying fathers’ parenting of children with disabilities?

While working closely with one of my colleagues in special education, Rosa (Amy) Santos, we realized that we have several parallel and complementary research interests and began exploring ways in which our mutual interests could be merged. I was aware of the growing body of research that first emerged in the 1970s suggesting that active father involvement can lead to positive outcomes for both children and families. Although this literature is rich and diverse, the majority of the research has been with fathers in families of typically developing children. Little is known about father involvement in families of children with disabilities. Even less is known about the ways in which early intervention (EI) service providers and early childhood special educators reach out and support the unique needs of fathers. My work with Dr. Santos has been focused on using an interdisciplinary perspective to address this gap in the research.

What are some of your findings on how father involvement impacts children with disabilities?

Although we have had a number of encouraging and intriguing findings, I will describe just a few of them here. The first one is related to the impact of father involvement in routine caregiving, literacy, play, and responsive caregiving activities on maternal and family functioning. Our findings suggest that over time, when fathers are responsive to the needs of their children with autism spectrum disorder and related disabilities and engage in literacy activities with them, mothers experiences less stress and fewer depressive symptoms. This is important because maternal stress and depression have been found in previous research to be significant predicators of lower quality parenting by mothers of children with disabilities. We also examined the impact of early father involvement on children’s school readiness upon kindergarten entry for those who have disabilities or developmental delays but are not placed in self-contained special education classrooms. Results were mixed. For example, fathers’ play involvement at 9 months was negatively related to cognitive functioning but positively related to sociability and fewer behavior problems upon kindergarten entry. These analyses raised several intriguing questions that warrant further investigation. Another part of our investigation built upon previous research indicating that fathers are noticeably absent from EI services in spite of emerging evidence suggesting they can have a positive impact on child and family functioning. In an attempt to explore these barriers, our team analyzed data from EI service providers suggesting that inflexible schedules represent the most salient barrier, with expectations related to gender roles, father’s perceptions of EI services, and EI providers’ limited ability to adapt as additional barriers. Although EI providers believed that fathers could have a positive impact on their children’s development, they were less confident that efforts to target fathers would enhance EI services.

Do these results have any real-world implications for enhancing the development or school readiness of these children?

Most of the findings to emerge from our research program have clear implications for ways to enhance the school readiness of children with disabilities and/or developmental delays. For examples, findings have highlighted fathers’ engagement in early parenting activities such as responsive caregiving, play, reading to children, and routine caregiving has the potential to positively impact later child outcomes and family functioning. They also provide targets that EI service providers may want to focus on as they explore ways to help better prepare fathers to meet the needs of their children with disabilities. Findings on the disconnect between EI providers’ beliefs about father involvement and their actual practices when providing services suggest that they could benefit from training to more effectively include fathers in the services they provide to children and families.

Does your work have any implications for future research on this topic?

The next step in our program of research will be to use the lessons learned to date from our findings to guide the development, implementation and evaluation of an intervention program aimed at providing EI service providers with the basic foundation for developing the understanding, knowledge base and skill set needed to more fully engage fathers in the receipt of EI services, thus improving child functioning and outcomes. Doing so will be an important first step in moving EI from mother centered to truly “family centered.”

 

Questions? Comments? Please send them to IESResearch@ed.gov

Does the Department of Education collect information on young children’s social and emotional development?

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Gail M. Mulligan

Yes, we do! During their early years, children are developing socially and emotionally. This includes the development of social skills, relationships, and regulation of emotions. Children’s socioemotional development can affect school experiences and outcomes, so it makes sense that the Department of Education is interested in this topic.

Researchers are using NCES’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) to examine questions about socioemotional development, for instance, how children’s growth in this area is related to background characteristics such as race/ethnicity and parents’ educational attainment, as well as home and school experiences. The ECLS studies collect information from the children themselves, as well as from their parents, their care providers, and their teachers. Being longitudinal, the ECLS data allow researchers to study how children’s socioemotional skills develop over time. Additionally, these surveys are some of the only nationally representative studies with data on children in these age groups.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) followed a group of children born in 2001 until they entered kindergarten. The ECLS-B was designed to describe children’s earliest experiences and relationships, and the first home visit data collection occurred when the children were only 9 months old. Socioemotional development was measured in several ways in this study. During home visits, researchers observed the children’s interactions with a parent during specific tasks, such as while the parent was reading a book aloud to the child, and reported on the children’s attentiveness, interest, affect, and social engagement. The quality of the children’s attachment relationship to their parent was also measured at age 2. When the children were in kindergarten, their teachers provided information about the children’s socioemotional skills. 

Socioemotional development has also been measured in ECLS studies that have followed groups of kindergartners over time: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011). Teachers provided information about children’s social skills, problem behaviors, learning behaviors, and their own closeness and conflict with the students. Parents provided their own reports on much of the same information. One analysis of data from the teacher reports shows that children who enter kindergarten on time and those who had a delayed entry show positive “approaches to learning” (for example, eagerness to learn, self-direction, and attentiveness) more often than children who repeat kindergarten.

In later rounds of the ECLS-K and ECLS-K:2011, when the children were older, they were asked to provide information about themselves. In the ongoing ECLS-K:2011, children are reporting on aspects of socioemotional development such as their relationships with peers, social distress, peer victimization, and their satisfaction with different aspects of their lives.

For more information on the measures of socioemotional development included in the ECLS studies, please see our homepage, review our online training modules for the ECLS-B and ECLS-K, or email the ECLS study team.