The Bernard van Leer Foundation is a private grant-making foundation. Our mission is to improve opportunities for children up to age 8 who are growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. We see this both as a valuable end in itself and as a long-term means to promote more cohesive, considerate and creative societies with equal opportunities and rights for all.
Latest news from the Bernard van Leer Foundation
It's a sad fact that children born in poverty start out at a disadvantage and continue to fall further behind kids who are more privileged as they grow up. But a new analysis of a long-term study in Jamaica shows that surprisingly simple ways of stimulating children’s mental development can have dramatic benefits later in life.
The children were participants in the Jamaican Study, a project geared towards improving cognitive development begun in the mid-1980s by child health specialists Sally Grantham-McGregor of University College London and Susan Walker of the University of the West Indies, Mona, in Jamaica. They focused on children between the ages of 9 and 24 months whose growth was stunted, placing them in the bottom 5% of height for their age and sex (an easy-to-quantify gauge of extreme poverty). Children of normal height in the same neighborhoods were also studied for comparison. For 2 years, community health workers visited the families weekly. One group was given nutritional assistance only (a formula containing 66% of daily recommended calories, along with vitamins and minerals). One group received a mental and social stimulation program only, and one group got stimulation and nutritional assistance. A final group had no intervention and served as a control.
Follow-up studies over the next 20 years revealed that the Jamaican children who received the mental stimulation had better grades and higher IQs, showed fewer signs of depression, and got in fewer fights. The new study, reported online in Science, focused on the children's economic achievement as young adults. Gertler, Grantham-McGregor, Walker, and colleagues tracked down 105 out of the original 129 growth-stunted children. Those who had received the stimulation intervention had earned 25% more than the children in the control group. Even more exciting, Gertler notes, is that they had closed the gap—in physical and economic stature—between themselves and children in their neighborhoods with normal height and weight. Adding nutritional assistance to the mental stimulation didn’t improve outcomes any further, and nutritional assistance on its own had no effect—likely because this kind of intervention must be used before a child’s growth has been stunted, Gertler says. "Mental and social stimulation at around 1 year of age really matter," Gertler says. "It was enough to reduce and possibly eliminate inequality in the long term." Gertler emphasizes that the interventions were inexpensive, consisting of toys, books, and conversation—not pricey, high-tech gadgets like iPads, for example.
"Investing in the early years pay off," Joan Lombardi, Senior Advisor of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, says. "It's time to translate this growing science into improved policies and new investments in young children and their families around the world."
Read the complete article in Science Magazine.
One of the report's recommendations is for municipalities to use the Kind Veilig Preventiepakket (Child Safety Prevention Package), developed by the Bernard van Leer Foundation in partnership with Augeo and Stichting Kinderpostzegels, which gives them support and guidelines about how to fulfil their duties with regard to the prevention of child abuse.
Part of this package is the Monitor Aanpak Kindermishandeling (Monitor on the Approach to Child Abuse), created by Het Nederlands Jeugdinstituut (The Dutch Youth Institute) and commissioned by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The Monitor is a management tool for municipalities to track the effects of their policies and compare their performance with that of other municipalities.
You can find the report of the Children’s Ombudsman (in Dutch) here.
For more information on the Monitor Aanpak Kindermishandeling, please visit the website of Het Nederlands Jeugdinstituut.
The four Klokhuis-episodes (a famous Dutch TV-show for children) on child abuse which aired last year, the corresponding school curriculum and the website on child abuse have stimulated the communication about this topic amongst children. One of the other effects is that children recognize the different forms of child abuse better and that they have contacted the Kindertelefoon (a phone help line for children in the Netherlands) more often.
These are some of the conclusions from the report ‘Are children taking the floor? Effect evaluation of Het Klokhuis on child abuse’, that is handed to (mayor of Amsterdam and president of the Taskforce on Child Abuse) Eberhard van der Laan and to Kim van Laar (one of the main characters of the Klokhuis-series) today during the International European Congres on Child Abuse and Neglect (EUCCAN).
The effect of the episodes and curriculum is researched by Trimbos-Institute, commissioned by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. More information about the research can be found on the website of Trimbos-Institute.
The full report (in Dutch) can be downloaded here.
Good news! The petition to put Early Childhood Development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework to give all children the best start in life, has – with over 10.000 supporters - reached it's target!
The next step is to make Early Childhood Development a top priority for all countries. Together the Consultative Group, OSF, UNICEF and UN SDSN have produced a document entitled: "Early Childhood Development: The Foundation of Sustainable Human Development for 2015 and Beyond."
This document is intended to help policy and decision-makers understand the importance of Early Childhood Development to global development and raise it in Post-2015 deliberations. It is also a useful tool for campaigning in your home countries as well as at the UN.
You can download the document here. Please read the paper and spread the word!
We are happy to announce that our partner Fundacao Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal (Sao Paulo, Brasil) is the winner of the ALAS-IDB Best Innovation Award!
About the Foundation Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal:
This foundation works innovatevily to capitalize on children having one chance at good childhood, by ensuring that children receive comprehensive health services, nutrition, and education. Through the efforts of the foundation, the brazilian authorities, state and municipal governments, and NGOs from nine cities in the state of Sao Paulo have agreed to work toward the same goal.
For more information about the award and the other finalists please visit the website of the Inter-American Development Bank.
For more information about Foundation Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal, please visit their website.
The Bernard van Leer Foundation's Annual Report for 2013 is now available to download, read online or order your free printed copy. As well as a report on 2013's activities, it reviews progress on the Foundation's strategic goals since 2010. It includes an executive summary in Spanish.
Responding to a recent article in the Guardian ("Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy?") Professor Charles Nelson of Harvard Medical School explains in a letter to the editor why the article "misrepresents the current state of knowledge" about the extent to which experiences in the early years shape the development of the brain.
Read this blog from Robert Muggah (Igarapé Institute) for The Huffington Post, about the Child Security Index (CSI): a new smartphone-based app to identify and help prevent violence against children in Brazil.
Simply by virtue of where they live, roughly 1.5 billion people are dangerously at risk of becoming a victim of violence this year. Families living in countries, cities and towns torn apart by war and criminal violence are particularly vulnerable. While lethal violence is always traumatic, the intentional killing of children is depraved. Yet more than 75,000 young people die violently each year due to the direct and indirect consequences of armed violence, most of them outside of conflict zones. Not surprisingly, some societies are more affected than others. Brazil -- host to the World Cup next month -- could be considered one of the world's most violent. The nation's homicide rate is classified as well above "epidemic" using World Health Organization standards. Roughly 50,000 are violently killed each year, with at least half of these preventable deaths consisting of adolescents and children. Read more...
The CSI (funded by the Bernard van Leer Foundation) is a finalist for the Google Social Impact Challenge. To help give voice to the voiceless, please vote before May 8 2014.