For too long child well-being had been, and in some instances still is, characterized simply as the absence of bad things (e.g., absence of mental illness, trauma or violence). Protecting children from harm is necessary but not sufficient. Child well-being instead should be defined by the successful attainment of all relevant and appropriate developmental milestones, the realization of internal (such as resiliency) and external (such as secure attachment) capacities known to be associated with future success, and the ability to relate to themselves, their peers and to the world around them as children.
It must further be understood within the context of the child’s social ecology, as a child’s well-being is influenced by his or her family, school, community and the broader society. Research in this area often is focused on issues of service access and the development or implementation of interventions to treat the consequences of maltreatment. We contend that efforts should be broadened to consider the prevention of trauma and emotional and behavioral disorders, but even more important, the promotion of child well-being. As such, the center supports research into child well-being and assets-based policy innovations on behalf of children.
In November 2014, CSD was a sponsor of the Child Well-Being Symposium, held at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and organized by the Policy Forum at Brown School and the Deaconess Foundation. There, CSD Director Michael Sherraden spoke about the center’s ongoing research and policy innovations for children, noting, “We’re interested in universal policies to help all children improve their life chances.”
Going forward, CSD will help build the Child Well-being program of inquiry and innovation. As in all of CSD’s work, the goal will be to test promising strategies and to use knowledge to inform policies and practices.