All levels of government – federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal – as well as many branches within governments make policies and allocate resources in ways that profoundly influence the lives of children and their families. Until recently there has been little formal coordination related to policies affecting children either within or between governments. In the past few years in many jurisdictions, new ministries and interdepartmental committees have been created with mandates that include finding ways to better coordinate issues and initiatives related to children and families. Governments can ensure that child and youth development, like economic development, is treated as a societal priority.

Policies

Government policies and regulations have a significant impact on many factors that influence the healthy development of children and youth. Some significant areas affected by government policies are:

  • family income: taxation and income support policies
  • physical health: air, food and water quality
  • learning: education policy
  • safety: safety standards for children’s products.
  • social support services: the nature, level, quality and availability of services and supports

Programs

Government programs have a significant role to play in promoting healthy child and youth development. Some areas that are identified in this guide include:

  • quality child care services
  • income support that ensures families can provide for the basic needs for their children
  • the support and education of parents
  • maintenance of a healthy physical environment
  • education and employment incentives
  • homevisiting programs for high risk mothers
  • junior kindergarten and school-based programs
  • subsidized housing
  • social, mental health and remedial educational services to minimize complications and improve outcomes for children with established disorders and disabilities
  • recreational programs, which play an important part in skill development, the growth of social skills and self-esteem, and the opportunity for mentoring with older children and youth

An infant’s first year of life lays the foundation for all areas of healthy development. Infants are vulnerable in many ways that can be influenced positively by policies and programs of all levels of government. There are many examples of policies and programs that help in different areas .

Physical health

  • environmental policies that protect breastfeeding mothers from environmental pollutants
  • income support policies that ensure mothers have the nutrition they need both before and after birth
  • public health programs to decrease low birth weight and brain damage with babies born to high risk mothers

Safety

  • safety standards for infants’ toys and clothes

Family-work stress

  • labour legislation that provides for paid parental leave

The chart below lists factors that influence children's healthy development in the first year of their lives.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that governments can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

Physically healthy

Securely attached to parents and caregivers

Developing feelings and emotional control

Getting ready for language and learning

A healthy pregnancy

Adequate nutrition

Safe physical environment

Early detection and treatment of developmental problems


Sensitive attunement and involvement of parents and caregivers

Emotional health of parents and caregivers

Parents' beliefs and expectations

Sensitive attunement and involvement of parents and caregivers

Infant's temperament

Appropriate stimulation

Positive parenting skills

Safe and varied environment



The preschool years are a period of remarkable development in a child’s life. Parents need to be confident that caring, knowledgeable adults are providing their children with quality care when they are at work. Children need a warm, supportive environment with a range of developmentally appropriate physical, social, language and learning experiences that help them acquire the skills they need to be ready to learn and to enter school. Quality, affordable child care cannot be universally accessible without government support.

Children who are home with their parents also need support through opportunities to play and learn in quality preschool education and community programs.

The chart below lists factors that influence children's healthy development as they prepare for school.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that governments can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

Physically healthy

Age-appropriate social skills

Positive emotional health

Appropriate language and learning skills

Nutrition, exercise, medical care

Protection from injuries

Healthy physical environment

Adequate financial resources

Relationship with parents and caregivers

Experiences with other adults

Experiences with other children

Secure attachment

Developing sense of competence

Supportive communities

Protection from abuse

Stimulating homes

Quality childcare and preschool education

Prepared primary schools


 


The transition to adolescence involves significant changes in most areas of devlopment. Government policies and programs can make significant contributions to their development, and to family and community life.

The chart below lists factors that influence children's healthy development as they enter adolescence.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that governments can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

A secure and integrated self-identity

Strong social skills

A commitment to learning and participating in school

The ability to make healthy choices

Adaptability

Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments

Media


Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment

Role models and peer support

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments



 


Staying in school is one of the most important determinants of productive work in adult life. Governments play a key role in work in helping young people stay in school and in providing incentives for hiring and training young people in meaningful work experiences.

The chart below lists factors that influence youth's healthy development as they near adulthood.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that governments can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.


Prepared for work

Prepared for intimacy and family life

Prepared to participate in community life

Prepared to manage their personal health and well-being

Educational achievement

Opportunities to work and learn work-related skills

Accessible employment opportunities

Opportunities to overcome disadvantages that lead to early school leaving

 

Opportunities to develop an integrated, stable sense of identity

Opportunities to develop positive relationships

Gender and role socialization

Opportunities to overcome circumstances that lead to troubled relationships


Opportunities to make a meaningful contribution

Opportunities to learn life skills, respect for others and civic skills

 


Capacity for self-care

Influence and social support of significant others

Supportive learning, living and working environments

Media


 




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