When Policy Becomes Personal

The Parenting Across Cultures (PAC) project team's research evaluating the effectiveness of Kenya's legal ban on corporal punishment was recognized by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and Sage Publishing. PAC team members received the 2022 Article of the Year Award for their published work in Child Maltreatment.

In the article, "Change in Caregivers’ Attitudes and Use of Corporal Punishment Following a Legal Ban: A Multi-Country Longitudinal Comparison," the team demonstrates that after Kenya passed a ban on corporal punishment, parental use of corporal punishment among study participants significantly decreased.

"One of the exciting aspects of this paper is that at a time when countries are striving to meet the Sustainable Development Goals guiding the international agenda through 2030, this study provides evidence that legal bans of corporal punishment can have the intended effect of reducing violence against children," said co-author Jennifer Lansford.

Among the PAC team include CCFP's Kenneth Dodge, Jennifer Godwin, Drew Rothenberg, Ann Skinner and Center Director Jennifer Lansford.

CCFP student Laura Stilwell, a PhD candidate in the Sanford School of Public Policy, has been awarded a prestigious F30 grant though the NIH's National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. The project is titled "The Causal Impact of Poverty Reduction on Housing Conditions of Low-Income, U.S. Children and the Role of Housing and Neighborhood Ecosystems on Young Children's Healthy Development."

Laura’s 2-year NIH-F30 grant will support new work examining housing characteristics, and the neighborhood, during the earliest years of development among children residing in poverty in the U.S. starting at birth. This research will consider configurations of the housing ecosystem including stability, affordability, and quality, and bring in new data on the neighborhood ecosystem among families in the Baby’s First Years study – the largest U.S. based multi-site randomized control trial of a monthly, unconditional cash transfer to families with young children.  The F30 grant will also fund Laura’s last year of medical training. For her research, Laura will be mentored by Drs. Lisa Gennetian (Duke University), Katherine Magnuson (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Kimberly Noble (Teachers College, Columbia University). Dr. J. Nathan Copeland (Duke University) will be her clinical mentor. Laura will be further supported by her dissertation committee (Drs. Kate Bundorf, Manoj Mohanan, and Marcos Rangel, Duke University) and Dr. Jennifer Godwin (Duke University).

On April 20, the Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP) hosted the School Research Partnership's annual dinner, themed The Power of School-Community-Research Partnerships in Building Student and Educator Wellness.

The dinner featured a panel discussion about the importance of prioritizing a sustained and meaningful focus on collective care, social-emotional wellness, and community-building within schools in order to be successful in fostering academic success. Panelists described the work of the N.C. Center for Resilience & Learning in districts across the state, strategies that have proven most successful for partner schools, and the infrastructure needed to sustain effective practices.

Panelists included: Katie Rosanbalm, Ph.D., senior research scientist at CCFP; Elizabeth DeKonty, M.S.W., director of the N.C. Center for Resilience & Learning at the Public School Forum of North Carolina; Whitney McCoy, Ph.D., research scientist at CCFP, and Angela Mendell, program manager at the N.C. Center for Resilience & Learning at the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

Duke students (pictured below) in the Child Policy Research Certificate program and Jacqueline Morris Fellows also participated in the event to present posters on their research projects.

From left to right, top row: Nicolas Pardo, Kellyn McDonald, Ana DeCesare, Brynn Meyercord, Aspen Martin, Jeslyn Brouwers. 

Bottom row: Annie Hagood Sheeder, Molly Carson, Sarah Zimmerman, Grace Lee.
From left to right, top row: Nicolas Pardo, Kellyn McDonald, Ana DeCesare, Brynn Meyercord, Aspen Martin, Jeslyn Brouwers. Bottom row: Annie Hagood Sheeder, Molly Carson, Sarah Zimmerman, Grace Lee.

Students shared the following reflections on their experience showcasing their research, engaging with community and school leaders, and hearing from panelists.

The School Research Partnership Dinner was an excellent way to culminate my time at Duke as a Child Policy Research student. I got to speak with several community and school leaders who are making a significant impact on the educational landscape in North Carolina, including the CEO of the nonprofit I partnered with for my independent research. After sharing my research and exchanging ideas with them, I got to sit among these leaders and hear my professor and her teammates talk about their incredible work through the North Carolina Center for Resilience & Learning. It has been such a privilege to learn from Dr. Rosanbalm, and it was wonderful to not only learn how to move from research to policy in her class, but to witness her sharing her expertise with local leaders and stakeholders. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the poster session and dinner!

Annie Sheeder, Jacqueline A. Morris Fellow and Certificate graduate '23
SRP 2023 photos

The opportunity to share my research with community and school leaders in the Durham area and the faculty of the Duke research community was a valuable experience that improved my skills in public speaking, presenting, Q&A, and more. Additionally, I enjoyed brainstorming with current teachers of Durham Public Schools (DPS) about how I could, in a future project, apply the findings from my study to scaffold the group work experience in K-12 DPS classrooms. I likewise took inspiration from the guest speakers, who led me to think about how my research into group work could help improve local and global education by preparing students better to succeed in collaborative workforce environments. Finally, my favorite part of the event was connecting with other student researchers who investigated differing topics in child and family policy to learn more about each person’s research interests while also making new friendships.

Jeslyn Brouwers, Jacqueline A. Morris Fellow '25
SRP 2023 photos (4)

The SRP dinner was a great experience to showcase my research and learn from all of the guests and my peers. I was able to utilize many of the skills I have learned in the Child Policy Capstone regarding presenting academic research. I enjoyed my engaging conversations with many of the attendees regarding full-day preschool, and many of their questions and comments sparked thoughtful conversations and provided ideas for future research. I am grateful to the Center for this opportunity to learn and present the results of my independent study.

Brynn Meyercord, Jacqueline A. Morris Fellow and Certificate graduate '23
SRP 2023 photos (2)

As a Child Policy Research Certificate student, I was proud to present my two semesters of hard work during the poster presentation. I truly enjoyed getting to meet and answer questions from faculty, staff, and community leaders. What made this experience even more special was the opportunity to connect with community leaders who had first-hand experience with the policy challenges outlined in my research, particularly the limited access to telemedicine in rural NC areas. The following panel event on trauma-informed educational practices left a lasting impact on me. Having worked as a work-study student for these projects for the past two years, I had been mainly responsible for analyzing the raw data, so it was exciting to hear how these projects come to life within NC school districts. More broadly, the panel gave me a better understanding of how research and policy initiatives translate into real-world solutions that positively impact children and families.

Molly Carson, Certificate graduate '23
SRP 2023 photos (3)
By Clara Bonzi Teixeira '24

Dr. Shantel Meek, founder of the Children’s Equity Project, joined the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy on March 22, 2023 to discuss her career in child and family policy. Meek’s most recent career move has been to launch the Children's Equity Project (CEP), a multi-university initiative at Arizona State University that focuses on closing opportunity gaps and dismantling systemic racism in learning settings to ensure that children reach their full potential. She came to this work after serving as an early childhood policy advisor in multiple roles during the Obama administration.

Meek volunteered with Obama’s presidential campaign while working as a  clinical interventionist working with youth with autism. At the time, Meek thought she wanted to do intervention work and research and was pursuing a PhD in Family and Human Development at Arizona State University. While in graduate school, Meek visited friends in DC and went on a White House tour. The tour happened to include some White House interns, which was something Meek had never heard about. She learned that there were multiple offices within the White House that utilize interns, and that prior campaign work was a bonus when applying for such positions. Meek returned to Arizona and applied for a White House intern position. She was offered a position and worked with her advisors to make it fit in her PhD timeline. She spent a few months working in the White House in the Presidential Personnel Office, the office responsible for filling political appointments. At the end of her time there, she expressed interest in working as a political appointee if any positions around child and family policy opened up.

By the end of her PhD, Meek realized she saw herself working in the policy arena instead of in clinical settings. Luckily, around this time a political appointment position for a senior policy advisor for early childhood development opened up in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Through her connections at the White House, Meek learned about the position and was able to apply and be appointed. Meek spent the next four and a half years in this role advising the administration on issues in early childhood development. During her time in the administration, Meek worked on policy statements on preschool discipline, the inclusion of children’s with disabilities in preschool settings, and dual language learners, all of which were heavily focused on equity. On all of these issues, in addition to doing research and writing the policy statements, Meek then worked with various federal agencies to embed the work in federal rules, regulations, and laws. She also worked with partners at the state and local level to support work at the those levels.

One of the lessons Meek took from her years working in the federal government is that policy change moves slowly and that progress is more likely if you “jump on existing trains that are moving and figure out how to embed your issue on things that have momentum already.” She said doing this allowed her work to have a bigger and more lasting impact. She pointed to the inclusion of suspension and expulsion within the Child Care Reauthorization bill and the technical assistance put in place to help states and communities enact the recommendations in the policy statements they issued as examples of the lasting impact of her work.

In the talk, Meek emphasized the importance of utilizing one’s network to scope out interesting opportunities. At the end of the Obama administration, Meek left her role the DHHS, where she had been a political appointee. When President Trump entered office, “there was no home, no appetite” for the work she had been doing, Meek admitted. When she reentered the job market a year later after the birth of her first child, she was able to touch base with her former supervisor, who was starting a new wing at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Having this contact allowed Meek to move back into equity work just in a different space.

Networking remained a key priority for Meeks years later when she began the Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University. She had never done funding work before, but wanted to continue working on addressing equity in early childhood at the national level. She saw many national organizations working in early childhood, but none that were focused on equity as their core mission. Meek had extensive contacts from her five years in government - this network provided her with a number of resources when she launched the Children’s Equity Project. ASU provided the Project some start-up funds before they got their first grant, and it took off from there, Meek said.

Meek highlighted that for students interested in following her path, there are two main pathways to getting into policy work on administration side: participating in political campaigns and internships. She said she would not have found her path if she had not “taken risks and identified ways to get real world experience…that internship [in the White House] was really huge for me and hugely influential [in my career].”


Clara Bonzi Teixeira is a junior majoring in Public Policy (B.A.) with minors in Cultural Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She is planning on attending law school and has an interest in international development, with a focus on child and family wellbeing. 

Sarah Komisarow received the Thomas A. Downes Best Paper Award for authoring the top journal article published in 2022 in Education Finance and Policy, the flagship journal of the Association for Education Finance and Policy.

In the paper, "Comprehensive Support and Student Success: Can Out of School Time Make a Difference?," Komisarow finds that students who won random lotteries to enroll in a program offering extra summer and after-school educational and social support had better grades and less chance of being suspended than similar students who did not participate.

“Sarah's groundbreaking study is the first to establish that comprehensive out-of-school support for low-achieving middle school students can be effective in reducing longstanding achievement gaps,” said colleague Charles Clotfelter, Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics and Law at Duke. “Her study applies the soundest statistical methods to a policy challenge of the greatest importance to this country.”

"An exciting side point about Sarah’s excellent paper is that a Sanford School undergraduate played a major role in the development of Student U, the program that she evaluated," added Helen "Sunny" Ladd, Susan B. King Distinguished Professor Emerita of Public Policy at Duke. "Inspired by Tony Brown’s Social Entrepreneurship class and encouraged by my education policy seminar, Dan Kimberg (Class of 2007) took the lead in setting up the program in 2005."

By Clara Bonzi Teixeira, MPP '24

Founder and executive director of Durham Success Summit, Derek Rhodes, PPS ’15, joined the Center for Child and Family Policy on March 3 to talk about his professional journey and why he quit the corporate world to start his own non-profit.

Rhodes has always had a passion for social justice, and began his career in corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. He believes that genuine engagement and community relations should be a main priority for companies and organizations, but found working in this area was challenging. Rhodes described experiencing resistance from the many in the corporate chain of command in organizations he worked for. His experience was that companies set DEI goals but did not seem to adopt the policies and programs needed to make progress towards them. After five years of working with some of today’s hottest companies, Rhodes’ frustration with the corporate world and a sense of burnout led him to leave Microsoft after only three months.

After quitting his job in the midst of covid and the national reckoning over George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement, Rhodes took time to reflect on what mattered to him and what skills he had that could help him address social justice issues head-on. He felt like “nobody was talking about [the fact that young Black men have extremely high unemployment rates].” Rhodes saw this problem in Durham, his hometown, where the vast majority of Black male youth are unemployed. He decided that he wanted to play a more direct role in reversing this trend.

Rhodes decided to use his skills at crafting a compelling resume and narrative about what he brings to an organization to help other young men in Durham. What began as local resume workshops during Covid transformed into Durham Success Summit with Rhodes’ initiative and passion. Durham Success Summit is a nonprofit with a mission to “increase access to business education, mentorship, and professional networking opportunities for young Black men between 16 and 24 years old in Durham.” The organization hosts a business incubator program, which provides entrepreneurial training, mentorship, and seed funding to aspiring full-time entrepreneurs with an idea, and a 12-week accelerator program, which builds practical networking skills and provides scholars access to employers, professional mentors, and opportunities.

Rhodes elaborated on the challenges of starting a non-profit from the ground up, including the role of needing to secure funding. Nonprofits need to raise money and carefully articulate their stories to receive grants and that has been a skill that Rhodes has had to learn. Rhodes reveals that his best strategy to acquire funding has been to utilize his resources, networking events, conferences, and other nonprofits to learn more about grant writing. Having a tight budget pushed Rhodes and his team to learn how to utilize money efficiently and intelligently. Although the work Rhodes does on a day-to-day is different than what he initially imagined his career to look like, the direct impact that he has through his nonprofit is rewarding.


Clara Bonzi Teixeira is a junior majoring in Public Policy (B.A.) with minors in Cultural Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She is planning on attending law school and has an interest in international development, with a focus on child and family wellbeing. 

by Clara Bonzi Teixeira

The Center for Child and Family Policy welcomed two child advocacy professionals on February 3, 2023, Morgan Forrester Ray, director of the EarlyWell Initiative at NC Child, and Morgan Wittman Gramann, executive director at North Carolina Alliance for Health, for its Career Series. Although Ray and Gramann have had very different career trajectories from one another, they both now work to improve the health and well-being of children and families in North Carolina through policies that reduce health disparities, prevent chronic disease, and promote health, respectively.

During the talk, Ray reflected on the two-year gap she took between her undergraduate and graduate degrees (both in social work), in which she took a job working directly with families as a case manager. While most of her peers went straight to graduate programs, Ray wanted to “understand what it was like for children before [she] started to work on policy.” Ray always knew she had a passion for doing policy work, but she felt that she needed to understand firsthand how children and families experience social services and other interactions with government policies. After nearly a decade, she shifted her career from program-based work to policy-level advocacy work, which allowed her to “see the bigger solutions” and have an even larger impact on children and families in NC.

On the other hand, Gramann started her advocacy work at a young age when she began taking part in tobacco use peer prevention programs in high school. After completing her undergraduate degree, Gramann went directly to law school, but found herself unsure of how to proceed in her career. She “fell in love with [advocacy work] all over again” when she took up a job as a coalition manager at the North Carolina Alliance for Health. Gramann was promoted to Executive Director and has held that role for six years.

In their respective roles, Ray and Gramann engage in both advocacy and lobbying work. While their advocacy work mainly involves creating and supporting partnerships across the state at the local level, their lobbying work involves interacting with policymakers to promote the interests of children and families. Gramann asserted that both types of work are essential to making sure voices are heard at the policymaking level. She talked about the work they have done to learn about priorities in communities across North Carolina and how that has helped focus their current legislative priority advocating for free school meals for all students. However, for organizations who ground their work in community voice, as these do, it often takes years of community building before organizations are able to progress to the lobbying stage: Ray and her colleagues at NC Child spent three years listening to families, engaging stakeholders, and building relationships before beginning their lobbying work.

This Career Series talk demonstrates the diversity of academic and career experiences that can lead to child advocacy work. While Ray and Gramann took vastly different paths in their professional development, they both make measurable impacts on child and family well-being and health in NC. The talk also highlights advocacy and lobbying are critical and engaging paths for those interested in working in the field of child and family policy. Ray and Gramann concluded that policy-level change can be slow, but seeing its impacts is gratifying.


Clara Bonzi Teixeira is a junior majoring in Public Policy (B.A.) with minors in Cultural Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She is planning on attending law school and has an interest in international development, with a focus on child and family wellbeing. 

Jennifer Lansford, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy and research professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, has been named President-Elect of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), the society announced on February 8.

Lansford’s position will take effect in March 2023. She will serve as SRCD President for a total of six years: two years each as President-Elect, President, and Past-President.

SRCD promotes the use of developmental research to improve human lives and publishes their flagship journal, Child Development, as well as Child Development Perspectives, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, and Social Policy Report.

Lansford has been a member of SRCD since 1995. Her contributions to the society include serving on the International Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2017 (co-chairing the committee from 2015 to 2017) and the Program Committee from 2015 to 2021 (Program Co-Chair for the 2019 Biennial Meeting in Baltimore).

Read the formal SRCD announcement here.


Related: Lansford to Lead Center for Child and Family Policy

by Clara Bonzi Teixeira

The Center for Child and Family Policy welcomed Duke alum Rebecca Feinglos on January 20, 2023 to discuss her diverse set of experiences working in state and local government. Feinglos was part of the Center’s Career Series, which seeks to help students explore the wide range of career opportunities in child and family policy.

Feinglos served as the chief policy and strategy advisor for the Division of Child Development and Early Education in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. While at NCDHHS, she advised the Secretary's Office on early childhood health, child welfare, and early learning; coordinated the statewide COVID-19 response for pre-K through grade 12 schools; and led the strategy team in North Carolina's Division of Child Development and Early Education to utilize $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds for early childhood.

Prior to joining NCDHHS, Feinglos was the early childhood policy associate for the Chicago Mayor’s Office. Rebecca started her professional career in service as a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, through Teach for America. She is a graduate of Duke University and earned her master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.

During her talk, Feinglos encouraged students to pursue opportunities in local and state government offices as she recounted the immediate impact she made during her time at the Chicago mayor’s office. As part of a two-person team overseeing the creation and implementation of the preschool system, Feinglos saw the wide-ranging influence of her work throughout the city. She said she entered the realm of city government by first working as an intern in the mayor’s office. She recommended interning at the local or state government level because students can directly engage with the communities they serve and make a “tremendous amount of immediate impact.”

Working on a local level also has its challenges, Feinglos reported. She found herself setting aside her own physical and mental health in order to be a “perfect” public servant. Feinglos sought to find fulfillment in her career, working nonstop to achieve the professional goals she had set for herself at a young age.

As a young professional, Feinglos’ strong sense of ambition and her passion for making an impact placed work as a top priority in her life, to the extent that she was blind to her own personal well-being and marital issues. It was only when her life came to a halt after her father’s death that Feinglos was able to take a step back from her career. By focusing on her grief and taking a break from her hectic, overwhelming work life, Feinglos found healing. She is now a grieving educator and advocate (www.grieveleave.com), and emphasizes carving out time for her own well-being throughout her workday.

In reflecting on her own career journey, Feinglos offered suggestions for students seeking to get involved in government. There are a number of internship and fellowship opportunities across different levels of government that students can use to get a foot in the door. Networking is also a powerful tool: Feinglos recommends maximizing face-to-face interactions, not shying away from cold emailing, and setting up a polished LinkedIn account. Local and state governments in particular have an intense “need for people with talent and eagerness to do the work,” which creates opportunities for graduates looking to make an impact in their careers.


Clara Bonzi Teixeira is a junior majoring in Public Policy (B.A.) with minors in Cultural Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She is planning on attending law school and has an interest in international development, with a focus on child and family wellbeing. 

By Grace Lee, Child Policy Research Certificate student ’23

A push for increased diversity in classes and programs is at the forefront of many educational institution initiatives. Those initiatives would not be possible without the efforts of figures such as Dr. Dudley Flood, a champion of school integration who was instrumental in desegregating schools across North Carolina.

On November 15, 2022, the Center for Child and Family Policy welcomed Dr. Flood, a former educator and administrator in the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, to speak about his insights regarding school desegregation and today’s efforts towards school integration. The discussion, “School Desegregation: Past, Present, & Future” was moderated by Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards, associate professor and associate director of research at the Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity. This talk was part of the Sulzberger Distinguished Lecture series.

In 1970, Dr. Flood joined the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and was tasked with desegregating schools throughout the state. As part of this effort, Dr. Flood was called to Hyde County in Eastern North Carolina to end a year-long boycott by Black parents protesting the closure of two historically Black schools. The Hyde County Board of Education thought that by closing the Black schools, everyone would have to attend the same school, and therefore they would have met the challenge of desegregation. “Legally you would have. Societally, you would not have,” Dr. Flood said, emphasizing the school’s role as a place of assembly and as the “heartbeat of the community.” People felt an allegiance, a fidelity, to their school, which needed to be accounted for in desegregation efforts.

Following discussions with all stakeholders, Dr. Flood successfully integrated the schools in Hyde County and ended the boycott. “You don’t change anything until you can change the narrative for the populace,” he said. To reach a consensus on any issue, we should treat discussions not as conflicts but as conversations, and treat others not as adversaries but as people working together to achieve an outcome. In one anecdote, Dr. Flood reenacted a conversation that he had with another educator regarding the color of a bicolored marble. From Dr. Flood’s side, it was green, while from his colleague’s perspective, the marble was red, and so he asked, “what if you were to come around and see how it looks to me, and what if I were to come around and see how it looks to you?” This act opened the floor and allowed the two to have an open conversation, communicate without animosity, and move the discussion forward. “As simple as it sounds —it began to change the narrative.”

Dr. Flood reflected on education as an institution, noting that schools are the “only entity in America that belong to all the people.” Regarding his own education, he told the audience, “I didn’t go to school for me. I went to school for you. That’s why I’m here. I’m here because school gave me something to pass on to you and to others.”

Dr. Flood concluded with the idea of integration. While desegregation is a legal process, integration involves instilling a mutual respect and understanding between peers: “Every aspect of your life is based on your respect for other human beings. Learn how to create an environment in which everybody is respected.” To respect each other is to have the full acceptance of people’s differences and regard for each other’s personhood. While society has made strides in desegregation, we have a long way to go before achieving true integration.

Dr. Flood’s talk was truly inspiring. The consequences of his efforts in desegregation and integration are immeasurable, and we as students and educators feel the effects of his work every day. To end the conversation, Dr. Flood closed with a call to action: “We have to join hands and as a mass, influence decision making. Society has divided and conquered us. Let’s pull together. We need all of you to be thinking similarly to what is good.”

Grace Lee


Grace Lee is a senior majoring in Neuroscience (B.S.) with a certificate in Child Policy Research. She aspires to be a physician-researcher working at the intersection of medicine, policy, and research regarding the social determinants of health, with a focus on child and adolescent welfare.

By Sarah Williams, Child Policy Research Certificate student ’25

Parenting plays a central role in children’s development, shaping children’s understanding of the world and their role within it. Parenting does not only impact children, as its effects follow individuals through adolescence and adulthood. Each culture takes a unique approach to parenting, leading researchers to ask questions about the developmental outcomes of different practices.

On October 20, 2022, the Center for Child and Family Policy hosted a conference on International Perspectives on Parenting and Childhood Development, where researchers from the Parenting Across Cultures (PAC) longitudinal study presented their findings. Led by an international research team, PAC began in 2008 and has studied families from nine different countries, including China, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States. The study began with a large and diverse sample, comprising nearly 1,500 8-year-old children and their mothers and fathers. Across 14 years, researchers have interviewed the parents regarding the child’s adjustment, attitudes, self-regulation, and relationships, allowing the researchers to understand how biological, social, and cultural factors influence development. Using their findings, the researchers aim to influence interventions for adolescents and promote healthy relationships between parents and their children.

Researchers presented on topics ranging from child mental health to positive discipline to the enforcement of rules across cultures

Demonstrating the breadth of their work, the researchers presented on topics ranging from child mental health to positive discipline to the enforcement of rules across cultures. In one presentation, Sombat Tapanya from Chiang Mai University in Thailand described Parenting for Lifelong Health in Thailand, a training program which identifies at-risk families and helps them practice positive parenting. This program is widely effective in reducing negative family outcomes, as it yields lower rates of abuse, maltreatment, and overall stress. Another presentation covered COVID-19’s effect on families, as the PAC researchers developed surveys to assess families’ experiences at the onset of the pandemic. Ann Skinner from Duke University discussed the findings, explaining how lower parental support led to greater disruption and how varying government responses influenced families’ experiences.

Despite variation in cultures’ parenting approaches, PAC has unveiled many patterns that are consistent across cultures. Drew Rothenberg from Duke University illustrated the intergenerational transmission of parenting, arguing that internalizing and externalizing behaviors in the third generation are often the result of maladaptive parenting in the first and second generations. Regardless of culture, the effects of parenting are transmitted from one generation to the next.

Additionally, parental emotional socialization affects children similarly across cultures. According to Laura Di Guanta from Università di Roma, when parents use unsupportive strategies in response to their children’s emotions, such as punishment or neglect, their children are more likely to experience poor mental health and emotional dysregulation. By contrast, when parents use supportive strategies, their children tend to experience better adjustment. Lastly, across numerous cultures in PAC, it has been more difficult to involve fathers in research and intervention efforts, reflecting similar attitudes toward the roles of mothers and fathers in parenting.

A major takeaway from this event is the importance of cross-cultural research. Many previous studies on parenting have used Western samples and made generalizations about all children and parents. PAC diverges from this framework, using a sample that comprises participants from a diverse range of countries and cultures. This type of research is crucial, as it allows for more representative findings and interventions. Additionally, it promotes international networks across institutions and fosters policy advancement. With that, PAC paves the way for representative research and highlights the importance of evidence-based policy.

Sarah Williams is a sophomore, planning on majoring in Psychology with the Child Policy Research Certificate. She is especially interested in children’s cognition and plans to pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology. 

By Riley Selig-Addiss, MPP Candidate, Sanford School of Public Policy

On a day dedicated to illuminating the past in the hopes of improving our future, Dr. Jelani Cobb’s keynote speech intuitively addressed the importance of “Sankofa,” looking backwards to move forward.  Dr. Cobb, who is currently the Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University and a staff writer for the New Yorker, began his speech by asserting that the United States is in “a moment of democratic crisis” because we have refused to acknowledge the atrocities of our past.

Pulling on his experience as a historian, journalist, and father, Dr. Cobb discussed the many ways in which America has tried to avoid its own history. The address covered moments in American history that have been defined by slavery and systemic racism, as well as the inability of our nation to grapple with these issues. As Dr. Cobb put it, “America likes it’s history like a resume… A litany of  our virtues” without any of the mistakes. Unfortunately, by removing the warts in our history from national narratives, we have eliminated the ability of history to be a “study of human behavior” from which we can learn and grow as a society.

Unfortunately, by removing the warts in our history from national narratives, we have eliminated the ability of history to be a “study of human behavior” from which we can learn and grow as a society.

While Dr. Cobb spent a large portion of his address providing specific examples from the past, the speech, must like the rest of the conference, ultimately used what we know about our history to focus on the present.

In the same year that the Color of Education has decided to dedicate its conference to the exploration of our past, there are individuals and interest groups across the country advocating for bans on Critical Race Theory (CRT). Dr. Cobb is skeptical that any elementary school teachers are actually citing Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, or Richard Delgado in their classrooms, but, as someone who has studied history his whole life, he is quite adamant that this has nothing to do with theory.

Instead, Dr. Cobb is quite concerned that the attempts to ban CRT within classrooms are actually focused on banning the history of black people from our school systems. That, more broadly, these attempts to obscure the faults in our history will only throw us into further crisis by raising another generation of Americans that have failed to receive the “immunity” needed to avoid repeating past “dis-virtuous decisions.”

Dr. Cobb finished his address focusing on the famous civil rights line “we shall overcome,” which was said as a mantra during the civil rights era. While Dr. Cobb is concerned by the political and educational landscape in America, he also knows that we’ve been in this situation many times before. An accurate portrayal of our history shows us the terrible things that Americans have done, but also the incredible feats that people have accomplished in difficult times. Hopefully, with the work of organizations such as those in attendance at the 2022 Color of Education Summit, we can overcome the political and individual tensions that arise when trying to address our history to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn and understand the past, present, and future potential of our country.

Hopefully, we can overcome the political and individual tensions that arise when trying to address our history to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn and understand the past, present, and future potential of our country.

Teach For America opened new doors and helped them refine their interests and goals in education

Nichole Davis

Assistant University Council

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Cassie Lutterloh

Assistant Vice President for Talent

Public Impact

Whitney McCoy

Research Scientist

Center for Child and Family Policy

Duke University

By Grace Lee PPS '23

As a part of the Careers in Child and Family Policy Series, the Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP) welcomed Nichole Davis, Cassie Lutterloh, and Whitney McCoy on September 23, 2022, to discuss their experiences with Teach for America (TFA). TFA recruits and trains “corps members” who commit to teach students in low-income communities for two years. The three speakers discussed their experiences in TFA and how it shaped their career choices and involvement in education policy.

Whitney McCoy is a research scientist for the CCFP. Her work focuses on equity and inclusion with a concentration on promoting culturally responsive strategies for trauma-informed education interventions. McCoy joined the program to get hands-on experience in the classroom and learn about inequities present throughout the education system. During the program, she pursued her Master’s in teaching, and after TFA, she taught students at charter schools and public schools. She credits much of her teaching success to the training that she received in TFA - “I was the only 4th grade teacher [at the charter school]. Because of the support that TFA gave me, I felt strong enough to be ready to do that.” After teaching, McCoy earned her PhD in educational psychology and currently conducts research on the influence of gendered racial identity in educational settings while supporting racial equity initiatives at CCFP.

Nichole Davis is an assistant university counsel at UNC-Chapel Hill and former senior legal fellow in Duke University’s Office of Counsel. Like McCoy, Davis taught students in Charlotte, NC. She described her upbringing in the Bronx, where she attended both public and private schools, and how these experiences shaped her interest in education. She asked herself: “Do I want to be on the front lines of education or do I want to focus on the intersection between education and policy?” During her two years with the program, she developed her own style of teaching, and her experience in the classroom inspired her to delve deeper into educational policy. “By the end of my experience, I realized that I cared a lot about kids, education, and policy. Going to law school and figuring out how I was going to combine education and law was where I felt I was going to make an impact.” At UNC-Chapel Hill, Davis provides legal representation for the university on issues ranging from Title IX to discrimination.

Cassie Lutterloh is the assistant vice president for talent at Public Impact, an organization dedicated to extending the reach of successful educators to more students. The organization trains multi-classroom leaders, who are “teachers with a record of high growth in student learning,” to support other teachers by providing feedback and modeling instruction. Like Davis, her experience in TFA piqued her interest in decision-making regarding education beyond the classroom. At Public Impact, Lutterloh manages staff recruitment, selection, and support. “My experience with TFA led to my next step;” she described her experiences with TFA as crucial to the development of her current professional path.

The event taught students not only about the wide range of career paths available in the field of child and family policy but also about how our experiences shape the paths we select. While Davis chose law over teaching, she shared that her experience in TFA was transformative and that she wrote about the program in her law school admissions essay. Each of the speakers said that TFA opened new doors and helped them refine their interests and goals in education. As students, we should be open to the paths around us and explore the opportunities available to us.

Grace Lee


Grace Lee is a senior majoring in Neuroscience (B.S.) with a certificate in Child Policy Research. She aspires to be a physician-researcher working at the intersection of medicine, policy, and research regarding the social determinants of health, with a focus on child and adolescent welfare.

By Megan Forbes, MPP '23

It is no secret that childhood educators have faced some of the greatest challenges and heaviest responsibilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond navigating steep learning curves around virtual classes and technology, teachers were hurled into the deep waters of students' home lives like never before. And as the pandemic brought social disparities into stark clarity, teachers were tasked with how to connect and support students according to their unique needs. Among those challenges was how to best support immigrant students and their families.

In her recent lecture, Teaching in Times of COVID: Preparing Teachers to Work with Immigrant Students, Families, and Communities, Dr. Ana Christina da Silva addressed many questions teachers and schools are still asking. Dr. da Silva's approach to the challenge invites educators to embrace curiosity, rather than grapple for control.

"The gift of chaos," da Silva pointed out (referring to the pandemic), is the opportunity to see the world anew. She urged listeners to "reframe their consciousness" — more pointedly, to reimagine their preconceived notions surrounding immigrant communities.

Addressing the preconceived notion that immigrants are at a deficit is one of da Silva’s primary goals. This perspective is primarily attached to ideas around lacking English language skills but can bleed into presumptions around a lack of familiarity with the dominant cultural rhythms of their cities. Often, lacking these two skills relegates immigrant people into a category of incompetence, and acquiring these skills becomes the naive solution to most problems.

As an alternative, da Silva highlights the vital importance of viewing immigrant communities from an asset-based perspective. Immigrants come bearing gifts of rich multicultural histories, practices, stories, and languages that can expand the wealth of our classrooms and communities at large. We need to make space for those things to enrich our worlds, not discount them.

This shift toward an asset-based perspective leads to better support for immigrant students and families because it values them. Valuing these students and their families, languages, and cultures of origin is vital in building trusting relationships. It allows them to be seen and heard, and how else will schools be able to truly support these families without first seeing and hearing them?

Letting go of preconceived notions and instead listening, learning, and appreciating; this is the “new consciousness,” and the crucial starting point. It is only from this new starting point that educators can enter into what she calls “a pedagogy of possibility,” a new way of imagining teaching and classroom dynamics.  A way that “resists English-only and xenophobia, and focuses on equity and justice,” da Silva shares, and a way that all students and families are more connected, valued, and supported.


Megan Forbes is a first year Masters in Public Policy student studying Social Policy. She intends to pursue family advocacy work focused on equitable public health strategy.

The long-term benefits of telling stories with young children was recently documented by a team of researchers, including Duke University Research Scientist Dr. Robert Carr. In a study published in Developmental Psychology, the research team found that children demonstrated higher language skills and, in turn, higher literacy skills throughout elementary school if their mothers used more engaging and complex language while telling stories and reading books together during early childhood.

The study involved mothers and children enrolled in the Family Life Project, a population-representative sample of children born in two rural communities in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The study recruited a large sample of 1,292 children and families from hospitals at the time of the child’s birth in 2002-2003, and the study researchers have continued to follow the children and families ever since then. The sample of families residing in these two rural communities was both ethnically and economically diverse (e.g., 43% African American and 70% low-income).

“A huge strength of our study was its focus on storytelling as context for learning and development during early childhood” said Carr. “Because previous research has found that learning how to read begins with learning language, the rich tradition of oral storytelling among families in rural communities can provide young children with a stimulating environment to acquire early language and literacy skills. This may be especially true for the low-income and African American families included in our study.”

             Dr. Robert Carr

For this study, the Family Life Project researchers visited families in their homes to observe primary caregivers and children interacting with a wordless picture book when the children were 2, 6, 15, 24, and 36 months old (95% of primary caregivers were mothers, but the sample also included grandmothers, fathers, and same sex partners, henceforth referred to as mothers). During these interactions, the mothers were prompted to generate language in order to convey the stories depicted in the picture books.

“We selected books that contained no words but displayed engaging images that were culturally appropriate and featured ethnically diverse characters,” said lead-author Dr. Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Distinguished Professor Emerita at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Education. “At times, we had to create our own wordless picture books in order to meet our standards.”

After transcribing and coding the language that mothers used during the book-sharing interactions, the researchers measured the total number of words spoken by the mothers, the grammatical complexity of the mothers’ sentences, and the number of engaging “Wh” questions the mothers asked the child as they looked through the picture books and told stories together (e.g., Who, What, When, Where, and Why).

The findings of this study reveal that children’s development of early language skills was significantly boosted when mothers used more complex and engaging language during these shared book reading interactions. Children who experienced this boost to their early language development went on, in turn, to demonstrate higher literacy and reading comprehension skills across the entire elementary school period, through fifth grade. Although maternal language complexity and engagement were both significant predictors of children’s language and later literacy trajectories, the total number of words spoken by the mothers was not.

The study’s use of wordless picture books allowed the researchers to measure aspects of communication between mothers and their children that extend beyond simply reading the text prescribed by the authors of children’s books. Carr explained how the quality of language that is used while telling stories can be a notable strength of many caregivers, families, communities, and cultures.

“Storytelling is a medium in which families with all types of resources and assets can thrive,” he emphasized, explaining how wordless picture books allow parents and caregivers to “talk beyond the script in ways that may be more culturally relevant and meaningful, compared to simply reading books.” Vernon-Feagans agreed with this sentiment, describing how storytelling “frees up parents to talk with children about lived experiences and family history.”

“Storytelling is a medium in which families with all types

of resources and assets can thrive.”

- Carr

The Family Life Project is the largest known developmental study of children in rural communities, and this new publication shows that parents’ use of complex and engaging language during early childhood has significant benefits for children’s early language and later literacy skill development. “Early maternal language input and storytelling appears to have a lasting impact that makes a difference for children as they progress through school, lasting 7-years down the line and all the way through fifth grade,” said Vernon-Feagans.

With this compelling evidence of the long-term benefits of language input and storytelling for children’s language and literacy development, this research offers practical implications for ongoing efforts to distribute books and promote literacy learning among families. For example, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails over 1 million free books to children around the world each month. This new study suggests that furnishing wordless picture books to families as well as helping parents, other caregivers, and child care providers learn strategies to engage children in language-rich storytelling might contribute to children’s long-term reading success in school.