ISP Influencing Social Policy News Past Events

Child well-being experts from research, practice, and policy come together at Bright Futures Ahead panel

From left to right: Gary Parker, Ellicia Lanier, Stephanie Malia Krauss, Lakesha Robinson, Sarah Moreland-Russell, and Jason Jabbari.

The room was buzzing with ideas and inspiration last Tuesday night when the Clark-Fox Policy Institute hosted Bright Futures Ahead: Essential Techniques and Policies for Supporting and Uplifting Today’s Youth. The event brought together child well-being experts from research, policy, and practice to discuss how we can work together to improve child well-being in St. Louis and beyond. Panelists included Brown School Assistant Professor Jason Jabbari, Executive Director of Urban Sprouts Early Childhood Center Ellicia Lanier, St. Louis City Senior Advisor for Children, Youth and Families Lakesha Robinson, and bestselling author and Brown School alum Stephanie Malia Krauss. Brown School Dean Dorian Traube laid out a vision for the evening, saying, “Tonight’s panel, ‘Bright Futures Ahead,’ is more than just a discussion—it’s a call to action for all of us committed to supporting and uplifting today’s children.”

Led by moderator and Associate Professor Sarah Moreland-Russell, the panelists shared practical strategies for everyone from parents to policymakers to prevent and address mental health challenges and enable young people to thrive. “Today’s kids are growing up fast & slow. They’ve experienced things that have aged them—the COVID-19 pandemic and racism—and been stripped of crucial social opportunities for development,” said Stephanie Malia Krauss, panelist and author of Whole Child, Whole Life: 10 Ways to Help Kids Live, Learn, and Thrive. “We need to ask, what is it going to take for them to not just live, but to love their lives?”

Panelists touched on issues from childcare quality to supporting teachers’ mental health to child hunger as opportunities to come together to improve child well-being. According to Ellicia Lanier, Executive Director of Urban Sprouts, there is much more work to be done, “In our state, childcare is a place to drop off children. We haven’t had the opportunity to see it as a neuroscience.”

Research, policy, and practice all play important roles in making these changes. “While we wait on research and talk with policymakers, we know what works. So, at Urban Sprouts we became a community of practice because we wanted to share our good with others,” said Lanier. Brown School professor and panelist Jason Jabbari also urged closer ties between practitioners, researchers, and policymakers, “Big Data can speed up our research and help us tell these stories to policymakers faster, but they need to be contextualized with community input.”

Lakesha Robinson, Senior Advisor for Children, Youth and Families to the St. Louis City Mayor, urged everyone in the room to take an active role in promoting well-being. “There are policies before our legislature right now that affect children and families. I urge all of you to call your policymakers and ask for their support on these issues.”

Dr. Gary Parker, Associate Dean of External Affairs and Institute Director, hoped the conversation would inspire those in the room to us to advocate for policies and practices that create supportive, nurturing environments for all children. “At the Clark-Fox Policy Institute, we turn research blended with community voice and lived experience into actionable strategies that benefit kids and their families. Together, we can create a brighter, more hopeful future for every child,” Parker said.