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November 11, 2013

Purdue receives award to develop DoD child care curriculum

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) has received a five-year grant to develop a curriculum for child development centers supported by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The defense department operates the largest employer-sponsored child-care system in the world, serving more than 200,000 children worldwide. A Purdue-led team will develop a comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum and related resources designed to enhance children's well-being from infancy through 5 years of age. Douglas R. Powell, a distinguished professor in HDFS, is the project's principal investigator. Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor in HDFS and director of Purdue's Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), is co-principal investigator. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Institute of Food and Agriculture made the competitive award to Purdue as part of an overarching partnership focused on supporting service members and their families with the DoD's Office of Military Community & Family Policy. 

"This award provides a remarkable opportunity to translate the findings of early childhood research into a large-scale program of best practices in the education and care of young children," Powell said. "The number of high-quality studies of early childhood programs has grown precipitously in recent years. Unfortunately, important discoveries often are not used to improve the outcomes of child care. The Purdue project will build on rigorous research to design a program of high impact on the development of children in military families."

The project team is composed of Purdue faculty with expertise in early childhood, including HDFS associate professor James Elicker, HDFS assistant professor David Purpura and College of Education professor Youli Mantzicopoulos. The team also includes staff from MFRI and the HDFS Cooperative Extension Service, as well as national experts in early childhood programs, national experts in children in military families, and partnerships with the national Cooperative Extension Service's eXtension programs. 

"The commitment of the Department of Defense to doing all it can to ensure high-quality care for young children in military families has long been a model for the rest of the nation, and we at MFRI are pleased to contribute to that effort," MacDermid Wadsworth said. "Purdue University's long history and national leadership in early childhood education scholarship made this project a great fit."

A key goal of this effort is to make the curriculum available to civilian child-care programs as well as programs on military installations. "The DoD is taking impressive steps to ensure that young children in military families have access to high quality care no matter where they live," Powell said.

For the past 12 years, Powell's research has examined strategies to improve the school readiness of children enrolled in early childhood programs. Children's literacy and language skills are a major focus of this work, which has been supported by the federal Institute of Education Sciences. MacDermid Wadsworth, who also directs Purdue's Center for Families, is completing a DoD-sponsored study of young children who experience multiple deployments of their military parents. She has led a number of studies of programs for military children and their families.  

Writer: Liz Evans, 765-494-2084, lizevans@purdue.edu  

Sources: Douglas R. Powell, 765-494-2941, powelld@purdue.edu 

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, 765-494-6026, shelley@purdue.edu