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DECA Program anniversary: Celebrating 20 years of promoting resilience in young children 

The Devereux Center for Resilient Children (DCRC) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) Program, a strength-based assessment and planning system designed to promote resilience in children, ages 4 weeks to 6 years old.  

The nationally standardized assessment tool has been adopted by Head Start and Early Head Start programs, Community Action Partnership programs, infant and early childhood mental health consultation programs, as well as individual schools and school districts across the U.S. 

Since 1999, the DECA Program has been utilized by teachers, child care providers and, by extension, parents and families of children enrolled in the aforementioned programs, to assess the social and emotional skills of approximately 7 million infants, toddlers and preschoolers

“I am tremendously proud of the positive impact the DECA Program has had on children, families and communities over the past 20 years,” said DCRC Director Susan Damico. “The beauty of this program is that it takes the very best of what research says young children need, and puts it into a practical framework that reflects an understanding of the day-to-day realities and challenges parents and teachers often face.” 

The ‘ordinary magic’ of resilience

Over the past 20 years, DCRC has conducted approximately 2,000 professional development events (both in-person and via the web) on the DECA Program and educated about 100,000 professionals on how to promote resilience in young children.  

“Research has shown that resilience is ‘ordinary magic’ and can be learned, which means that each and every one of us can nurture our own resilience,” Damico shared. “Becoming more resilient does not take a lot of time or money, but rather, a shift in our priorities, thinking and behaviors. Helping young children develop the social and emotional skills they need to ‘bounce back’ when faced with stress, change or risk factors (negative influences in a person’s life) puts them on the right path to achieving lifelong success and happiness.”  

Adult resilience is key

But resilience is not just for youth. In order to successfully promote resilience in children, Damico notes that the adults in a child’s life must first focus on their own health and well-being.  

“Part of our mission at DCRC is to support the resilience of adults who care for and educate children,” Damico explained. “We often use the analogy of a ‘pitcher’ (the adult) needing to continually pour into  ‘cups’ (the children) to describe how important it is for adults to be healthy, so they can better support the children in their lives. When a pitcher is full (adults themselves are healthy), the cups can be filled with what they need (love, patience, kindness). When the pitcher is empty (adults are unhealthy), the cups do not get filled (children do not receive what they need to be socially and emotionally healthy). In this analogy, the ‘wells’ (the leaders) fill the pitchers (adults need someone they can turn to for extra support).  

To learn more about the DECA Program, visit www.centerforresilientchildren.org, and select Assessments.  

Vision for the future

As Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and DCRC celebrate the 20th anniversary of the DECA Program, Damico shares her vision for the future.  

“Optimism is an important social and emotional competence; I practice being optimistic about the future – and what the world will look like when our vision is achieved,” Damico stated. “I picture a time when all children are loved and nurtured by healthy adults; when all children laugh and play in safe environments; when they make friends, are challenged to learn and grow, and become happy, productive and socially-connected members of their communities. This is a vision that must be achieved.” 

The celebration continues …

DCRC is celebrating 20 years of promoting resilience with the DECA Program by highlighting the team’s favorite resilience-building strategies, providing a free webinar designed specifically for parents/guardians on reducing children’s challenging behaviors, and more! 

Learn more about the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.

 

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