The history and foundations of family-centered care and education go way back. Something I learned as a student in an early childhood class in 1967 stuck in my mind. “Your client is not the child, but the family.” The teacher of that class, Lilian Katz, University of Illinois professor and a pioneer in the field, made that statement. I’ve never forgotten what she said, but it has taken many years for the field as a whole to begin to understand and embrace that concept. This book is dedicated not only to expanding the understanding, but also to giving specific strategies to the reader about how to take that concept out of the theoretical realm and into the early childhood classroom, child care center, or family child care home.

Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model This particular slant and organization falls in line with the model that Urie Bronfenbrenner first laid out for us in 1979. When he wrote that there are layers of context, he referred to a set of Russian dolls that are nested inside each other, the smallest one at the core. The organization of the book relates to Bronfenbrenner’s layers. Simply put, what Bronfenbrenner called a bioecological model of human development means that every child is at the center of what can be visualized as concentric circles of context set in an overarching system of time, which affects all the contexts and changes them continuously (see Figure 1.1). The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) published a document that referred to Bronfenbrenner as “the man who changed how we see human development.” The document can be found on the NIEER website.

The microsystems layer, the smallest of the contexts in which the child is em- bedded, is made up of the environment where the child lives and moves. The people and institutions the child interacts with in that environment make up the microsys- tems. Examples are immediate family, child care (teachers and peers), and perhaps neighborhood play area, depending on the age of the child; school and religious in- stitutions or spiritual groups may also be part of the system. The younger the child, the smaller the number of microsystems.

The microsystems are set in the mesosystems layer, which relates to the interac- tions the people in the microsystems have with each other—as parents interact with teachers or, in the case of infants, child care providers or early interventionists, for example. The child is not directly involved with all the components of the mesosys- tems but nevertheless is affected by them.

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The Child in Context of Family and Community 5

The exosystems layer is a wider context—and though the child may not have direct contact with it, the systems affect the child’s development and socialization—as do all the systems. Because the people in the child’s life are af- fected by the exosystems and mesosystems, the child is also. The exosystems can be thought of as the broader community, including people, services, and environ- ments. Examples of what is in the exosystems layer are extended family, family networks, mass media, workplaces, neighbors, family friends, community health systems, legal services, and social welfare services. An example of how the exo- systems affect the child shows up when a parent goes to work or gets laid off from work. The changes in the parent’s life have an impact on the child’s life. Another example of an exosystem affecting the microsystems is when a family has to move because their apartment building is scheduled to be torn down to make room for urban renewal.

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