The Conscious Parenting Movement – based on attachment science, neurobiolgy and brain development and founded organically by multiple pioneers and organizations over 30 years ago as a consciousness-raising movement – arrived at the United Nations this past February in the form of an international alliance of nonprofit and educational organizations under the banner of CEPP, Childhood and Early Parenting Principles.
In this interview with Valerie Unite, the founder of CEPP, the listener learns of the exciting networking and information exchanges currently taking place at the UN, the necessity of helping governments, cities and communities develop effective and cost-saving programs based on conscious parenting principles, and the plan going forward.
Visit and read about CEPP’s work at www.cepprinciples.org.
This interview will be available in transcript form asap.
A Worldwide Need
The worldwide need for CEPPs is multi-faceted, highlighted by studies of the social and economic impacts in diverse areas such as:
- Pre-conception Care and Education – Pre-conception care is the provision of biomedical, behavioural and social health interventions to women and couples before conception occurs. Perinatal deaths are 50% higher among children born to mothers under 20 years of age compared to mothers aged 20–29 years. Read more.
- Maternal Mental Health – Perinatal mental health problems are very common, affecting up to 20% of women at some point during the perinatal period. They are of major importance because they have been shown to compromise the healthy emotional, cognitive and even physical development of the child, with serious long-term consequences. These factors are not yet fully acknowledged and adequately integrated into policy making. Read more.
- Premature Birth – Each year, some 15 million babies in the world, more than one in 10 births, are born too early. More than one million of those babies die shortly after birth; countless others suffer some type of lifelong physical, neurological, or educational disability. Read more.
- Poverty – More than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia, but preterm birth is truly a global problem. In the lower-income countries, on average, 12% of babies are born too early compared with 9% in higher-income countries. Within countries, poorer families are at higher risk. Read more.
Toward A Culture Of Peace
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “if there is to be peace in the world, we must begin with the children”.
Too many children are not thriving and are just surviving, too many parents and expectant parents need help and support. How can we hope for peace if peace if peace is not engrained during the very early years of a child, and even earlier, in the womb, as a normal and natural state?
We strongly believe that support for early parenting and early child care and education can have a lifelong impact on a child’s physical, emotional and mental health, and that is why we invite you to support our Manifesto, to share it with your friends and colleagues, and together we can do great things to build healthier, fairer and more peaceful societies!
“At the level of the individual, early childhood provides a unique opportunity to address issues that would contribute to transform the culture of war to a culture of peace…
The events that a child experiences early in life, the education that the child receives, and the community activities and social and social mind-set in which a child is immersed, all contribute to values, attitudes, traditions, modes of behaviour, and ways of life develop.”
Pathway to Peace – The transforming power of children and families
– James Leckmann, Catherine Panter-Brick, Rima Salah
Photo by Shutterstock/Chinnapong
The Conscious Parenting Movement Goes To The United Nations!
TRANSCRIPT FROM THE PODCAST ABOVE
LISA: Welcome to Kindred, and alternative media and nonprofit initiative of Families for Conscious Living. This is Lisa Reagan and today I am excited to talk with Valerie Unite. She is the founder CEPPs, Childhood and Early Parenting Principles, who is talking to us from the South of France. Welcome, Valerie.
VALERIE: Thank you, and good morning Lisa. I am happy to be here with you today.
LISA: I am very excited to be here with you. I need to share a story with our readers, so they understand the relevance of CEPPs and your work. Almost twenty years ago, I sat at a public park with a group of mothers in Virginia – one of the first Families for Conscious Living community groups. We were studying attachment science and neurobiology and brain development as it related to nurturing our babies and trying to figure out how to incorporate these mostly unstated principles. Attachment Parenting International, API, was just coming out at that time as well, but there was very little cultural support at all much less public policy support for what became known as the conscious parenting movement.
And, so the reason I am so excited to talk with you today is that you and your partners have created CEPPs and they are bringing forward the science-based insights of conscious parenting to the U.N., which in our culture is about as top of the pyramid as you can get, and you are working with international organizations there to bring recognition to these principles. So, this is amazing progress in 20 years. (Listen to FCL’s history here, read our historical and archived 10th anniversary newsletter here.)
VALERIE: That is correct, yes. We started last year and I really thought I would gather some major partners of the fields and of the perinatal and prenatal, so we last year when I went to the U.N. in New York it all started there, and we just decided to partner and to propose a framework called the Childhood and Early Parenting Principles as a complementary approach to the existing frameworks. With this framework are seven principles that really form the basis for a unified partnership between governments, private sector, civil organizations, and nonprofit organizations. I think that is what is really, really very interesting and something quite new in fact.
LISA: It is new, and I am very encouraged by the fact that is based on the WEPs model, which I would like for you to talk to us about – but also to talk to us about this blind spot with the Women Empowerment Principles that exists. So tell us first about WEPs and how that was useful in creating CEPPs.
VALERIE: Yes, of course. The WEPs are the Women Empowerment Principles. I came in to contact with this organization because I was part of another NGO at that time, and these Women Empowerment Principles have been defined as a framework to help and support women, but in the workplace in the world, and it is very successful. It has been now more than 10 years that they have focused on women in the workplace. I felt and realized that they were not really taking into consideration the role of mothers – and mothers and children are so important for the future of humanity. So, we decided to create something that was very close to the model of the Women Empowerment Principles and would define our set of principles that would really make a difference in the life of mothers and families and children in the world.
So, CEPPs has been able to define the business case and now we have exactly a business case for the mothers and children. Before that we had the science case, and we have the social case that really allow us to talk to the government and the government agency and say, look this is very, very crucial and important that you really take this public and implement policies so we build a healthier, fairer, more peaceful societies. CEPPs focuses on the child’s critical years from conception to age three, and we now know that during these windows of opportunity the brain develops faster than any other time in life. We really think these critical years are the foundation that shape a child’s future, physical, mental, emotional health with a lifelong impact. And not only for themselves, but for their communities and society. That is why we believe it is so, so important and we are so excited to work on that.
LISA: Oh, there are so many questions and there are so many pieces to talk about. First of all, I would like to say in the United States it is hard to imagine the excitement around attachment and science and brain development that exists in other countries because our culture here is so opposed to supporting mothers and families and, of course, we are at the bottom rankings for maternal and infant health among developed countries. So, it probably is hard to imagine how excited other countries are to meet with you at the platform there at the United Nations and how the hunger is there for this information, for the programs, for educational projects and just the exchange of what are you doing, what is working for you? Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
VALERIE: Yes, of course. I think now it becomes a worldwide awareness that really we need to, to support mothers and mothers-to-be and families. When I said mothers, I do include fathers, so I would say mothers and families and caregivers, and it is also a topic that is now becoming an important topic in the U.S. because it is so obvious that if we really want to have a more peaceful society we have to support the mothers because science and neuroscience tell us that, really the brain…the brain is building, you know, during the pregnancy so if we really want to help our society we have to help mothers so that mothers are able to bring to the world healthy, healthy babies and this is what we talk about now in the whole world, yes and many countries of course are more…are advanced on some policies, some are less advanced, but we learn from each other.
That is why we really want to meet and meet all of these different countries in the world and share the knowledge…the knowledge of best practices is really key to our initiative. And also, I think now we have some…some work where in America they are also able to say how important it is to invest…invest on mental health, for example, and maternal health because if you invest $1 you are able to save $7 to $10 for…in the future.
So this is really now a business case that policy makers are taking seriously, absolutely in the whole world. It is a long work though. It is not going to happen overnight, but…but now we have strong cases to invite our government to implement the policies that are really supporting, and…this case. So we work with policy makers, government, non-government, society stakeholders and professional associations, of course research associations, universities, institutions, absolutely. We want to include social care, early childhood care and development, and you know it is all about that. We are in touch with midwife organizations, nurses, doulas, GPs, obstetrician, gynecologists, pediatricians, mental health professionals. It is really a stakeholder initiative and we cannot afford to work in silos, and even at the U.N. level and at a very high level, the World Health Organization as well as UNICEF and U.N. they now want to work with the civil society of NGO as a multi-partner initiative and multi-sector and multi=stakeholder. We have to work all together on that.
LISA: If you are part of an organization in the United States, can you become a part of CEPPs and work with other organizations internationally on bringing the principles sort of down the chain?
VALERIE: Yes, yes absolutely you can…you can join our global initiative. We propose a collaborative platform in each country and we have, our partners are already in different countries in the world and our founding partners also can work with organizations in their country like APPPAH, for example in the USA so these organizations can connect with APPPAH and also they would be connected with our network. So on our website you will have all the information on that, but definitely we welcome any professional organization to join and to share their knowledge with us and also one very important thing is that we would like to share this knowledge with developing countries, you know, because we are…most of our partners are living in developed countries but there is a huge need for developing countries to receive some help and support. So, this is where we can bring a lot and this is where I would like to focus this year, to reach out and connect with other organizations in the developed…developing countries, so we are able to bring them the knowledge and the experience that they need. So this is really, really exciting.
LISA: It is very exciting, and I would just like to underline what you are talking about with this ability to network at this top level by providing an example. Kindred has on our board Teresa Graham Brett who is the author of Parenting for Social Change. She is also a Dean of Students at the University of Arizona and practicing attorney, and she was contacted by an organization of parents who had created their own nonprofit in South Africa a few years ago. You can read these stories on Kindred, by the way, at kindredmedia.org But they have been working together for a number of years to bring to South Africa through the nonprofit structure of Kindred. You know, this is a piece that became quite an eye opener when we started structuring for ourselves these organizational containers that were necessary in order to have some of these exchanges happen in this legitimate and supportive way.
I have watched as Teresa has worked with APEA, which is the Alliance for Parent Education in Africa and it has been…and I know you have been introduced to them, but I think about how much easier it would have been if there had been some larger container for international organizations to go to right away to get the materials that they need, and this…the Parent Liberation Alliance is Kindred’s arm for doing this, but it…it is just something that came from the need of the conscious parenting movement – which is just this organic consciousness raising phenomenon that has been going on for decades now. And so there were people showing up to fill these little vacuums, but to have this top level effective global initiative and roundtable that people can more easily find materials…and this is just…it is just very exciting, Valerie. I am so grateful for all of your work.
VALERIE: Yes, this is really something very, very important that is very dear to my heart. We really want to and we need to connect with this country and Africa and also in Asia, I am amazed by the work there is to do in Asia also and in South Africa…I visit South Africa regularly and I will be in touch with more organizations and also South America, this is a very, very important place to be to help. I know there are some programs already in some countries like Chile and Brazil, but clearly we need to…we need to reach the top level, you know the government, and invite them to clearly make a strong, you know, statement of support and…so that they can implement the policy that we are proposing, and we now have two movements.
We have a top down movement from the U.N., UNICEF, the World Health Organization, but they need the civil society and they need NGOs to really…from the grassroots level to help them in implementing, so I was very, very interested to realize that they need us more than we think in fact, so this is where we have a huge role to play and we can bring a lot there. And our contribution will be absolutely…absolutely crucial. This is something that I learned and I am really convinced of that.
LISA: Wow, okay…
VALERIE: So really want to try to mobilize, you know, organizations and individuals with this objective of building a multisector, multi stakeholder network also at the city, if possible city and county levels, city and region levels. We also have a program we are working on this year called the CEPPs friendly cities. It is a program in order to promote the creation of city level networks, you know, of actors in the field of health, education, social service involved in maternal…physical and mental health and early childhood development so that we can promote the sharing of best policy.
Cities will share between themselves, you know, best practices between these networks. So this is something that we are working on and we are very happy with that…so that some cities will be able…(inaudible) program will be able to help other cities in other countries to…to implement these roadmaps. We have a roadmap; we have a 10-step roadmap that can help the implementation, so we are very, very busy with that but so, so happy and we will regularly also attend the United Nations meetings so that we can share, you know, this experience and also meet people like, you know, organizations involved in the same field we can meet and share our experiences, so this is very, very interesting.
It is so fulfilling to do that. The time is now, you know. There is a grand convergence and we all realize that this is absolutely crucial. I mean, children are really the future of humanity and the mothers play the crucial role, and they should be recognized for this role. So this is how we think and we hope CEPPs can make a difference in the lives of women, young children, and we want to scale up the implementation of the SDG, the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations. Our program is following these seven principles, SDG, and so, yeah we have a great roadmap from this top down intuitive by the U.N. and we try to bring in our contribution, yeah absolutely.
LISA: So where do people go to find CEPPs and what will they find on your website. You have kind of told us a little bit but where can they go?
VALERIE: Yeah, so they can go to our website cepprinciples.org They will find on the homepage they will find different topics and the manifesto as well as our flyer and 10-steps and roadmap they will find in the CEPPs toolkit, CEPPs implementation toolkit. They will have some flyers and different languages and they have the manifesto there, the presentation also and our CEPPs agenda, so it is all there. We also have a very good resources with our CEPPs directory and articles and papers about prenatal, perinatal, maternal mental health also, bonding attachment, breastfeeding. And we really cover all of those very important topics, and we explain what our four pillars are. You know, we have four pillars which are…understand and share the knowledge worldwide, engage with policy makers at the highest level, and then we wish to empower communities to engage with policy makers and then realize the vision for a fairer society.
So all of that is contained in our toolkit and resources page, so yes we are really happy if people could join and also we invite them to come to our website. We created a café, a café which is like a meeting place where people can join, ask questions, post comments, and so that is also what we would like to do. We are also building a forum discussion whereby people would come and share and ask questions and we are happy to respond. So, that is also something on our website. We also have a Facebook page. You will have the CEPPs Facebook page, and we post regularly and you can of course contact us, ask any question that you have and we are happy to respond. Absolutely…there is a lot to discuss of course.
LISA: From a little park in Virginia to the grassroots consciousness-raising movement to the UN. Before our recorded call, we talked about the networking that has happened at the U.N. with other international organizations and that piece of it is always very exciting to me. I still maintain that it is a little hard to see the conscious parenting movement in the United States but it is there, and you certainly can go to kindredmedia.org and read all about it and see our partners…our pioneering partners that have been with us for about 20 years now, including APPPAH. APPPAH is predating all of us I think at about 32 years, the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health who presented with you in February at the U.N., right?
VALERIE: Yes, absolutely. They are a founding partner of our…of our work, and they have done a huge contribution to the work, and yes they were with us at the United Nations of February at the Commission for Social Development and I think and I hope they will be there next year. We are going to start working on that as well. Absolutely, it is all about networking and sharing the knowledge worldwide and it is really…we really feel it is the big momentum at the moment. All of the organizations feel the need to unite, you know, together and have the same common framework and the common unifying approach. That is really what we feel we need because if we have that we will be much more powerful when we talk to our governments, and so there is a need for that.
Absolutely, and so there is a lot of…a lot of passionate people involved in many areas of the prenatal and maternal health and perinatal. We all want the same thing, we just have to get organized, get together and every organization brings so much. We now have more than 30 organizations in our supporters and partners, more than 30 throughout the world and I am going to meet more in Asia and Africa so this is really, really exciting and I do hope America will join us and, you know, we will…it will happen, it will happen. I am sure it will happen with many organizations in America. We have…we have a few already among our supporters. It takes time of course. These things do not happen overnight, but we just have to start the movement and keep going and keep going and bring more evidence to the world. This is very, very, exciting and important. We really…I think…I feel when we meet at the U.N. and other international conferences we have the same goal. We want to build, you know, a healthier more peaceful society. We want peace and mothers play a huge role, and crucial role in that. So, yeah and I thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be with you today because there is so much to do, so much to do.
LISA: Thank you, so tell me one more time what is the website.
VALERIE: Yes, the website address is cepprinciples.org
LISA: Thank you, Valerie.
VALERIE: Thank you, thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Lisa. Yes, and I hope we can talk again any time and I am happy to respond to any, any question you would have or inquiries from your members.
LISA: Right, we look forward to sharing your story on Kindred as you go along.
VALERIE: Well, thank you so much for the wonderful work you are doing, Lisa. This is really, this is really great.
LISA: Thank you, goodbye Valerie.