Field Note: Building Resilience and Mitigating the Impact of Toxic Stress in Young Children: A Model for Transforming Parenting and Male Caregiving in El Salvador
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world, with one of the highest homicide rates among children and adolescents (UNODC 2019). Children’s experiences have a profound impact on their development, and exposure to violence in their early years can lead to social, behavioral, learning, and emotional impairments. Caregivers play a critical role in shielding children from damaging experiences and in promoting their positive development (Shonkoff and Phillips 2000). This field note discusses program initiatives led by Save the Children that helped to mitigate the impact of violence on young children in three departments (states) in El Salvador. We developed what we call the Toxic Stress Mitigation Model that consists of three approaches: building resilience, promoting positive parenting, and providing transformative male caregiving in children’s early years. Employing an integrated process comprising multiple sectors, including education, child protection, and health and nutrition, from September 2017 to September 2019 we implemented the three approaches in existing and newly formed preschool- and community-based delivery platforms for children ages 1-6 and their families. In this field note, I explore how the platforms engaged the children’s primary and secondary caregivers, such as community health workers, volunteer group facilitators, and teachers, and examine the implications of these platforms for the field, and for early childhood and development policy more broadly. I specifically examine how these platforms ensure that programming and research go beyond child development and wellbeing in order to adequately address the wellbeing and other needs of both primary and secondary caregivers.