There’s a billboard on Poplar that reminds us that Demographics are not Destiny. What a great idea! Too often, conversations about the future of our community’s children, focus on the risks to their development and well-being that are associated with their ethnicity or race, with the neighborhood in which they grow up, with the marital status of their parents, or with their family’s income. Yet while these risks are real, they tell us very little about the lived experience of individual children, and they certainly can’t explain why some children are able to beat the odds, thrive in school, win scholarships to college, find meaningful jobs, remain healthy, and become loving and nurturing parents when they are adults.

This issue of Perceptions looks at one vital factor that helps to protect children from the risks associated with demography: the health of the relationships in their lives. Many children from our poorest neighborhoods do far better than their social and economic background would predict. Behind these children we will find parents talking, reading and laughing with their infants and toddlers, early care and education teachers taking delight in exploring the world through the eyes of their youngest pupils, and grandparents, friends, neighbors, and parish members lending a hand to exhausted parents.

In short, early brain development occurs in an environment of relationships, and healthy relationships become the foundation for a lifetime of achievement.