Chicago Child-Parent Centers

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Disparity Rating  
Disparity rating: Potential to decrease disparities

Strategies with this rating have the potential to decrease or eliminate disparities between subgroups. Rating is suggested by evidence, expert opinion or strategy design.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) provide preschool education and comprehensive family support to children from families with low incomes for up to six years. Classes are small, allowing teachers to use a child-centered, individualized approach. Children also receive free breakfast and lunch daily, and vision and hearing screening upon enrollment. Parents are required to participate at least half a day per week. Staff conduct home visits and refer families to social service agencies as needed. CPC uses Title I funds and operates through the Chicago Public School system1. The program started in 1967 at four sites. As of 2022, CPC programs operate in 26 centers in the Chicago area, eight in Minnesota, and one in Wisconsin2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased academic achievement

  • Improved health outcomes

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased high school completion

  • Improved cognitive skills

  • Increased school readiness

  • Increased parent engagement

  • Reduced child maltreatment

  • Increased earnings

  • Reduced crime

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved social emotional skills

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) improve academic achievement among children from families with low incomes1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. CPC can also increase earnings7, 8, improve health outcomes5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, reduce drug use7, 14, and reduce crime1, 7, 8, 15 in adulthood, especially among children who participate for two or more years16. A Minnesota-based study shows that CPC model expansion to new school districts can also improve academic achievement and increase school readiness17.

CPC improves cognitive skills, social emotional development, kindergarten readiness, and reading and math skills, while reducing grade retention and special education usage among participants1, 5, 18. Initial findings from the CPC expansion in Minnesota show similar outcomes17, 19. CPC increases parental engagement during and after program completion5, 14, which was replicated at expanded sites in Chicago20 and has been linked to increased student motivation and school achievement21. Participating in CPC also increases high school completion rates1, 4, 6, 7 and college degree attainment for women and participants from families with low levels of educational attainment4. CPC can reduce child maltreatment and neglect22, improve participants’ health behaviors13, overall physical health5, and reduce rates of obesity12.

By age 28, CPC participants earn moderately more than non-participating peers7, 8. Increased parental engagement during and after CPC program completion is connected to reduced adolescent problem behaviors and substance use14. CPC participation has been shown to improve mental health in adulthood9 and may be predictive of lower risk for cardiovascular disease in mid-life11. Participants that received a higher level of child-initiated instruction may be more likely to earn a living wage23 and less likely to be arrested, incarcerated, or convicted for felonies15, 23.

Effect sizes are larger for academic achievement and social emotional development the longer students participate in CPC3. CPC has the greatest effects for boys and high-risk children6, 7, 24, though girls may be more likely to graduate when they participate in the school age intervention8. Children who participate in the full-day preschool program have greater gains in school readiness and better attendance than those who participate part-time25.

CPC costs about $5600 per child per year for the preschool component, and $2000 per year for the supplementary school age component. Cost benefit analysis indicates that CPC’s preschool component yields $10.83 in societal benefits per dollar spent, primarily through reduced crime and increased earnings and tax revenues, and the school age component yields $3.97 per dollar invested8. A study of former participants finds that improved health outcomes in adulthood have a benefit cost ratio of 3.66 to 1.3510. Another cost-benefit analysis finds a net $1.73 in societal benefits per dollar spent and that is without including the benefits of increased lifetime earnings and those tax revenues26.

How could this strategy advance health equity? This strategy is rated potential to decrease disparities: supported by strong evidence.

There is strong evidence that Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) reduce disparities in academic achievement between students from low and high income backgrounds1, 3, 4, 5, especially for Black students from families with low incomes30. Gains in academic achievement are larger for students the longer they participate in the program, all the way up to third grade3, 7, 30. Additionally, CPC’s emphasis on parent involvement and intervention in early childhood is associated with a reduction in violent crime in adulthood, which is a public health issue that disproportionately impacts Black males in Chicago15.

Over the long term, participation in CPC up to third grade is associated with greater increases in college completion rates and income levels, which can help reduce education and income gaps between those from lower and higher income backgrounds30. Additionally, disparities in school readiness between children from families with lower and higher incomes may be twice as large as school readiness disparities by race30. While there is evidence participation in high-quality preschool helps close gaps in school readiness for children of color and children from families with low incomes, there is some mixed evidence about the persistence of those effects. The extension of programmatic support for up to six years in the CPC model can sustain early effects on school readiness and academic achievement30. However, there is still a gap between CPC participants and national averages on indicators of academic achievement, like test scores, demonstrating that sustained early education interventions alone can’t eliminate these disparities30.

What is the relevant historical background?

Disparities in educational opportunities in the United States are shaped by many factors, including a long history of racial segregation in schools and differences in family income levels. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional31, but segregation remains a persistent problem32. Some legal battles over school segregation were not resolved until 201633 and structural barriers, such as continued residential segregation, play a significant role in maintaining school segregation32.

National interest in preschool as an intervention to address educational disparities was high in the 1960s when the Child-Parent Center (CPC) program began in Chicago. The federal Head Start program began in 196534, but many areas remained unserved and Chicago Public Schools chose to use Title I funds to implement CPC alongside other services30. Educational disparities across racial and economic groups were highlighted as a concern by teachers, administrators, and policymakers during this period with the Civil Rights movement and the “war on poverty”35. The preschool-to-3rd grade model was created to address these concerns and is based on the concept that learning environments that are consistent and predictable over time lead to increased well-being30. The CPC model also emphasizes parental involvement, small class sizes, and aligned curriculum to support growth30. Since the 1960s, the CPC model has continued to operate and expand.

Equity Considerations
  • What community partnerships could help preschool programs in your community offer comprehensive family support services? In your community, what aspects of preschool programs are important to families with low incomes? To students and families identifying as a racial or ethnic minority? How can your community support preschool programs so they can provide these educational opportunities and services?
  • How could your community increase access to high quality preschool programs for children from families with low incomes? For students identifying as a racial or ethnic minority?
  • Which populations in your community have lower rates of preschool attendance? What outreach activities might help reduce those disparities?
  • What disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes exist in your community? How do systemic factors such as residential segregation and disproportional school discipline rates contribute to these disparities?
Implementation Examples

Private investors, philanthropists, universities, government agencies, and the Chicago school district partnered to leverage social-impact borrowing, which ties repayment to the success of early interventions, to support expansion of CPC programs without raising taxes or reducing other expenditures. This partnership uses scores on kindergarten readiness, third grade literacy, and special education placements for children attending CPC to measure success27, 28. The project also won a federal grant in 2011 that supports CPC program expansion bringing the total to 35 sites in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota2.

Many communities have programs or schools providing preschool education, and state legislatures can support the adoption of the CPC education model29.

Implementation Resources

Resources with a focus on equity.

CPC P-3 Implementation - Child-Parent Center Preschool to 3rd Grade (CPC P-3). Implementation. Human Capital Research Collaborative, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota.

UMN-HCRC - University of Minnesota (UMN) Human Capital Research Collaborative (HCRC).


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 PPN - Promising Practices Network (PPN). On children, families and communities.

2 CPC P-3 - Child-Parent Center Preschool to 3rd Grade (CPC P-3). Human Capital Research Collaborative, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota.

3 Ou 2019 - Ou SR, Arteaga I, Reynolds AJ. Dosage effects in the Child-Parent Center preK-to-3rd grade program: A re-analysis in the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Children and Youth Services Review. 2019;101:285-298.

4 Reynolds 2018 - Reynolds AJ, Ou SR, Temple JA. A multicomponent, preschool to third grade preventive intervention and educational attainment at 35 years of age. JAMA Pediatrics. 2018;172(3):247-256.

5 Reynolds 2016 - Reynolds AJ, Richardson BA, Hayakawa M, Englund MM, Ou SR. Multi-site expansion of an early childhood intervention and school readiness. Pediatrics. 2016;138(1):e20154587.

6 Ou 2010 - Ou SR, Reynolds AJ. Mechanisms of effects of an early intervention program on educational attainment: A gender subgroup analysis. Children and Youth Services Review. 2010;32(8):1064-1076.

7 Reynolds 2011 - Reynolds AJ, Temple JA, Ou SR, Arteaga IA, White BAB. School-based early childhood education and age-28 well-being: Effects by timing, dosage, and subgroups. Science. 2011;333(6040):360-364.

8 Reynolds 2011a - Reynolds AJ, Temple JA, White BAB, Ou SR, Robertson DL. Age 26 cost-benefit analysis of the child-parent center early education program. Child Development. 2011;82(1):379-404.

9 Mondi 2022 - Mondi CF, Reynolds AJ. Psychological well-being in midlife following early childhood intervention. Development and Psychopathology. 2022.

10 Varshney 2022 - Varshney N, Temple JA, Reynolds AJ. Early education and adult health: Age 37 impacts and economic benefits of the Child-Parent Center preschool program. Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis. 2022;13(1):57-90.

11 Reynolds 2021a - Reynolds AJ, Ou SR, Eales L, Mondi CF, Giovanelli A. Assessment of a comprehensive early childhood education program and cardiovascular disease risk in midlife. JAMA Network Open. 2021;4(8):e2120752.

12 Reynolds 2021b - Reynolds AJ, Eales L, Ou SR, Mondi CF, Giovanelli A. A comprehensive, multisystemic early childhood program and obesity at age 37 years. JAMA Pediatrics. 2021;175(6):637-640.

13 Englund 2015 - Englund MM, White B, Reynolds AJ, Schweinhart LJ, Campbell FA. Health outcomes of the Abecedarian, Child–Parent Center, and HighScope Perry Preschool programs. In Reynolds AJ, Rolnick AJ, Temple JA, eds. Health and Education in Early Childhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2015:257-292.

14 Hayakawa 2016 - Hayakawa M, Giovanelli A, Englund MM, Reynolds AJ. Not just academics: Paths of longitudinal effects from parent involvement to substance abuse in emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2016;58(4):433-439.

15 Giovanelli 2018 - Giovanelli A, Hayakawa M, Englund MM, Reynolds AJ. African-American males in Chicago: Pathways from early childhood intervention to reduced violence. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2018;62(1):80-86.

16 Arteaga 2014 - Arteaga I, Humpage S, Reynolds AJ, Temple JA. One year of preschool or two: Is it important for adult outcomes? Economics of Education Review. 2014;40:221-237.

17 Reynolds 2021 - Reynolds AJ, Richardson BA, Lee S. Preschool and kindergarten impacts of the Midwest expansion of the Child-Parent Centers in the Saint Paul public schools. Developmental Psychology. 2021;57(4):489-505.

18 Mondi 2021 - Mondi CF, Reynolds AJ. Socio-emotional learning among low-income prekindergarteners: The roles of individual factors and early intervention. Early Education and Development. 2021;32(3):360-384.

19 Richardson 2017 - Richardson AS, Ghosh-Dastidar M, Beckman R, et al. Can the introduction of a full-service supermarket in a food desert improve residents’ economic status and health? Annals of Epidemiology. 2017;27(12):771-776.

20 Varshney 2020 - Varshney N, Lee S, Temple JA, Reynolds AJ. Does early childhood education enhance parental school involvement in second grade?: Evidence from Midwest Child-Parent Center program. Children and Youth Services Review. 2020;117:105317.

21 Hayakawa 2013 - Hayakawa M, Englund MM, Warner-Richter M, Reynolds AJ. Early parent involvement and school achievement: A longitudinal path analysis. NHSA Dialog. 2013;16(1):200-204.

22 Mersky 2011 - Mersky JP, Topitzes JD, Reynolds AJ. Maltreatment prevention through early childhood intervention: A confirmatory evaluation of the Chicago Child-Parent Center preschool program. Children and Youth Services Review. 2011;33(8):1454-63.

23 Ernst 2021 - Ernst JR, Reynolds AJ. Preschool instructional approaches and age 35 health and well-being. Preventive Medicine Reports. 2021;23:101498.

24 Temple 2010 - Temple JA, Reynolds AJ, Arteaga I. Low birth weight, preschool education, and school remediation. Education and Urban Society. 2010;42(6):705-29.

25 Reynolds 2014 - Reynolds AJ, Richardson BA, Hayakawa M, et al. Association of a full-day vs part-day preschool intervention with school readiness, attendance, and parent involvement. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 2014;312(20):2126-2134.

26 Peterson 2018 - Peterson C, Florence C, Thomas R, Klevens J. Cost-benefit analysis of two child abuse and neglect primary prevention programs for U.S. states. Prevention Science. 2018;19(6):705-715.

27 Temple 2015 - Temple JA, Reynolds AJ. Using social-impact borrowing to expand preschool-to-third grade programs in urban schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR). 2015;20(4):281-292.

28 Sanchez 2016 - Sanchez M. Child-parent centers boast strong results for kids, investors. The Chicago Reporter. 2016.

29 NCSL Preschool-3rd Grade Legislation Tracker - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 2020 Preschool-3rd Grade Education Legislation Tracker.

30 Temple 2022 - Temple JA, Ou SR, Reynolds AJ. Closing achievement gaps through preschool-to-third-grade programs. Frontiers in Education. 2022;7.

31 US Courts-BvBE - United States Courts, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Supreme Court landmarks in history: Brown v. Board of Education (BvBE) re-enactment.

32 EPI-Rothstein 2014 - Rothstein R. Brown v. Board at 60: Why have we been so disappointed? What have we learned? Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute (EPI); 2014.

33 NPR-Domonoske 2016 - Domonoske C. After 50-year legal struggle, Mississippi school district ordered to desegregate. National Public Radio (NPR). 2016.

34 NHSA-Head Start history - National Head Start Association (NHSA). Black history month: A reflection on Head Start history.

35 Economic Opportunities Act - Public Law 88-452. Senate (S) 2642: Economic Opportunities Act of 1964.