Chicago Child-Parent Centers

Evidence Rating  
Scientifically Supported
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.

Health Factors  

Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) provide preschool education and comprehensive family support to children from families with low incomes. 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 2016, CPC programs operate in 24 centers; 13 of those centers offer the primary-grade program from 1st-3rd grade in addition to the preschool program2.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased academic achievement

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased high school completion

  • Improved cognitive skills

  • Increased school readiness

  • Increased parent engagement

  • Reduced child maltreatment

  • Increased earnings

  • Reduced crime

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) improve academic achievement among children from families with low incomes1, 3, 4, 5. CPC can also increase earnings5, 6, reduce drug use5, 7, and reduce crime1, 5, 6 in adulthood, especially among children who participate for two or more years8.

CPC improves cognitive skills, socio-emotional development, kindergarten readiness, and reading and math skills, while reducing grade retention and special education usage among participants1, 3. CPC increases parental engagement during and after program completion3, 7, which has been linked to increased student motivation and school achievement9, as well as reduced adolescent problem behaviors and substance use7. Participating in CPC also increases high school completion rates1, 4, 5. CPC can reduce child maltreatment and neglect10, improve participants’ health behaviors11, and overall physical health3. By age 28, CPC participants earn moderately more than non-participating peers5, 6.

CPC has the greatest effects for boys and high-risk children4, 5, 12, though girls may be more likely to graduate when they participate in the school age intervention6. Children who participate in the full-day preschool program have greater gains in school readiness and better attendance than those who participate part-time13.

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 invested6.

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease 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 success14, 15. The project also won a federal grant in 2011 that supports CPC program expansion to 23 sites in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota16, 17

Many communities have programs or schools providing preschool education, and state legislatures can support the adoption of the CPC education model18.


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

2 UMN-CPC - University of Minnesota (UMN). Chicago Longitudinal Study: Child-Parent Center (CPC) program overview and history.

3 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.

4 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):1064-76.

5 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):360-4.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 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.

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

16 CEHD 2011 - University of Minnesota College Education+Human Development (CEHD). Federal $15M grant supports one of the most comprehensive childhood education programs in the nation.

17 Harris 2012 - Harris R. Child-parent centers to expand. Catalyst Chicago. 2012.

18 NCSL-Child maltreatment 2014 - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Preventing child maltreatment: Defining the problem, discussing solutions. 2014.

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