Research has shown that promoting early brain development to support life-long health is dependent on having consistent and nurturing relationships within the first few years of life. Relational health is used to describe the mutual emotional connection established by healthy caregiver-child interactions that contribute to children’s overall mental and physical well-being. First3Years’ Relational Health Program aims to enhance the internal capacity of partner organizations to offer families the support that they need to strengthen their emotional connection with their infant or toddler. In doing so, First3Years trains and assists professionals on how to leverage the Welch Emotional Connection Screen (WECS) to promote relational health between caregivers and young children.
The WECS is based on a co-regulation theoretical framework, which is needed to support children’s emotional self-regulation as part of early brain development. Research has shown that children in emotionally connected relationships at six months of age had fewer externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems by the age of three when compared to the group that had not been in emotionally connected relationships.
The WECS was developed by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, and First3Years is the first in the nation to implement the WECS with community based providers. First3Years provides training on early brain development, relational health and co-regulation, as well as training on the use of the Welch Emotional Connection Screen (WECS) to better understand the relational health between parents and children, and ongoing technical assistance for supporting relational health within the context and goals of each unique family-serving program.