Connected Beginnings was launched by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay/Merrimack Valley, Inc. in 2006 with a focus on building the capacity for high quality early childhood social emotional professional development across the disciplines serving very young children and their families throughout Massachusetts. In January 2019, CB became a business unit of the Donahue Institute.
Since its inception, CB has created and adapted innovative professional development experiences for diverse audiences, and provided training and mentoring to thousands of practitioners across Massachusetts. Beyond the Commonwealth, Connected Beginnings has provided training and technical assistance to organizations throughout Connecticut, contributed to the nationwide roll-out of the Pyramid Model Approach, and provided consultation and support to the Children & Youth Services Department of the U.S. Army. Trainees have included infant, toddler, pre-school, kindergarten and early elementary school teachers, Early Intervention practitioners, staff of pediatric clinics, child welfare and child protection specialists and providers, psychologists, mental health clinicians, and infant/early childhood mental health consultants.
What Does the Research Say?
Nearly 50 years of research affirms that very young children grow, learn, develop, and thrive in close, dependable, nurturing relationships. Children suffer in the absence of such relationships and recover remarkably well when nurturing relationships are provided or restored. The social and emotional skills and competencies learned within these relationships are the foundation for a child’s success throughout life.
Research also suggests that professionals promote positive outcomes in children when they are well trained and receive ongoing mentoring and/or coaching support. It is clear from this research that those working with young children require both a clear understanding of social emotional development and mental health practices and an understanding of how their own thoughts, beliefs and behaviors shape their interpretation of child and adult behavior. By sharing these understandings and techniques- professionals come to a better understanding of the meaning of behavior which can then be shared with parents and other caregivers, placing the power of that understanding in the hands of the people who know, spend the most time with, and have the most powerful relationships with the child.
“Substantial new investments should be made to address the nation’s seriously inadequate capacity for addressing young children’s mental health needs. Expanded opportunities for professional training, as recently called for by the Surgeon General, and incentives for individuals with pertinent expertise to work in settings with young children are essential first steps toward more effective screening, early detection, treatment, and ultimate prevention of serious childhood mental health problems.” (Recommendation 3, from Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development by Jack Shonkoff and Deborah Phillips, editors, National Academy Press, 2000.)