About Us

Connected, We Thrive

Nurture Connection Origin Story

Nurture Connection, conceived by Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), is an embodiment of two fundamental truths for human flourishing and progress: Connection and Collaboration. 

The deep vault of early childhood research and understanding makes it clear that all children benefit from strong, positive, and nurturing relationships to grow and thrive. Healthy relationships in the beginning years of a child’s life are the building blocks upon which they create a healthy and productive life and a bright future.

Similarly, history shows that when human beings cooperate, they succeed. That need has never been greater than now. To solve our society’s increasingly complex issues, we must commit to building bridges and learning from, listening to, and trusting each other. Most critically, we must channel our interconnectedness to create a future that works for all of us.

Starting in 2010, early childhood leaders in research, child health, and public health increasingly recognize that children develop in the context of relationships, which optimizes health, development, and well-being, and also buffers against the negative effects of toxic stress. Relationships are also recognized as a new vital sign in pediatrics and public health.

Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), guided by its mission to create a fair and just society in which all children and families thrive, becomes an early champion for Early Relational Health (ERH) and begins bringing together many interested early childhood leaders to listen and learn from each other.

CSSP in partnership with the FrameWorks Institute develops “Building Relationships: Framing Early Relational Health”, the strategic communication brief to bring public attention to and build understanding around ERH.

CSSP launches the ERH National Advisory Group, which includes a committed group of early childhood leaders and ERH champions from research, practice, policy, and systems leaders; this group represents the seed from which to grow a broader networked movement. The ERH National Advisory Group is reimagined as the National ERH Network.

CSSP, guided by leaders within the National ERH Network, builds a collaboration with Reach Out and Read (ROR) and the Nurture Science Program (NSP) at Columbia University Medical Center to promote ERH practice change.

Understanding that an equitable and just society that values and supports every family cannot be truly created unless we make a commitment to partner with families and learn from their lived experiences and wisdom, the Family Network Collaborative (FNC), an Early Relational Health parent leadership group, is formed by CSSP and other leaders to play a central leadership role in growing the movement.

CSSP, energized by the idea of an ERH movement bringing together all essential early childhood concepts, forms the movement’s Steering Committee to vet and formalize the ERH movement’s strategies and actions.

Alongside, ERH continues to gain growing interest from the philanthropic community and the ERH Funders Community is launched by CSSP and Einhorn Collaborative and now numbers 100 funders learning about and supporting ERH as being vital for the future health and well-being of children, families, and communities.

Combining the knowledge, commitment, and energy of the National ERH Network, the FNC, the Steering Committee, and the ERH Funders Community, CSSP launches Nurture Connection.

 

Now, working together under the Nurture Connection banner, families, doctors, doulas, community health workers, researchers, policymakers, communities, and all others who are deeply invested in the well-being of families are listening, learning, weaving, planning, and convening in new ways to center connectedness and belonging and make Early Relational Health possible for each and every child, family, and community.

ERH Family Network Collaborative (ERH-FNC)

Facilitating and leveraging parent leadership is a key equity strategy for Nurture Connection. Parent leadership empowers parents from underrepresented communities to directly speak for themselves and use their lived experience and expertise to guide ERH efforts to help ensure that their needs are met. The FNC leadership is composed of six parent leaders representing a diversity of experiences and cultural traditions, as well as underrepresented communities from across the country. 

The parent leaders are part of the movement leadership group. Each parent leader further leads parent pods in their communities to gather guidance and input for all strategic actions. The hope is that this work continues to grow — both in terms of numbers of parents engaged in the FNC and as a model for local efforts seeking to support ERH. The group is facilitated by Bryn Fortune, Coordinator, ERH Family Network Collaborative.

Shutterstock 1985446493 1 Scaled Aspect Ratio 1520 1319

"The Risks and Rewards of Sharing Power With Your Community"

Mia Halthon (FNC Parent Leader) and Ira Hillman (Einhorn Collaborative) share why building relationships with families is fundamental to achieving lasting results in the communities in the Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed.

  • Claudia Aristy, Reach Out and Read, Latinx Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Families, New York
  • Shayla Collins, Children with Special Healthcare Needs, Washington
  • Mia Halthon, Home Visiting, Black, Brown, African American, Michigan
  • Nicole Loveless, Indigenous Community, New Mexico
  • Tish MacInnis, Strengthening Families, Southern Families, Alabama
  • Steven Thibert, Fatherhood Council, Fatherhood Experience, Washington
  • Allysa Ware, Family Voices,  Children with Special Health Care Needs, Maryland

National Early Relational Health (ERH) Network

The National ERH Network is composed of parents, practitioners, child health systems, thought partners, early childhood system builders, and policy and network champions committed to cocreating, innovating, testing, and disseminating strategic activities to advance an Early Relational Health frame.

  • Sherri L. Alderman, MD MPH, IMH-E®, FAAP, Board-Certified Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician
  • Tyson Barker, PhD, Chief Science and Innovation Officer, Institute for Child Success
  • Lee Beers, MD, FAAP, Medical Director, Community Health and Advocacy, Children’s National Hospital
  • Moushumi Beltangady, Director of Tribal Early Childhood Development and Program Manager of Tribal Early Learning Initiative, Office of the Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
  • Scott D. Berns, MD, MPH, FAAP, President and CEO, National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ)
  • Debra Best, MD, FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University
  • Brenda Blasingame, MA, vavCollab
  • Rahil D. Briggs, PsyD, National Director, HealthySteps
  • Lindsey Burghardt, MD, MPH, FAAP, Fellow at Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
  • Shayla Collins, Family Partner
  • Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (in Psychiatry); Attending Physician, Well Baby Nursery; Director, Nurture Science Program, Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Columbia University 
  • Ellie Erickson, MD FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine; Medical Director, Family Connects Durham
  • Amy Fine, MPH, Early Childhood Systems Consultant
  • Phil Fisher, PhD, Professor in the Graduate School of Education, Stanford University
  • Bryn Fortune, Coordinator, ERH Family Network Collaborative
  • Monique Fountain Hanna, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer/CQI and Innovation Advisor, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services
  • Cynthia A. Frosch, PhD, IMH-E®, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science, Auburn University
  • Andrew Garner, MD, PhD, FAAP, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University and Private Practice of Pediatrics, Partners in Pediatrics
  • Rachel Gilgoff, MD, Clinical and Science Senior Advisor, Aurrera Health Group
  • Linda Gilkerson, PhD, LSW, Professor, Erikson Institute
  • Claudia M. Gold, MD, Pediatrician; Author;  Faculty on the ERH Fellowship, University of Massachusetts – Chan Medical School
  • Janice Gruendel, PhD, Research Professor at the University of North Carolina — Charlotte in the Academy for Research in Community Health, Engagement, and Services (ARCHES)
  • Mia Halthon, Parent Leader, ERH Family Network Collaborative
  • Patsy Hampton, Senior Associate and Director, EC-LINC, Center for the Study of Social Policy
  • Cyndie Hatcher, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Attending Physician in Primary Care Pediatrics; Practice of the Future Clinical Champion in the Center for the Urban Child and Healthy Family, Boston Medical Center Pediatrics, Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
  • Cynthia Hayes, BS, eCID, CLC, Doula; Project Director, Doula Advocacy Team, Doulas 4CT Coalition
  • Neal Horen, PhD, Director, Early Childhood Division, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development 
  • Karen Howard, JD, Founding Partner, Crossover Partners, LLC
  • Becky Jaques Hasak, EdM, Program Director, Health+ Studio
  • Kay Johnson, MPH, President, Johnson Policy Consulting, LLC
  • Rachel Lettieri, MS, MPH, Director, Care Coordination at Pediatrics Northwest
  • Alicia Lieberman, PhD, the Irving B. Harris Endowed Chair in Infant Mental Health and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Child Trauma Research Program
  • Dina Lieser, MD, Senior Adviser at HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Systems
  • Junlei Li, PhD, the Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Annika List, Program and Research Assistant, Center for the Study of Social Policy
  • Dayna Long, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician and Codirector, Center for Child and Community Health, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
  • Darcy Lowell, MD, IMH-E®, Founder and Chief Officer, Child First; Associate Clinical Professor, Pediatrics and Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine
  • Tish MacInnis, Alabama Strengthening Families Coordinator, Alabama Partnership for Children (APC)
  • Kimberly Martini-Cavell, MA, Executive Director, Help Me Grow National Center
  • Mary Mackrain, MEd, IMH-E® (IV), Managing Director, EDC
  • Alan Mendelsohn, MD, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health at New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center
  • Cynthia Minkovitz, MD, the William H. Gates, Sr. Professor and Chair in the Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health; Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University
  • Tanesha Mondestin, Research Associate, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families 
  • Kaitlin Mulcahy, Associate Director, Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclair State University
  • Colleen Murphy, Vice President of the Early Childhood Knowledge Navigator, Ounce of Prevention
  • Geoffrey Nagle, MSW, MPH, PhD, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University; Founder, Alliance Strategic Advising and Research
  • Darcia Narvaez, PhD, Professor of Psychology Emerita at the University of Notre Dame
  • Cailin O’Connor, Senior Associate, Center for the Study of Social Policy
  • Jennifer Oppenheim, Cofounder/Codirector, Thriving Together LLC
  • Cynthia Osborne, PhD, Executive Director, Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center; Professor of Early Childhood Education and Policy at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development
  • Joy Osofsky, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Public Health, Head, Division of Pediatric Mental Health, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine
  • Anthony Queen, Parent Liaison, Great Start Collaborative in Kent County, MI
  • Carrie Quinn, MD, Executive Director, The Mount Sinai Parenting Center Assistant; Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Usha Ramachandran, MD, FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Associate Director, South Asian Total Health Initiative, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Medical Director, Reach Out and Read New Jersey; Early Childhood Champion, NJ Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Dorothy T. Richardson, PhD, IECMH-E, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Pediatrics at University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School; Executive Director and Core Faculty, Fellowship in Early Relational Health, Lifeline for Families Center 
  • Jessica Riggs, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan
  • Sarah Rock, Principal, Rock Results
  • Kate Rosenblum, PhD, IMH-E® , Clinical and Developmental Psychologist; Professor of Psychiatry, Obstetrics, and Gynecology, University of Michigan
  • Anne Seery, PhD, Director, VIP Center of Excellence, NYU’s School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital
  • Robert Sege, MD, PhD, Co-Director, Community and Stakeholder Engagement; Lead Navigator Tufts CTSI
  • Daniel Shaw, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Center for Parents and Children and the Pitt Parents and Children Laboratory
  • Hoda Shawky, Maternal/Child Health Consultant
  • Nikki Shearman, PhD, Chief of Strategic Initiatives, Reach Out and Read
  • Tyiesha Short, Associate Director for Science and Policy, Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
  • Sara Silverio Marques, DrPH, MPH, Cofounder and Principal, Health+ Studio
  • Dana Suskind, MD, Founder and Codirector, TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, and Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Public Policy (affiliated), University of Chicago
  • Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD, Public Health Analyst, HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau in the Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Systems
  • Steven Thibert, Parent Leader, ERH Family Network Collaborative
  • Joe Waters, Co-Founder + CEO, Capita
  • Dana M. Winters, PhD, Director of Simple Interactions and Academic Programs at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College
  • David Willis, MD, FAAP, Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Social Policy
  • Kelly Woodlock, Vice President, National Home Visiting, Start Early
  • Mary Ann Woodruff, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician, Pediatrics Northwest; Member of Leadership Team, Bridge of Hope; Member of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Jabeen Yusuf, Cofounder and Principal, Health+ Studio
  • Barry Zuckerman MD, Chair and Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine; Co-Founder of Reach Out and Read; Founder of Healthy Steps; Founder of Medical Legal Partnership; Co-Founder of Small Moments Big Impact; Co-Founder of Health Leads
Woman In Head Scarf Playing With Baby Scaled Aspect Ratio 1576 1582

Nurture Connection Steering Committee

Composed of parents, pediatricians, researchers, policy and systems leaders, funders, and nonprofit leaders, the Steering Committee provides strategic and action leadership for the initiative. This group is helping build and expand the ERH movement through two critical actions:

  1. Furthering the movement’s understanding of the problems families and communities are facing;
  2. Uncovering solutions to best support more families to experience ERH and emotional connection.
  • Brenda Blasingame, MA, vavCollab
  • Shayla Collins, Family Partner
  • Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (in Psychiatry); Attending Physician, Well Baby Nursery; Director, Nurture Science Program, Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Columbia University 
  • Bryn Fortune, Coordinator, ERH Family Network Collaborative
  • Monique Fountain Hanna, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer/CQI and Innovation Advisor, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services
  • Mia Halthon, Parent Leader, ERH Family Network Collaborative
  • Cynthia Hayes, BS, eCID, CLC, Doula; Project Director, Doula Advocacy Team, Doulas 4CT Coalition
  • Ira Hillman, Strategy Lead, Bonding, Einhorn Collaborative
  • Karen Howard, JD, Partner, Crossover Partners
  • Allison Logan, BS-ED, MS, CEO and Founder, Logan Consulting & Company, LLC; Co-Founder of CT 359 
  • Dayna Long, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician and Codirector, Center for Child and Community Health, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
  • Susan Notkin, Executive Vice President, Center for the Study of Social Policy 
  • Usha Ramachandran, MD, FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Associate Director, South Asian Total Health Initiative, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Medical Director, Reach Out and Read New Jersey; Early Childhood Champion, NJ Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Nikki Shearman, PhD, Chief of Strategic Initiatives, Reach Out and Read
  • Steven Thibert, Parent Leader, ERH Family Network Collaborative
  • David Willis, MD, FAAP, Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Social Policy
Happy,playful,latin,mom,with,little,daughter.

Early Relational Health Explained

Early Relational Health — or the state of emotional well-being that grows from emotional connection between babies and toddlers and their parents and caregivers when they experience strong, positive, and nurturing relationships with each other — is critical to creating healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities.