Early Relationships are the Crucible that Determines School Readiness

National Funders Conference on child mental health

WellChild, the Foundation of Health for Life, Boston, held a conference in 1999 to explore strategies to reduce the gap between research on children's social and emotional competence and school readiness and actual policy and practice. (WellChild is now the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Inc. For Expanding Healthcare Access.)

The conference was held November 1–2, 1999 in Elkridge, Md. and attended by 31 people representing 16 foundations, government agencies, and institutes.

Key Results

A report on the conference and background papers, A Good Beginning: Sending America's Children to School with the Social and Emotional Competence They Need to Succeed, summarizes the current state of knowledge on children's social and emotional competence, including the following:

  • Social and emotional competence can be defined and measured. For example, a child who is socially and emotionally ready for kindergarten might be confident and friendly, have good peer relationships, communicate well, and tackle and persist at challenging tasks.
  • Social and emotional competence is central to success in school.
  • Children's early relationships are the foundation for social and emotional competence in early childhood.
  • Both risk and protective factors need to be identified in order to shape research-based intervention programs.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided partial support for the project with a grant of $9,698 between August 1999 and December 1999.

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