Connections: Relationships Rule in a New Manual for Early Childhood Professionals

Connections: Relationships Rule in a New Manual for Early Childhood Professionals

Connections: A Relationship-Based Phase Model is a just-published manual for early childhood professionals—those who run preschools, Head Start programs and other activities for pre-schoolers  aged 2‒6 years old—promoting social and emotional health in young children.

The book is a product of the Virginia Frank Child Development Center (VFCDC), a program of JCFS Chicago that operates a therapeutic preschool, trains early childhood professionals and consults with schools and organizations that engage pre-schoolers. All of its authors—Joni Crounse, MA, M.Ed, Kathy Ham, LCSW, Joanne Kestenbaum, LCSW, Wendy Guyer, MA, LCSW, Linnet Mendez, LCPC and Laura Sheridan, MA, LCSW—work at the Center and helped to develop the “relationship based phase model.”  The manual incorporates the work of over sixty years in the therapeutic nursery/kindergarten program at VFCDC and the authors’ experience in providing early childhood mental health consultation throughout the Chicagoland area.

This easy-to-follow guidebook for early childhood professionals emphasizes the importance of building strong teacher and caregiver relationships with young children to promote a secure, healthy, and productive learning environment. The “phase-model” term refers to the idea that the pre-schooler’s year is seen in three phases—Separation/Attachment, Autonomy and Initiative and Independence. Connections maps ways for early childhood educators to navigate their children through the phases, from the early anxious moments of separation from parents to awareness of self and identifying with a group. The book is replete with suggested activities for every step of the way.

“It is rare to run across a book that is simultaneously based on such sound developmental and clinical principles, and which is so eminently practical,” said Michael Trout, Director of the Infant-Parent Institute and a noted early childhood authority. “The underlying ideas are lofty, but the authors have done a splendid job of making them accessible, and of making them live in the real world of the classroom.”

Rather than focusing on teachers, parents or children, the book emphasizes relationships and feelings, which, Frances Stott of the Erikson Institute wrote, “is what makes this developmentally informed work so valuable.”

How valuable? Trout proclaimed, “I think it’s groundbreaking, overdue and should be required reading for every young education major, state and federal legislator, school board member and program administrator, nationwide.”

For more information on the Virginia Frank Child Development Center, visit, or call toll-free, 855-ASK-JCFS (855.275.5237).