First Year Families: Pediatrics Supporting Parents

Jennifer Donahue & Sarah Rafton

What if pediatric well-care was re-designed to support early relational health or social and emotional health and development, particularly for families of color, via the caregiver-child relationship? WCAAP’s First Year Families is working with Pediatrics Northwest in Pierce County to do just that, with support from Pediatrics Supporting Parents (PSP)!

PSP is building a learning community where parent leaders, pediatricians, community leaders, and funders co-createstrategic priorities, share best practices, generate learnings in pediatric care transformation, and identify opportunities to improve outcomes for children and families.

The well-child visit (from birth to age three), presents a nearly universal access point for pediatric providers and parents to partner to promote and support young children’s social and emotional well-being and nurture parent-child relationships. Transforming well-child care ages zero to three is a unique and powerful way to transform the lives of children and families:

  • Stress and the effects of poverty and racism can impede healthy development, but strong parent-child relationships act as buffers that enable children to respond adaptively to adversity and thrive*
  • Early relationships likely account for 25-50% of population-level variability in critical child development outcomes
  • Families are already motivated to build nurturing relationships with their children, but systems barriers get in the way. Community-based solutions with parents at the center are the path to removing those barriers
  • The well-child visit is a non-stigmatizing and universal access point with the potential to improve health outcomes from an early age (0-3) into adulthood.

*We define “parent” as any adult who is serving in the primary caregiver role. In some families that person may be a grandparent, relative, foster parent, or guardian.

PSP will support five proof point communities across four states to demonstrate concrete changes in pediatric primary care. WCAAP and Pediatrics NW are proud to be among the five communities selected. We will participate in a yearlong planning period that allows time to collaboratively develop our goals and implementation plans and co-develop the design of a national learning community that supports local learning and broader national impact.

In our First Year Families: Pediatrics Supporting Parents planning year, our work will fall into four categories:

  1. Family voice
  2. Provider & staff well-being
  3. Policy & strategy development, and
  4. Community and practice-based interventions to improve relational health.

We will engage families to help inform improvements at Pediatrics Northwest and the clinic will focus on how to best support its team to deliver care. WCAAP will continue to work with state policy makers and leaders, and will convene community partners to help make these transformations sustainable in health care financing. Pediatrics Northwest and WCAAP will work arm in arm to implement meaningful practice-based change in concert with the clinic’s essential community partners. The leadership of doctors Mary Ann Woodruff (WCAAP’s early childhood co-chair) and David Willis (WCAAP treasurer) has made this initiative possible in Washington State. We very much look forward to sharing our learnings with WCAAP members throughout the project and ultimately bringing sustainable ways for practices statewide to enhance early relational health.

For more information, contact Tatiana Sarkhosh at

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