Many social service providers want to improve outcomes for families. To do this, they seek tools that draw deeply from the science of early childhood development and use a two-generation approach to easily incorporate principles of human-centered design. This workshop will discuss an overarching framework for the kind of support caregivers really need—holistic support that builds executive functioning, is grounded in respect, and structured around tangible economic mobility and family goals. Engaging with all types of families collaboratively and responding in the moment to how they are experiencing a program so that it can be adapted appropriately will also be highlighted. The focus is on designing programs that don’t cause further stress and re-traumatization to families, but rather to help them feel more in control of their futures.

The Children’s Home Society of America (CHSA) member organizations have partnered with Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child (HCDC) and EMPath to inform the development of two tools that can be easily and affordably applied across a range of human services settings to help improve child and family outcomes. Science X Design (SxD) from Harvard is a process that supports organizations and teams in identifying a problem informed by three dimensions: Science, the family voice, and the wisdom of program staff. SxD has recently been adapted as a digital open access tool. EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring provides much-needed tools for staff to engage with parents and caregivers as well as to measure the impact of the program. It features the Bridge to Self-Sufficiency which has been proven to support families while they achieve goals that improve financial stability, like securing employment, housing, building up savings, and completing professional training.

Learning Objectives


Susan Crowley
Senior Program Manager
Harvard Center for the Developing Child

Nicki Ruiz de Luzuriaga
Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Gabriel McGaughey
Director of Child Well-Being
Children’s Wisconsin Community Services

Marlo Nash
Managing Director
Children’s Home Society of America

From the very personal accounts of a clinician and police officer, who are married, this workshop will provide an overview of how one Maryland police department created a grant-funded Family Wellness Academy called “The Net.” Rooted heavily in brain science and the understanding of trauma, the Family Wellness Academy curriculum provides attendees with a comprehensive understanding of how a career in law enforcement can change a loved one. It is important to acknowledge the historically high rates of suicide within the first-responder community to grasp the essential communication skills needed to care for them. With the help of a rotating staff of local clinicians, attendees become better prepared to ask loved ones not just, “Are you okay?” but also to navigate potentially intense responses.

Workshop participants will leave with a greater understanding of how to further clinical engagement opportunities with law enforcement as well as their larger network of support, including family and friends. In addition, this workshop will discuss the elements of trauma-informed care and brain science that resonate with law enforcement, how to enhance cultural competency for those who work with first responders, and the Family Wellness Academy curriculum. Lessons learned and opportunities for future collaboration will also be explored.

Learning Objectives


Meghann Holloway
T/Cpl Wellness Coordinator
Presenting independently

Kelly Berger
Executive Director, Caminos Programs
Board of Child Care

In this session, we will share equitable solutions that shift power to communities and better support families. These strategies were identified through Child Safety Forward, a four-year federal demonstration initiative to develop multidisciplinary strategies and responses to address serious or near-death injuries as a result of child abuse or neglect and to reduce the number of child fatalities. The initiative is funded by the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime. Social Current serves as the national technical assistance provider to sites in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

The public health approach to this work rebalances power, credits multiple types of data, and centers learning. The evaluation has identified three core conditions necessary to building a reimagined child and family well-being system:

Although the U.S. child mortality rate has improved over time, the number of child deaths due to abuse and neglect has remained steady or even increased. Like other causes of childhood illness and death, child maltreatment can be prevented. This message was delivered in a report from the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, titled Within Our Reach. The report provided a blueprint for a public health approach that addresses the root causes of child maltreatment, engages with multiple stakeholders, and is a shared responsibility between families and communities. Based on this vision, the initiative strives to build a child and family well-being system where child protection agencies, community partners, neighbors, and families share a responsibility to ensure children thrive.

This workshop will take the very difficult problem of child abuse prevention and break it down into concrete, community-based strategies. We will engage participants in a conversation about equitable solutions to child safety and family well-being. We will also ask participants to share assets in their own communities, systems, and organizations that contribute to a transformed child and family well-being system.

Learning Objectives


Jasmine Brosnan
Evaluation Senior Project Manager
Sacramento Child Abuse Prevention Center

Nicole DeWitt-Blumhardt
Project Specialist
Michigan Public Health Institute

Amy Templeman
Senior Director of Child & Family Well-Being
Social Current

Bias lives everywhere. It lives in each of us, in the teams we work in, the organizations we work for, and the systems around us. It impacts our lives, communities, and workplaces. Taking action to disrupt the impact of bias on decision making is an increasing priority in the child welfare system and human services fields. But implicit bias training alone has been shown to be inadequate at addressing bias in decision making.

AWAKEN is a practice for conscious decision making that provides actionable steps to take child welfare professionals working in a fast-paced, emotionally charged environment from automatic, bias-based thinking to values-based critical thinking.

How individuals and organizations navigate bias and perspective sharing affects organizational culture, and that’s where mindful organizing comes in. Mindful organizing is a team-based practice that allows teams to manage complexity and bias in decision making (Sutcliffe, 2011). AWAKEN provides teams with mindful organizing strategies to co-conspire against biases in ourselves, systems, and communities. AWAKEN uncovers the critical consciousness to make equitable decisions that foster safety, trust, and belonging. It helps us identify bias at all levels and its impact on our decision making, so we can call out systemic biases (racism/sexism/heterosexism/ableism) to advocate for social justice and system transformation. It also helps us call-in cognitive biases, (fundamental attribution error/hindsight/ severity bias) before critical decisions are made. 

AWAKEN is being implemented across the South Carolina Department of Social Services child welfare system. It can be found in new caseworker and experienced caseworker trainings that give professionals actionable strategies to dismantle bias, strengthen teaming, and encourage multi-perspective thinking at critical decision points.

The National Partnership for Child Safety, supported by Casey Family Programs and the University of Kentucky Center for Innovation in Population Health, is implementing AWAKEN in advanced trainings for critical incident reviewers in over 30 public child welfare jurisdictions. Aligned with safety science, AWAKEN is an emerging best practice confirming blameless, supportive inquiry to learn from fatalities/near fatalities, and leveraging learning to inform system transformation.

This presentation covers nearly all of the SPARK 2023 areas of focus: Brain Science; Innovative Programs and Services; Workforce Resilience and Leadership; and EDI, Belonging, and Justice.

Learning Objectives


Christina Rosato
Affinita Consulting, LLC

Dr. Shaneé Moore
Child Welfare Training Director
South Carolina Department of Social Services

Santana Jones
Associate Policy Analyst
Center for Innovation in Population Health at the University of Kentucky