Social Current’s Strategic Industry Partners offer specialized products or services to benefit our network. We are proud to highlight our Gold Strategic Industry Partner Your Part-Time Controller. (YPTC).
For over 30 years, YPTC helps to build stronger nonprofits. With over 1,400 nonprofit clients from coast to coast, YPTC assists with their financial management needs—from internal, grant, and board reporting, to forecasting, budgeting, and cash flow management, and from bookkeeping and monthly financial statements to the development of customized dashboards.
How YPTC’s Services Benefit the Social Sector
At YPTC, they help to build stronger nonprofits, one accounting department at a time. They provide the accounting and financial management services that help chief executives and board members in the social services sector determine how effectively and efficiently their organization is accomplishing its mission and provide them with the timely, accurate information needed for decision making.
- Accounting and month-end close
- Financial reporting
- Analysis and recommendations
- Data visualization
- Scenario planning and cash flow forecasting
- Board meeting attendance and training
- Policies and procedures
- Grant proposals and ad hoc reports
- Grant management
- Audit turnaround
- Federal awards grant writing and tracking
Why YPTC Partners with Social Current
“YPTC works with many types of social service organizations, whose missions are important to the communities in which we serve, and to our staff who serve them,” said YPTC Manager Sandra Magri. “Social Current works to strengthen the social services sector. YPTC partnering with Social Current makes perfect sense!”
Free Webinar from YPTC: Budget Essentials for Everyone
Ensure your organization is ready for budget season. Invite your program directors and department heads to join YPTC to see the their free webinar Budgeting for Impact: Nonprofit Budget Essentials.
Visit the YPTC website for news, webinars, and resources and to work with them.
Meet YPTC in person at SPARK 2023, Oct. 16-17 in Bethesda, Maryland.
To learn more about partnering with Social Current, please email us.
Social Current is proud to be part of Mediaplanet’s Mental Health campaign, which launched today. This supplement to USA Today includes the article, “There Is No Time to Waste: Addressing America’s Youth Mental Health Crisis” by Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson. In the article, she outlines the complex challenge of youth mental health, emphasizes the importance of cross-system collaboration and early interventions that are tailored to each child and family’s needs and culture, and asserts confidence that we can build on momentum seen through federal investments in mental health and decreased stigma.
“The message is clear — we must prioritize access to a comprehensive, coordinated, upstream network of mental health services and supports, and this must be done in collaboration across all systems that interact with youth, including child welfare, education, juvenile justice, mental health, and primary care,” says Levison-Johnson.
Social Current supports youth and family mental health by strengthening the social sector through consulting on equity, diversity, and inclusion and workforce resilience; engagement packages; learning solutions; and COA Accreditation. Our COA Accreditation standards help ensure quality mental health services are available through community-based organizations.
The publication also includes articles from:
- Actresses and mental health advocates Taraji P. Henson and Tracie Jade Jenkins
- Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Anthony Estreet, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers
- Dr. Petros Levounis, president of the American Psychiatric Association
- And more
Mental health has been in the spotlight over the past few years, and this campaign aims to keep important conversations about the topic going long into the future. This campaign shares resources for those in crisis, tips for talking to a loved one dealing with mental health issues, strategies for combatting compassion fatigue, and so much more.
Pick up a copy in today’s USA Today or flip through the pages online.
COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Health’s Project CHILD (Collaboration of Helpers Lowering Deaths of Children), today released their final evaluation report for the Child Safety Forward initiative funded by the Department of Justice (DOJ) with technical assistance led by Social Current. Child Safety Forward is a multi-year demonstration initiative, launched in October 2019 by the DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime, that engaged five sites across the United States in research, planning, and implementation around strategies aimed at reducing child injury and fatality from abuse and neglect.
“Our data review indicated that an average of 10,000 serious child injuries or deaths due to suspected abuse or neglect are reported annually in the state of Illinois with higher rates in rural counties such as Peoria and Vermilion than the more densely populated Cook County,” noted Verleaner Lane, project director for Cook County Health’s Project CHILD. “We also found that 50 percent of the children who die from fatal injuries caused by maltreatment are unknown to the child welfare system. This data led us to take a public health approach by convening a multi-disciplinary group of community stakeholders who work to support families in a variety of different settings. The identified stakeholders included healthcare providers, community health workers, maternal infant health providers, educators, and social service providers.”
The late Marjorie Fujara, a world-renowned child abuse pediatrician, who led Project CHILD before her passing in 2021, noted during the initial planning phase of the project: “Child protective services, law enforcement, and medical professionals have worked together to investigate and respond to cases of child maltreatment and resulting deaths, but none have produced lasting results in terms of preventing child fatalities because of the lack of communication and bureaucratic nature between each agency; this has produced gaps in the system that have led to dire consequences. This project aims to identify the gaps and barriers to current approaches, policies, and procedures that exist to address child abuse and neglect in children aged three years and younger in three specific Illinois counties (Cook, Vermilion, and Peoria), to determine what prevention and intervention strategies work best for families in this area, and to ultimately decrease the number of child fatalities, near fatalities, and recurring child injuries caused by child abuse and neglect in those three Illinois counties.”
Key elements of the project strategy included:
- Use of simulation training, conducted by the Child Protection Training Academy at the University of Illinois Springfield, for investigators from child welfare and law enforcement from all three counties.
- Convening of multi-disciplinary team training, conducted by Hoyleton Youth & Family Services, for IL Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and law enforcement investigators from Peoria & Vermilion County. This multi-disciplinary training was designed to help hone their collaborative skills and improve the efficiency and accuracy of decision-making.
- Utilization of geospatial risk analysis mapping to demonstrate neighborhood “hot spots” of interpersonal violence. This information was used to assist in planning the implementation of services, which included input from community members with a focus on addressing potential barriers to accessing these services.
- Development of a sustainability plan, based on the collaborative efforts of the full team, as a critical element to the long-term success of the effort.
The multi-disciplinary team (MDT) was comprised of the following organizations: Children’s Advocacy Center of Illinois; Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center; Office of the Inspector General Illinois; Hoyleton Youth and Family Services; The University of Illinois: Child Protection Training Academy Simulation Lab; Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago: Child Abuse Pediatrics -Telehealth Partnership for Resilience (Educators); Be Strong Families (parent engagement); Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; EverThrive Illinois; Calumet Public School District 132; IL State Police- Effingham; Alton Police Dept. Force Commander of the Southern IL Child Death Investigation Task Force; Southern Investigations Commander Division of Criminal Investigation 18; and more.
Among the insights from the Project CHILD strategies was the importance and impact of simulation training. The Child Protection Training Academy, located on the University of Illinois Springfield campus had created a simulation training model for DCFS Child Protection Investigators, which they deployed on behalf of the Project CHILD team. The simulation training utilized the “Hailey” scenario – one of the four cases created in partnership with the University of Missouri STL as part of a project with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called FORECAST. The Hailey case involved training for recognizing elements of unsafe sleep practices based on a fictional family with numerous underlying conditions including domestic violence, mental health concerns, substance use disorder, and suspicions of sexual & physical abuse.
The first MDT participated in simulation training on October 20, 2021, with 12 participants representing law enforcement, child protection, CAC staff, and prosecution. To draw attention to unsafe sleep practices, the environment was staged with a pack and play that was cluttered with clothing, bedding, and other objects. In addition to the pack and play concerns, the team strategically placed the simulation doll on a soft couch, to draw attention to other risk factors for unsafe sleep. Though the training was conducted on Zoom, the teams were able to “investigate” the environment through the use of the “proxy” who walked through the home with a camera, enabling the participants to see the home and its contents. Team members could ask for close up examination of particular items in order to determine what questions they might need to ask to gather additional evidence. Later trainings added additional risk factors within the house, such as a premature infant, smoking, and an additional toddler.
One of the key takeaways from the simulation training was that safe sleep issues were often not the primary concerns of members of the MDT as they observed the family’s home. In fact, upon interviewing the team, Project CHILD learned that safe sleep practices are rarely included in law enforcement training.
“The work of the Cook County Health Project CHILD team has shed new light on developing and implementing a true multi-disciplinary, public health approach to preventing child abuse and neglect injuries and fatalities,” noted Amy Templeman, director of the Within our Reach team at Social Current and the head of the technical assistance team. “Their use of simulation training to identify not just risk factors but areas of needed improvement in training across multiple disciplines offers us a road map to help inform the field of child welfare and partners in best practices moving forward.”
“We have known for some time that reducing child maltreatment injury and death is a goal that encompasses a wide range of systems and cannot be solved by child welfare alone,” noted Stacy Phillips, Victim Justice Program Specialist with the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) within the U.S. Department of Justice. “The Cook County Project CHILD initiative is helping us identify the stakeholders who have an important role to play in keeping children safe and the tools and resources they need to be effective.”
In addition to Cook County Health, the other Child Safety Forward demonstration sites include St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut; Indiana Department of Health; Sacramento County CA’s Child Abuse Prevention Council; and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The final report from St. Francis Hospital was released in February 2023 and can be accessed here. The remaining final reports will be issued in the summer/fall of 2023. The technical assistance team is led by Within Our Reach, an office at Social Current.
About the Within Our Reach Office
Within Our Reach is an office established within Social Current (formerly the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities) to further the recommendations of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. The goal of Within Our Reach is to equip policymakers, practitioners, and advocates with the tools they need to fundamentally reform child welfare. Based on the commission’s national strategy, desired reform includes a proactive public health approach—a shared family and community responsibility to keep children safe. Within Our Reach is made possible through collaboration with Casey Family Programs, whose mission is to provide, improve, and prevent the need for foster care.
About Social Current
Social Current activates the power of the social sector by bringing together a dynamic network of human/social service organizations and partners. Leveraging the collective experience of the field and research, we energize and activate the sector and drive continuous evolution and improvement. Social Current amplifies the work of the social sector through collaboration, innovation, policy, and practice excellence. We offer access to intellectual capital of thousands of professionals within our network through peer groups, learning opportunities, collective advocacy, individualized consultation, tools, and resources that address the sector’s most critical challenges.
Disclaimer: This product was supported by cooperative agreement number 2019-V3-GX-K005, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) has awarded a contract to the Health Federation of Philadelphia — which will partner with Social Current, a network of social sector organizations working together to activate the power of the social sector — to create a learning community and deliver trauma-informed training and technical assistance to DHS staff and contractors. The award is responsive to Pennsylvania’s 5-year Title-IV E Prevention Plan outlining the state’s vision for becoming a trauma-informed, healing-centered state as explained in the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 and Governor Tom Wolf’s 2019 Executive Order on protecting vulnerable populations.
The training will be targeted to DHS staff, Community Umbrella Agency staff and provider agencies, including kinship care/foster care, residential (congregate) care, and juvenile justice providers. Efforts will include establishing a trauma-informed framework for child welfare service delivery to serve children and families who have had chronic adverse childhood or other serious, traumatic experiences. Additionally, the goal of the training will be to support and enhance workforce well-being and resilience, and to address disparities in the percentage of families of color who are reported to child welfare agencies.
“The Health Federation of Philadelphia has a 40-year history of supporting health and human services systems in Philadelphia to ensure high quality and equitable access to care for all residents” CEO Natalie Levovich said. “These deep local roots, along with our strong partnership with nationally recognized Social Current and a team of diverse local consultants with expertise in trauma-informed care, anti-racism, child welfare training and research and evaluation, sets the stage for meaningful, effective work that will result in a stronger, more equitable child welfare network in Philadelphia.”
“Social Current works across the human services sector to apply learnings from neurosciences and trauma-informed curricula to enhance workforce resilience, support equity, diversity and inclusion, and build the capacity of the human services workforce to thrive in the systems in which they serve,” noted Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO of Social Current. “We are thrilled to partner with the Health Federation of Philadelphia, our long-standing partner Public Health Management Corporation and others to develop and support individual, collective and organizational resilience for those in the Philadelphia DHS staff and partners.”
The relationship between the Health Federation, Social Current, and our other partners brings together local and national expertise on trauma informed care and leading effective learning communities. Building on the Health Federation’s experience working with DHS and many other key organizations in the region, Social Current draws their expertise at the national level working with the full range of human service agencies, with a strong focus on those serving children and youth.
About the Health Federation of Philadelphia The Health Federation of Philadelphia serves as a keystone supporting a network of Community Health Centers, as well as the broader base of public and private-sector organizations that deliver health and human services to vulnerable populations. HFP promotes community health by improving access to and quality of health care; by identifying, testing and implementing solutions to health disparities; and by providing training and technical assistance to help other organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.
The Child Welfare League of America publishes a bimonthly issue of Children’s Voice, a magazine that features a wide array of topics that encourage public discussion and debate among those who are committed to helping children and families. In their first issue of 2023, Social Current leaders were among those voices in two different feature articles:
- Texas Change in Mind: A Collaborative Model for Infusing Brain Science & Equity Practices into Partnerships with Families and Children by Karen Johnson and Kelly Martin
- Elevating Social Determinants of Health to Transform Child Welfare Systems into Child and FamilyWell-being System by Jody Levison-Johnson and Amy Templeman
Read both articles and consider purchasing the rest of the Children’s Voice issue to learn from what others are doing in the sector.
By: Jody Levison-Johnson and Amy Templeman
All families need help sometimes, and to deliver that help, we must understand the external conditions that impact their lives. The human and social services sector is at the forefront of an evolutionary change, one that aims to realign social services to be more preventative with greater upstream resources that focus more directly on addressing the social determinants of health (SDoH) to achieve better outcomes.
While we have increased our understanding of the importance of addressing external conditions, including social and economic opportunities, access to community-based resources and supports, greater health equity and more, our nation’s investment in place-based supports has not kept pace.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed a harsh light on the public health disparities in our nation. Communities of color are more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022), demonstrating that ZIP codes are still the top determinant of how we live, work, and play (Ducharme & Wolfson, 2019). The opportunities lie in examining the discriminatory practices that undermine well-being so that systems can better address root causes.
The potential to improve health outcomes and more fully address SDoH through greater investments in human services could transform a range of systems, including health, education, welfare, and criminal justice systems and ultimately result in greater well-being for all families.
To achieve this will require a tremendous shift in resources, both at the federal funding level to redirect funding to more front-end resources, through policies that adapt to a more preventative approach, and in the way that place-based services are delivered by community-based organizations. Too many of our social systems were structured to respond only after harm occurs; by realigning our nation’s social service delivery systems and reimagining the power and impact of the social sector, we can deliver on the promise of equitable access to health and well-being for all people.
Our Nation Under Invests in Social Services
The Commonwealth Fund recently released a report that ranks the United States last in health care systems among 11 of the wealthiest countries in the world, despite having the highest percentage spending of its GDP on health care. The United States spends twice as much on health care as other developed nations and yet, fares the worst in key health metrics, such as life expectancy and maternal and infant mortality. In fact, a recent report from the CDC found that the United States has the highest rate of maternal death of any developed nation (Kekatos, 2022).
How can that be? According to data from the Bassett Healthcare Network and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, only 20% of health outcomes are attributable to actual health care while 80% are attributable to SDoH, including environmental, behavioral, and socioeconomic factors (Bassett Healthcare Network, n.d.).
It’s telling that our nation’s investment in human services that address SDoH is among the lowest in developed nations (Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, 2018). Researchers have begun to draw a direct linkage between that investment disparity and health outcomes, noting that “states with higher ratios of social to health spending had better health outcomes one and two years later” (Bradley et al., 2016).
The pandemic helped us all understand that no family is immune to stress or challenges. Stress can overload families and contribute to greater risk of adversity. Times of turmoil often pave the way for key societal shifts. Today, we have the opportunity to shift our focus more toward addressing social determinants and realign our systems to better support all families.
Supporting the Shift from Child Welfare Systems to Child and Family Well-being Systems
A blueprint for this can be found in the shift from child welfare systems to child and family well-being systems that offer families the support they need to prevent harm before it occurs. The transformation that we see today is moving away from the idea that it is solely the function of the child protection agency to keep kids safe. Instead, CPS is one component in a shared, community-wide responsibility for child and family well-being with an emphasis on prevention and a public health approach that addresses SDoH.
For our child welfare system to truly move to a preventive approach, upstream resources must be rooted in community and not tied to intervention by a government system to access them. This would require communities working in partnership with funders (often governmental entities) to identify their specific needs and design supports that effectively respond to them.
In fact, in December 2021 researchers from Tufts Medical Center found that incidents of child abuse actually dropped during the pandemic at the start of the lockdown, despite many pundits suggesting that incidents would rise due to children being isolated at home (Sege & Stephens, 2021). Evidence suggests that while the pandemic increased familial stress for many, it also afforded families access to additional financial supports and increased time at home contributing to enhanced parent-child attachment. These factors, the researchers believe, potentially account for this drop in abuse and maltreatment.
We are at a unique moment in history. Our deepening understanding of what it takes to weather the storms of a global pandemic is resulting in a shift in the way we think about supporting families. In fact, we are more primed than ever before to think about economic and family supports and to tackle child welfare in a way that emphasizes supporting families over penalizing them.
And that thinking is supported by an ever-growing body of research. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago recently released a brief on the impact of concrete economic supports for families and its correlations to reducing involvement with the child welfare system (Wiener et al., 2021). Their research identified poverty as a key driver of child welfare system involvement and suggested that even modest economic supports could help stabilize families and prevent the need for removing children from the home.
Systems Transformation is Complex but Achievable
Reshaping child welfare systems into child and family well-being systems that can address SDoH will require a broad focus on system transformation. With shared values focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion, we must modernize child welfare systems through redesign with parent and youth partners, drive cross-system integration and operations, provide sustainable financing, and remove systemic and structural barriers upholding racist practices and policies that contribute to poor health outcomes.
In 2021, with those goals in mind, key leaders in the social service sector and Social Current convened a group of human service sector leaders to develop guiding policy principles for the social sector’s work through the lens of SDoH. The group identified seven guiding principles that are critical to addressing SDoH across the child welfare sector. They are:
Partnering with the Entire Health Ecosystem
- The collective health and well-being ecosystem must be at the table and engaged. We are not in it alone. We must co-identify barriers to care and solutions. We want to mobilize and support the field in any identified workforce development needs.
Changing Power Dynamics
- Health and well-being systems must seek to balance power among all key stakeholders. Policymakers should promote and require that health care systems and the social sector, including community-based organizations (CBOs), work together to improve individual health outcomes, and provide reimbursement strategies that incentivize and further collaboration that shares power with parents, youth, and community members.
- Health and well-being systems must provide individualized care. These systems will commit to identifying barriers and co-creating solutions with the community and those with lived experience to address systemic trends that negatively impact individuals.
Addressing Root Causes
- Throughout history our culture, economy, and policies have created both intended and unintended consequences that drive disparities in opportunity and outcomes. These systems and practices are deeply rooted in who we are and inform the decisions we make. All solutions must address these assumptions.
- Racism is embedded in all sectors of our society. It must be called out and confronted. We must name communities who are damaged by discrimination which include but are not limited to Black, Latino/a/x, Indigenous, Asian Americans, and LGBTQ+ populations. We also must call out inequitable policies that contribute to poor health outcomes.
Forming and Scaling Solutions
- Together, the systems must explore evidence-based interventions designed to eliminate health disparities, while also being mindful of opportunities to implement and scale new innovations and promising practices.
Prevention and Early Detection
- Health and well-being systems, with the engagement of CBOs, must commit to moving further upstream when developing solutions. Identifying protective factors makes a difference for individuals to enhance their resilience and well-being. Strengthening individuals and families before they come upon difficulty leads to greater population well-being and health care savings overall.
System transformation is never easy, but these guiding principles can be applied as a roadmap for change and help transform a broad range of social sector systems in a way that is responsive where it needs to be and fair in its treatment and decision-making for children and families. And these lessons are applicable across the entire social and human-serving ecosystem, including child welfare, health care systems, juvenile justice, education, and more.
Jody Levison-Johnson is the President and CEO of Social Current, an organization focused on advancing the work of the social sector through collaboration, innovation, policy, and practice excellence. Jody is a longstanding champion for systems change that helps individuals and communities thrive. Over several decades, her career has crossed a variety of settings including private providers and state and local governments. Jody holds a MSW degree from Syracuse University and a MA and PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University.
Amy Templeman, a kinship and adoptive parent, is the director of Within Our Reach and director of practice excellence at Social Current. In these roles, she works to support families and promote equity. Before joining Social Current, Amy served as executive director of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, leading the effort to produce a report to the president and Congress. Amy helped to establish the Office of Well Being at the District of Columbia’s child welfare agency. She gained research experience at The Urban Institute and Johns Hopkins University.
- Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. (2018). A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America. Author. https://www.alliance1.org/web/resources/pubs/national-imperative-joining-forces-strengthen-human-servicesamerica.aspx
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2021). States Spending Little on Prevention Services, Survey Finds. Author. https://www.aecf.org/blog/states-spending-little-on-prevention-services-survey-finds
- Bassett Healthcare Network. (n.d.) Center for Population Health. Author. https://www.bassett.org/research-institute/centerpopulation-health
- Bradley, E.H., Canavan, M., Rogan, E., et al. (2016). Variation In Health Outcomes: The Role Of Spending On Social Services, Public Health, And Health Care, 2000–09. Health Affairs, 35(5). https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0814
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). What is health equity? Author. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/whatis/
- Ducharme, J., & Wolfson, E. (2019). Your ZIP Code Might Determine How Long You Live—and the Difference Could Be Decades. TIME. https://time.com/5608268/zip-code-health/
- Kekatos, M. (2022). Maternal mortality rates increased during 1st year of COVID pandemic: CDC. ABCNews. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/maternal-mortality-rates-increased1st-year-covid-pandemic/story?id=83061990
- Sege, R. & Stephens, A. (2021). Child Physical Abuse Did Not Increase During the Pandemic. JAMA Pediatrics, 176(4),338–340. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.5476 Weiner, D., Anderson, C., & Thomas, K. (2021). System
- Transformation to Support Child & Family Well-Being: The Central Role of Economic & Concrete Supports. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. https://www.chapinhall.org/wp-content/uploads/Economic-and-Concrete-Supports.pdf
This article was originally posted in CWLA’s Children’s Voice Magazine – Vol. 32 #1, 2023. To read through the entirety of Vol, 32, purchase the issue on the Child Welfare READ of America’s website.
By Karen Johnson and Kelly Martin
A mid our day-to-day work to partner with families and children, especially during an ongoing pandemic, it often is challenging to stay apprised of and incorporate the advancing knowledge, research, and evidence around brain science. However, brain science holds great promise in helping us to increase equity, support all families, and strengthen our workforce. The science is clear—adversity and toxic stress can change the brain’s architecture—and preventing and mitigating both are critical in every facet of our work (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2005/2014).
The Texas Change in Mind initiative, convened and led by Social Current, supports 10 community-based organizations that are working to create impact through intersecting levels of change (Social Current, n.d.). Funded by the Episcopal Health Foundation, The Powell Foundation, St. David’s Foundation, and an anonymous donor, the initiative uses a learning collaborative model that allows the organizations to learn from one another, Social Current, and other experts. The Texas organizations are using brain science and equity practices to effect transformative change by promoting the foundations of safe, stable relationships; positive childhood experiences; healthy development; and individual and collective resilience.
This work is guided by the Texas Change in Mind initiative’s theory of change that includes six key areas: Brain science, racial equity, organizational resilience, community impact, communications, and evaluation. Through a wide array of learning engagements over two years, the teams are incorporating new knowledge into their own organizational theories of change and determining their paths forward.
Staff and Organizational Resilience
As the initiative launched in spring 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the participating organizations noted this opportunity could not have come at a better time. They already had been working to embed brain science and equity and were eager for additional support in building capacity and resilience in their workforces.
“So many staff have experienced firsthand inequities regarding COVID-19 in their families and personal lives,” said Nadine Scamp, CEO of Santa Maria Hostel. “We have been thinking about how we can support our staff so they can support our families. Change in Mind is an opportunity to put thought and resources behind this question.”
To equip staff with resilience-building tools, organizations are teaching them brain science concepts, including executive functioning (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2020), and the sequence of engagement: regulate, relate, reason (Perry, 2020). These concrete strategies are being integrated into work with families and helping staff to stay regulated, build psychological safety, and engage in conversations that advance equity practices.
Hand in hand with embedding brain science principles, the Texas organizations are advancing their equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) journeys by administering the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®; see www.idiinventory.com) to key staff. This cross-cultural assessment of intercultural competence is a first step in developing a plan for personal growth. In addition, the organizations’ executive leaders are receiving consultative support from Social Current’s EDI experts on advancing their organizational efforts. This work is stretching teams to, “reach across the organization, be inclusive of staff and team up with cultural proficiency and inclusion folks,” noted Dr. Teri Wood, a Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) clinician and coordinator with the Austin Ed Fund, which supports the Austin Independent School District (AISD).
“Working to grow our EDI skills can be uncomfortable at times and is often hard, but we know you can’t have trauma-informed, brain-based learning/services without EDI. They are interwoven,” said Karen McWhorter, director of development at Family Service Center of Galveston County, who is seeking funding to expand administration of the IDI® across the organization.
Children’s Museum Houston (CMH) has been advancing the work of its Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Committee, which was started before the pandemic and seeks to make improvements to how it designs and provides programs. The CMH team is adding brain science modules to its new employee onboarding and equity training and regularly engaging with all staff in advancing racial equity.
Texas Change in Mind
“We think of this as a journey—a process. It’s called “Change in Mind” for a reason—it’s really a shift. It makes us put things in perspective,” said Lisa Williams, director of gallery programs at CMH. “Children in this pandemic have suffered in a way that we don’t even know at this point. We are trying to position ourselves to give our families and communities what they need from us.”
Child and Family Well-Being
By focusing on supporting staff, building capacities, and strengthening organizational resilience—all through the lens of brain science and a commitment to equity and justice—the participating organizations are already seeing positive impacts in organization culture shifts and their ability to support children and families.
“We have appreciated the intentionality of bringing the equity, diversity and inclusion conversation into brain science conversations,” said Scamp. “Having the space for staff to wrestle with their perceptions and to support participants in moving beyond stigma and bias regarding their substance use and mental health challenges is foundational change.”
Santa Maria Hostel primarily works with mothers who are experiencing the interwoven challenges of substance use, housing insecurity, and mental health concerns. Santa Maria Hostel’s recent work has focused on supporting healthy relationships between parent participants and their infants and toddlers. They also are building out-of-schooltime programming to focus on school age children.
Originally this looked like a traditional afterschool program. However, given what the team is learning about brain science and intentionally centering families in their children’s development, the program is morphing into a family-based afterschool program with an emphasis on strengthening attachment and serve-and-return communication (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child., n.d.).
The multi-generation approach, a hallmark of brain science-based strategies, is also being used by the Austin Independent School District. As Becky Murillo, LCSW and TBRI clinician, said, “This is going to make our support to schools, students, and families even stronger.” They are working with a group of parents to help them learn about brain development and how they can support their children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. “Parents understand how it better equips them as caregivers and as parents,” said Murillo. “As they learn, they say, ‘We need to get more parents at this table!’ It feels like an empowerment model to me.”
As the work of the initiative continues, NORC at the University of Chicago (see www.norc.org) is overseeing multiple evaluation objectives, including evaluating the effectiveness of the Change in Mind learning collaborative model in helping sites achieve positive results at individual, organization, and community system levels; building the capacity of sites to use developmental evaluation; and assessing the uptake of racial equity at organizational and community network levels.
We will know more about impact of this work as evaluation results come in. For now, we can attest that the Texas Change in Mind Learning Collaborative is an exciting opportunity to accelerate the application of brain science and equity into systems change efforts in the communities served by the 10 participating organizations. These leaders are being supported to rethink, reflect, and reimagine at all levels of their work—personally, organizationally, and systemically. They’re sharing ideas, supporting each other, and creating a ripple effect in their networks. As Dr. Wood says, “This has brought life, excitement, and hope to our work. Our team is excited for every meeting and asking, ‘What can we do next?”
Karen Johnson, MSW, LCSW leads the development of Social Current’s Change in Mind Institute (see https://www.social-current.
org/engage/change-in-mind-institute/) and the Texas Change in Mind Learning Collaborative.
Kelly Martin, MS, is the Director of Practice Excellence at Social Current. Her work focuses on applied developmental psychology,
educational success, policy, and advocacy, and supporting the work of the Change in Mind Institute.
- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (n.d.) A Guide to Serve and Return: How Your Interaction with Children Can
Build Brains. Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/guide/a-guide-to-serve-and-return-how-your-interactionwith-children-can-build-brains/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=september_2019
- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain:
Working Paper 3. Updated Edition. Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2005/05/Stress_Disrupts_Architecture_Developing_Brain-1.pdf
- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2020). Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body: Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health Are Deeply Intertwined: Working Paper No. 15. Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/connecting-the-brain-to-the-rest-of-the-body-early-childhood-development-and-lifelong-health-are-deeply-intertwined/
- Perry, B. (2020, April 20). Regulate, Relate, Reason (Sequence of Engagement): Neurosequential Network Stress & Trauma Series.
NN COVID-19 Stress, Distress & Trauma Series. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNuxy7FxEVk
- Social Current. (n.d.) Change in Mind Institute. Author. https://www.social-current.org/engage/change-in-mind-institute
This article was originally posted in CWLA’s Children’s Voice Magazine – Vol. 32 #1, 2023. To read through the entirety of Vol, 32, purchase the issue on the Child Welfare League of America’s website.
Social Current and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) want to learn from human services leaders and individuals with lived experience to inform the way we work together.
We are conducting several focus groups on advancing equity, health, and well-being in our communities and need your help spreading the word to those who have accessed services from your organization. We seek to learn from their rich perspectives and experiences of feeling valued/heard, improving service access, and addressing racial disparities and inequities.
Focus groups are virtual, and will be offered throughout April and May:
People who have experience accessing services and resources offered by your organizations will be provided a participation stipend. Space is limited, so please register in advance. Only those who have registered in advance and received confirmation can attend.
We are truly excited about this work and hope the knowledge we gain from these focus groups will help us create a leadership framework for community-based and public sector human services leaders that will change the way we work together and across boundaries.
If you have questions or need further details, please contact Trinka Landry-Bourne at email@example.com or Michon Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to hear from you! Human services leaders across the country are working to include the expertise of individuals with lived experience. In partnership with the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), we’re seeking examples of such work to spotlight how others are engaging in efforts that help address structural racism, advance equity, diversity, and inclusion, and authentically center community to drive systems change. Learn more and submit your stories here.
We kindly request you submit your responses no later than Friday, March 31st.
If you have questions or need further details, please contact Trinka Landry-Bourne or Michon Hicks.
Social Current is seeking workshop presentations for its SPARK 2023 conference, to be held Oct. 16-17 in Bethesda, Maryland. This event will activate our collective power to spark and elevate bold thinking and new conversations around some of our sector’s most vexing challenges. We will provide participants with an innovative forum to connect, learn, refuel, and be inspired.
The deadline to submit presentations has now passed.
Social Current’s mission is to advocate for and implement equitable solutions through collaboration, innovation, federal public policy, and practice excellence. This conference will convene and unite a diverse community from across our network and sector to share their expertise and drive toward an equitable society where all people can thrive.
We welcome all presentations that will engage, challenge, educate, and inspire participants to act. While emphasis will be placed on the core areas below, we welcome submissions that address other current issues affecting and important to our sector. Social Current will not accept proposal submissions intended to market or sell a product, consultant, or program.
Core Areas of Focus
Sessions should emphasize the integration of brain science-aligned, healing-centered, and trauma-informed knowledge, skills, and strategies into organizational and systems practices and policies. Consider how the application of brain science can be used to prevent and mitigate toxic stress and build child, family, and community health and well-being.
Sessions should discuss keys to achieving COA Accreditation and explore the immediate and ongoing benefits of accreditation on organizations, the workforce, and persons served. Consider topics such as the return on investment in accreditation, the importance of using data to impact service delivery, engaging your board and/or staff in the accreditation process, leveraging your accreditation, and “best in class” examples of standard implementation.
EDI, Belonging, and Justice
Sessions should address how organizations can create just, fair, and inclusive organizational cultures and communities through policies and practices, organizational leadership, and programs and services. Consider inequities experienced in health, education, economic, systems involvement, the workplace, based on race, sexual orientation, age, gender, socio-economic status, and ability.
Innovative Programs and Services
Sessions should discuss innovative programs and solutions that contribute to organizational excellence and/or help all individuals and communities thrive. Consider examples of cross-sector collaboration, practices that advance financial sustainability, programs that support integrated care or address the social determinants of health, and more.
Workforce Resilience and Leadership
Sessions should address how to recruit, retain, and support a workforce so that individuals can stay healthy and well amid ongoing change and uncertainty. Consider approaches that promote brain science awareness; equity and hiring from the community; building positive organizational culture; supporting healthy workplace relationships; and mitigating the effects of vicarious trauma, moral injury, and other workforce concerns.