"Our proposal is a social moonshot, because that’s what’s possible and necessary. Our goal is nothing short of radically transforming how we support each community, so that every child grows up, free from trauma, in family-friendly cities and towns."

—From Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment, Preface: Waking up from a bad dream

If one in eight children suffered from an unknown but debilitating virus, outrage would boil, editorials would harangue public officials, and agencies would mobilize to counter the threat. The CDC would scramble resources to develop and share effective preventive measures while searching for a safe, effective vaccine. We would fight the scourge as we would a war of national survival, reclaiming our children from the grip of this terrible, devastating disease.1

With research showing child maltreatment is substantiated for one in eight children in the US, it’s clear Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a broader category of experiences than just maltreatment, are at an epidemic scale in our society. Slowly and silently, these experiences destroy essential relationships, fill our jails, diminish our workforce, inhibit learning in our schools, overtax our emergency rooms, and encourage the sort of hopelessness that drives people to drugs and other self-harm. Everyone is harmed, directly or indirectly, and we have no choice but to use all the community-based ingenuity we can muster to devise a strategic, evidence-based prevention and treatment process to ensure that our most vulnerable populations are reached and helped.


Our child welfare systems across the country face huge challenges responding to the most extreme forms of adverse child experiences. In 2014 the Safety+Success team developed the Casey Family Programs-sponsored Data Leaders for Child Welfare program. In our work with child welfare agencies in New Mexico, Connecticut and New York City, we identified the critical disconnect between the services needed to effectively prevent childhood adversity and the family-friendly services available. Building strong families and resilient communities requires identifying the gaps in services and addressing them with proven strategies and constant attention to positive outcomes.

In 2017 we developed the Resilience Leaders program to provide all community partners, working in collaboration with child welfare, with the tools to create safe childhoods in family-friendly communities with a collaborative and data-driven process.

In 2018 we published the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment by Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello. The book explores the root causes of childhood adversity and the conditions of the communities where families live, known as the social determinants of health and a predictor of health and safety. The authors’ hypothesis is that by creating resilient well-resourced communities, we strengthen the resiliency of children and families. The book also contains the Resilient Community Experience Survey that can be used to assess how accessible vital services are to children and families. The survey results can identify gaps and help prioritize focus areas and local Resilience Leaders projects.


We launched Resilience Leaders to provide a framework to strengthen the capacity of agencies and the communities they serve.

Our goals are:

  • Raising public awareness of the financial and emotional costs of childhood adversity, trauma, and maltreatment
  • Advocating for appropriate government funding and infrastructure to support evidence-based services shown to strengthen families
  • Promoting trauma-informed care for those who have experienced childhood adversity, trauma and maltreatment
  • Ensuring that every family has access to behavioral health care
  • Strengthening the capacity of every community to provide vital family-friendly services that are accessible, affordable and culturally appropriate including: health care, parent support services, early childhood programs, food, shelter, transportation, youth mentors and family-centered schools and job training
  • Providing all community agencies with a collaborative and data-driven process to achieve meaningful outcomes
  • Introducing community agencies to technology that improves data collection and analysis, training, communication and networking

We promote a comprehensive approach and invite collaboration between researchers, data specialists, trainers, technology experts, program managers and field workers.


Managing team: These people work as partners, coordinating the process of community awareness, education and capacity-building. They facilitate the leadership team meetings, recruit agency leaders for the Resilience Leaders course, and provide ongoing technical assistance to course graduates as they implement local innovations. Team members sponsor Community Conversations, sharing with community members the key concepts from the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment, as well as updates on all Resilience Leaders projects. The team is ground central for Resilience Leaders and keep the many moving parts working seamlessly.

Task Forces: These Task Forces are made up of community members who are local leaders from the public and private sectors with a strong commitment to families. They are been trained in continuous quality improvement (CQI) by completing the Resilience Leaders course. All are committed to a collaborative and data-driven process for preventing the epidemic rates of childhood trauma and maltreatment. All understand the social determinants of health and how the conditions families grow up in have a significant impact on their safety, health and education outcomes. The Task Force members serve as a brain trust, supporting the development of all local project innovations. The Task Forces are guided by the collective impact model which promotes:

  • sharing a vision and goals
  • collecting and learning from data
  • valuing resident's life experiences and stories
  • communicating successes and challenges
  • building a sustainable backbone institution to house all work
  • using technology to build efficiency
  • tracking progress to ensure measurable outcomes

There are 10 Local Resilience Leaders Task Forces.


  • Task Force: Behavioral Health Care
  • Task Force: Medical/Dental Care
  • Task Force: Shelter/Housing
  • Task Force: Food
  • Task Force: Transportation to Vital Services


  • Task Force: Parent Supports
  • Task Force: Early Childhood Learning Programs
  • Task Force: Youth Mentors
  • Task Force: Family-Centered Schools
  • Task Force: Job Training/Entrepreneurship Support

Course: The website is a learning management system, housing the five-lesson course, informed by the data-driven framework of continuous quality improvement (CQI):
Lesson 1: Engage
Lesson 2: Assess
Lesson 3: Plan
Lesson 4: Act
Lesson 5: Evaluate

The site also is a repository for data and research focused on our top ten priority areas: behavioral health care, parent supports, early childhood learning programs, youth mentorship, family centered schools, housing, food, medical/dental care, transportation, and job training. The lessons contains more than forty tutorials that can be shared with course participant’s staff to promote transfer of learning and a shared understanding of key concepts.

Course Instructors, Coaches and Advisors: These are experts who share with course participants their experiences improving the quality and quantity of ten vital family-friendly services. They may specialize in public health, child welfare, education, health equity, social justice, technology or any of our ten priority areas. These are socially-engaged professionals who represent a wealth of knowledge and serve as advisors to course graduates.

Course Participants/Innovators: These are leaders working within family-friendly agencies who seek to use a collaborative and data-driven approach to improve the quality and quantity of services for families, youth and children. Participants develop local innovations that are implemented upon completing the course. Innovations are developed with the ongoing support of the course instructors, coaches and the managing team.

Community Partners: Resilience Leaders is a citywide education, empowerment and capacity-building process, engaging local stakeholders including:

  • The mayor and city councilors
  • County commissioners and leadership
  • The school board and superintendent
  • State representatives
  • Foundation leadership
  • Hospital Boards and leadership
  • Child Welfare Dept. leadership
  • Public Health Dept. leadership
  • Chamber of Commerce leadership
  • Technology business leadership
  • Non-profit agency leadership

Evaluation Team: These are the data specialists and evaluation experts who advise on all areas related to assessment and evaluation. They work closely with the managing team and leadership team to put in place an evaluation plan to track meaningful and measurable progress with all projects and innovations. They assess the experience of all course graduates, measuring satisfaction with the course, increases in knowledge and a sense of empowerment. They also support the implementation of the Resilient Community Experience Survey to assess parent’s and youth’s access to ten vital family-friendly services.

Social Media: We encourage all our program participants to write articles and share insights on our RISK TO RESILIENCE BLOG and Q+A sites.


The Resilience Leaders project is an initiative of the non-profit Safety+Success Communities collective, the team that has designed learning experiences and resources for Casey Family Programs, NYC Administration for Children's Services, Connecticut Department of Children and Families, New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families, South Carolina Department of Education, National Education Association, Rhode Island Department of Health, Santa Fe Public Schools, State of New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


To learn more about the Resilience Leaders program, mobilizing your city leaders around strengthening systems of care, creating safe childhoods and resilient families — please contact us.