Using What We Know to Build a Better Child and Family Well-Being System for the Future

Commitments of High-Impact Nonprofit Organizations

  • Leading with Vision
  • Advancing Equity
  • Partnering with Purpose

North Star Recommendations

  • Shifting from Service Provision to Outcomes
  • Improving Capacity for Innovation

Child welfare is at a moment of reckoning. Reckoning with its history of systemic racism, over-reporting of people living in poverty to child protection systems, and its structural design that too often removes children from their families. Many are calling to transform our current system, and community-based organizations are actively involved in that transformation as they move their focus upstream in response to the Family First Prevention Services Act, which incentivizes organizations, for the first time, to keep kids out of foster care. 

At the same time—amid the COVID-19 pandemic—there is a national narrative being driven by mainstream media coverage that children are unsafe in their homes because calls to child protection systems are down. However, focusing on the role of mandatory reporters as the solution to child abuse falls short. Many of the cases being reported during the pandemic are low risk, and only 15% of reports by mandatory reporters are substantiated by child welfare agencies. The overwhelming majority of cases that come to the attention of child welfare are due to neglect, and often due to poverty. Moreover, mandatory reporting can be clouded by racial and socioeconomic bias. We must be vigilant against bias and structural racism leading to family separation. We must change the national narrative to one that is focused on solutions, offers hope, and promotes the strengths and assets of families.

We need to reimagine the child welfare system to build a better child and family well-being system. Through this learning series, participants will gain insight into:

  • Lessons learned from previous disasters and how we might apply them to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts
  • Building an equitable and just child welfare system
  • Applying brain science research, including resilience, into our systems
  • What creating a 21st-century child and family well-being system entails

Each session will feature a panel of speakers, including an organization engaged on the ground.  

Incorporating Youth Voice with the Greater Hartford Youth Leadership Academy
Youth from the Greater Hartford Youth Leadership Academy, a program of Hartford Communities That Care, will participate in each of this course’s four sessions. After each, they will share their thoughts and opinions on the topic in an on-demand video for course participants to review. 

Sessions and Networking Opportunities

All sessions will be recorded and available for on-demand viewing through Dec. 22, 2020 for paid registrants. 

Networking: Family First Coffee Hour

Thursday, Oct. 22 from 10-11 a.m. CT

Join us for an informal discussion about implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act. As October 2021, the final implementation deadline for states, nears, this will be a great opportunity to check in with one another. We’ll learn from each other about innovative approaches including how states are using Family First Transition Act dollars to support changes to their child welfare systems. This session will include breakout groups by topic area, so that participants can learn and share with one another. Participants from around the country will share their planning processes, practice implications, and policy changes. They will also talk about data being collected that will inform changes. Bring your coffee and breakfast or a snack and join us for this important discussion!

Session 1: Using Lessons Learned from Natural Disasters and Tragedies to Inform COVID-19 Response and Recovery Activities

Thursday, Oct. 29 from 10-11:30 a.m. CT

Participants will learn about the impact that disasters and tragedies, such as COVID-19, have on communities; how recovery-oriented communities succeed; and how effective strategies, like applying long-term trauma-informed grief support services for communities affected by tragedies can be essential. Research shows that disasters have a much greater impact on low-income communities and communities of color. As part of this learning series, participants will explore the institutionalized racism that weaves throughout our society and shows itself in many ways, including in the context of the environment and natural disasters. 


  • Apply lessons learned from disaster relief efforts to COVID-19 response
  • Analyze temporary changes made at local, state, national levels due to COVID-19 to determine what should be permanent
  • Participate in national advocacy efforts related to COVID-19 response and recovery


  • Sarah Bacon, senior advisor on ACEs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 
  • Maria Collins, vice president, New York Life Foundation 
  • The Honorable Ernestine Gray, Judge of Orleans Parish Juvenile Court 
  • Sallie Lynch, Senior Program and Development Consultant, Tuesday’s Children 

Session 2: Building Justice and Equity in Child Welfare Agencies

Thursday, Nov. 5 from 1-2:30 p.m. CT

This engaging experience will highlight disproportionality and racial injustice in child welfare, feature issues specific to LGBTQ youth, and provide actionable takeaways for participants. 


  • Why and how organizations should review their policies and make changes to advance equity
  • Participate in future national advocacy efforts to build a 21st-century child and family well-being system


  • Sixto Cancel, founder & CEO, Think of Us 
  • Alison Delpercio, director of the All Children - All Families project, Human Rights Campaign 
  • Shrounda Selivanoff, director of public policy, Children’s Home Society of Washington

Session 3: Resilience and Learnings from Brain Science

Thursday, Nov. 12 from 1-2:30 p.m. CT

Participants will learn about innovative approaches, strategies, and how to inform systems change with brain science research; uncover implications for their work; and leave with turnkey approaches to integrate brain science concepts into their organizations. 

Through the advancing neurosciences, we know that the physical and psychological impacts of constant stress are toxic through too much cortisol production. In addition, people of color are more likely to experience systemic inequities, such as racism, poverty, and violence. This session will highlight the implications of racism and poverty on the brain and the negative impact on adult physical and mental health outcomes.


  • Apply brain science research to organizational policies, practices, and procedures 
  • Apply an equity lens to efforts to integrate brain science research into policy and systems
  • Participate in national advocacy efforts to advance the use of brain science research into administrative regulation and legislation


  • Julius Mullen, chief clinical officer, Children and Families First 
  • David Paxton, chief clinical officer, The Village Network 
  • Stacy Phillips, victim justice program specialist, Office for Victims of Crime, Department of Justice 
  • Richard Davidson, director of the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Session 4: 21st-Century Child and Family Well-Being Systems and a Pivot Toward Prevention

Thursday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m.-Noon CT

This session will focus on policies that promote well-being, strong families, and the prevention of child maltreatment. Essential to this conversation is the understanding that systemic injustices in our society limit access and opportunity for some children and families. Many of our systems were designed to perpetuate this injustice; as a result, there is disproportionate representation of people of color and LGBTQ youth in our current child welfare system.


  • At the community level, ensuring the right partners are involved in child well-being efforts
  • At the organizational and community levels, assessing how prevention programs are funded
  • Engage in data analysis to identify protective and risk factors and gaps in prevention services
  • Participate in future national advocacy efforts to build a 21st-century child and family well-being system


  • Clare Anderson, senior policy fellow, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
  • Melissa Merrick, president and CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America 
  • Paul Miller, division chief, Crawfordsville Fire Department
  • Alise Morrissey director of family impact, Children’s Home Society of Washington
  • David Sanders, executive vice president of systems improvement, Casey Family Programs

Learning Series Sponsors

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Contact our Excelerator support team via email or by calling 800-221-3726, option 3 or 414-359-6578. Our hours of operation are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. CT.