Jennifer Jones was working in the child welfare division at the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services when she first had the epiphany that adverse childhood experiences play a much larger role in the long-term health and well-being of children. In an interview with The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, she noted,  “It was one of those moments when it all started to make sense. Childhood adversity doesn’t happen in isolation. We need to move beyond only addressing one adversity or another and move toward taking a social ecological approach to working with families… A lot of our systems are set up to help people address their problems—be it child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, or food insecurity. These issues are important; people need help now. But if we are to build a culture of health, we need to move beyond the immediate outcome and create solutions that are meaningful, sustaining and focus on long-term well-being.”

Jones’ journey led her from the public sector to the Madison-based Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund and then, in 2015, she joined the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities to oversee program development and policy advocacy around child and family well-being.  

In 2017, she became the senior impact director for the Alliance’s Change in Mind Institute, which fosters and disseminates knowledge and research about the science of brain development and its impact on child welfare, behavioral health, family stability, trauma-informed practice, and other issues that affect the well-being of children and families. 

The Change in Mind Institute, which is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Palix Foundation, disseminates knowledge; provides training and technical assistance on the integration of brain science research; and engages in cross-sector innovation on the transformation of organizations, sectors, and systems as they adapt to the new applications of the science. 

“Research has shown that traumatic events can harm children’s physical and mental health, as well as their sense of safety and security,” noted Susan N. Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance. “By using the latest advances in neurosciences and trauma-informed practices, Jennifer is playing an essential role in viewing policy through a scientific lens and helping to promote the overall health and well-being of children, families, and communities.” 

By infusing brain science insight into the nonprofit human-serving sector, the Alliance hopes to take look at policy through this new lens and move the needle on some of the most difficult social issues facing our communities such as child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, poverty and incarceration. 

One example of this work is the Building Resilience in the Face of Disaster initiative, which was recently announced in partnership with New York Life Insurance Company. The program will fund and administer efforts among nonprofit community-based organizations providing long-term trauma and grief support to those in geographic areas impacted by major weather disasters in 2017 including Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma, and the California Wildfires and significant human-made tragedies that have occurred in the last year and a half including mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Parkland, Florida. New York Life will work in partnership with Jones and the Change in Mind Institute to administer the program. 

Learn more about the Change in Mind Institute online.