Organizations Receive Grants to Channel Brain Science into Change

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities hopes to accelerate the movement of brain science into the policies and practices of the nonprofit human-serving sector through a new $2.2 million initiative.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Palix Foundation (formerly the Norlien Foundation), the Alliance’s “Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities” project will support 15 sites for two years.

Ten of the participating sites are located in the U.S., and five are in Canada. All participating sites will be funded for $50,000, and a developmental evaluation will take place over a three-year period.

Following is a list of all 15 Change in Mind sites along with their specific goals:

Big Brothers, Big Sisters (BBBS) of Calgary: Calgary, Alberta, Canada


  • BBBS will deeply integrate brain science research into their programs and practices, particularly through quality specialized training for volunteer mentors; mentoring coordinators; volunteer engagement workers; client engagement workers; and participating children, youth and families.
  • Through this training and through targeted professional development opportunities, BBBS will not only enhance existing practices for the recruitment, screening, training and monitoring of mentors and mentoring relationships, but will also develop significant new strategies for improving and expanding program reach.
  • BBBS will draw on the strengths of strong existing partnerships and connections to share the research among expansive networks and in order to initiate the process to advance systemic change.

Boyle McCauley Health Centre Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


  • Utilize the BMHC’s internal cross-disciplinary learning environment to ensure that messages around current practices and brain science are explicit and ready to mobilize.
  • Use analyses of aggregated clinic data combined with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) data and work from participating Change in Mind sites to crystalize messages by focusing on evidence that is closer to home. (Based on a questionnaire used in the 1998 CDC study, ACEs questions can measure the impact of childhood trauma to assess future health outcomes.)
  • Use the dataset to improve the quality of collaboration with other agencies to expand understanding the implications of ACEs and brain development in the community for our clients and to create momentum in the direction of cross ministerial policy change.
  • Continue to build momentum in the community and build support for change at the ministry level. Use learnings from the community and the cohort to develop a clear message and list of needed system changes in order to affect change for people affected by ACEs at the national and international level.
  • Continue to use current BMHC data to support and clarify messages.

CASA Child, Adolescent, & Family Mental Health: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


  • Putting science into practice: Implement organization-wide use of the ACEs questionnaire and childhood adversity narrative, and evaluate its utility in guiding assessment and treatment and in understanding outcomes.
  • Putting science and practice into policy: Based on the ecological model for health, combine data from ACEs questionnaires, patient and family diagnoses and demographics, and service utilization data in order to inform policy and decision making.

Children and Families First: Wilmington, DE


  • Develop a leadership framework to connect the many public and private partners as well as systems focused on trauma and brain science.
  • Develop a comprehensive system to collect and analyze ACEs data statewide and use that data to inform policy and practice.
  • Engage legislators and policymakers to ensure that concepts in trauma and brain science are included in appropriate policy decisions.
  • Develop social marketing efforts and peer-to-peer networks to ensure that ACEs concepts are broadly understood and valued.
  • Support communities to both prevent and heal ACEs.

Children’s Home Society of Washington: Seattle, WA


  • Reduce and mitigate the effects of toxic stress for young children involved in the child welfare system by deepening and expanding the influence and impact of two innovative practice and policy efforts. Both are aimed at breaking the intergenerational cycle of adverse outcomes related to child maltreatment.
  • Build the leadership capacity of the Washington State Parent Ally Network to ensure the voice of birth parents is included in efforts to improve child welfare outcomes.
  • Strengthen linkages between child welfare and early learning and development systems to increase enrollment of young child welfare involved children and families in existing nonprofit resources.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin: Milwaukee, WI


  • Advocate for policies that support greater availability of innovative evidence-based or informed interventions that support child development and family resilience through increased flexibility in funding at both the federal and state levels.
  • Create incentives and training opportunities for mental health providers to get trained in evidence-based approaches.
  • Engage academic institutions, such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in creating adaptations of evidence-based approaches to provide them to more families in innovative fashion.

CUPS Health, Education, Housing: Calgary, Alberta, Canada


  • Integrate the findings from the ACEs study into all CUPS programs as well as organizational culture.
  • Identify the natural overlaps and develop integrated policy and fiscal changes among Alberta Human Services, Alberta Health Services, and Alberta Education Systems.

East End House: Cambridge, MA


  • Act as a knowledge broker for a diverse cross-section of the community, including policy stakeholders, funders, government officials, and local residents, in an effort to accelerate the integration of brain science research into decision making on the individual, community, policy and systems levels.
  • Create systems-level change in the non-profit and governmental sectors through the Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition, with a focus on infusing brain science and child development into the collective impact work of the coalition and the emergent community benefits agreement process.
  • Create systems-level change in the public education system in Cambridge by expanding the emphasis of education from academics and test scores alone to a more holistic vision of child wellbeing that is aligned with best practices emergent from current brain science and child development research.
  • Serve as a demonstration site that effectively disseminates best practices around both the integration of brain science research into organizational practice and culture and evidence-based processes for systems leadership for collective impact, to the larger community of service providers locally, across the state of Massachusetts and nationally.
  • Influence national policy level conversations around health by leveraging the collective impact of the cohort as a whole, in collaboration with the other cohort members and the larger Alliance and foundation networks.

The Family Partnership: Minneapolis, MN


  • Identify individual thought leaders, as well as organizations and institutions in Minnesota that know the research and/or are thinking about how to use brain science to improve health/human service outcomes.
  • Map the existing knowledge and expertise in Minnesota on brain science, and make that knowledge visible to the stakeholders and community through digital and print media.
  • Convene a statewide Minnesota brain science coalition of experts, practitioners, advocates, and concerned community members to advance awareness and promote policy informed by brain science.
  • Educate communities about brain science and train community champions in the advocacy and leadership skills required to partner with experts in pushing for institutional change.
  • Work with coalition members to publish a working document outlining the policy implications emerging from brain science and outlining specific policy opportunities that the coalition might pursue.
  • Based on the opportunities identified in the working document, develop a long-term policy advocacy plan to pursue some of these policy opportunities outlined in the working document.

Family Service Association of San Antonio: San Antonio, TX


  • Strengthen the alignment of preventive and proactive parent/family education services to reduce the incidence and lasting trauma of adverse childhood experiences for children and families involved in child protective services.
  • Advance advocacy for comprehensive rehabilitative services for juvenile offenders.
  • Facilitate the utilization of new brain science research in our provision of early childhood education services, including our Early Head Start and Head Start education services as well as our Workforce Solutions-funded Quality Coaching initiatives for child care centers in Bexar County and 12 surrounding counties.

KVC Health Systems: Olathe, KS


  • Integrate brain science content with KVC’s large continuum of care, which spans across four states and touches the lives of over 20,000 children and families each year.
  • Educate key KVC leadership most capable of infusing brain science into policy, regulatory and fiscal changes within the macro-level system, regionally and nationally.
  • Develop awareness-level content appropriate for caregivers, direct support treatment providers, teachers and other community supports.
  • Develop brain science “hands on” tools for providers to complement current trauma informed care and positive behavioral interventions and supports tools.

LaSalle School: Albany, NY


  • Share knowledge: Accelerate the dissemination of information about brain science to a variety of stakeholders on a regional and state level and contribute to the national dialog and emerging awareness such that those stakeholders will be well versed in a common understanding about brain science and the effects of trauma.
  • Improve practice: In collaboration with key partners, provide educational opportunities and training so that the skills of practitioners are improved and parents/caregivers have increased access to instruction and training that enhance the likelihood of their child’s positive brain development. In addition, improve practice through the publication of research articles that would reach academic audiences and allow for the dissemination of findings about ACEs and brain science.
  • Impact policy: Contribute to a vastly increased knowledge of brain science among legislators and policy makers in New York, establishing the ground work for important gains in health care and prevention services and policies, targeting early childhood and adolescent populations.

Martha O’Bryan Center: Nashville, TN


  • Influence partners via existing platforms on the benefits of integrating brain science research and practice into program and service delivery.
  • By building on a U.S. Department of Justice Byrne Force for Good project, Martha O’Bryan Center will create an evidence base that contributes to greater understanding of ACEs, trauma informed care, and program delivery across Nashville.

Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre – Calgary, Alberta, Canada


  • Professional training for child abuse professionals: Integrate brain science research into the standard training curriculum provided to SKCAC professionals.
  • Provincial model of integrated practice: Ensure brain science research informs the practice and policies at the provincial level to support trauma informed decision making.
  • National standards for Child Advocacy Centers: Promote and develop national standards/guidelines for Child Advocacy Centers.

Wellspring Family Services: Seattle, WA


  • Implement an agency-wide framework based on brain science principles and resulting best practices for service implementation and administrative policy and practices.
  • Implement a two-generation approach throughout programs, whether they primarily serve adults or children.
  • Translate brain science knowledge into organizational structure and culture.
  • Accelerate the application and integration of brain science into practice and policy that impacts homeless families within Seattle/King County.
  • Impact change in the Early Learning QRIS system and moderate the rapid re-housing strategy in the Homeless Family System so that both systems reflect an approach based on brain science.

Your support allows The Imprint to provide independent, nonpartisan daily news covering the issues faced by vulnerable children and families.

Subscribe or Donate

The Chronicle of Social Change is now The Imprint, led by award-winning investigative reporter Karen de Sá. Read more here.

New name, same game. Thrilled to be part of this next chapter with @TheImprintNews! Follow to keep up with the latest child welfare and family justice news.