Prevention Mindset Institute

What is the Prevention Mindset Institute?

The Prevention Mindset Institute, or PMI, is a group of national partners, parents, and six state teams committed to child welfare systems transformation. The six selected states have set ambitious goals designed to create a more prevention-focused and equitable environment to support child and family well-being. The PMI state teams are taking actions to partner with communities, identify critical stakeholders, address policy and structural changes, and track progress towards successful outcomes.

The PMI group meets quarterly. Before each meeting, a topical newsletter is disseminated to stimulate prevention mindset thinking. Technical assistance is available to the state teams according to their needs and priorities. A two-day in-person institute will be held in 2021, allowing state teams to work together away from their home offices. FRIENDS and its national partners consult and collaborate with the teams to bolster efforts. Please see the brochure below for more information on PMI activities, and its expected outcomes, and the newsletter's previous issues.

National Experts partnering in the work include:

State Partners in the work include:
PMI Brochure

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Values and Principles

Values and Principles – Prevention Mindset Institute

FRIENDS has convened national experts in prevention, including Action4Child Protection, the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, Mining for Gold, the Prevention Institute, and FRIENDS’ Parent Advisory Council to join with six teams from states who are leaders in work to develop ambitious and promising strategies for a new kind of child welfare system. The state teams are comprised of CBCAP state agency leads, state child welfare leadership, and other state partners.  Together this group forms the Prevention Mindset Institute (PMI).  The group will convene virtually and in-person over the next year to support and influence efforts towards building a child wellbeing system that focuses on engaging with families in order to identify and provide supports that strengthen them and their communities. 

PMI participants recognize that a clear set of values and principles illustrate what is important to a group of people and their mission. Values convey the beliefs participants share as they embark on this work. Principles are those crucial concepts and actions essential for moving the work forward guided by our values. Together, they provide critical information for bringing others into the collaboration, navigating conflicts, and remaining focused on outcomes.

Prevention Mindset Institute participants articulate these values and principles for building a new system: 


  • Families are the experts of their own experience. Children are best cared for in their own families with resources and supports accessible, as needed, to remain safely intact. 
  • Respect that learning and knowledge comes from a variety of methods and sources, both empirical and experiential, and there is equal value in both. 
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of historically marginalized groups must be at the heart of the work. Diversity is defined broadly to include all aspects of identity including race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, and ability. 
  • Listening more than talking is a key component of effective and meaningful change. 
  • Trust both in the good intentions of those who have declared a commitment to the work; and acknowledgment that there is work to do to rebuild trust in many communities.  
  • Optimism: Change is possible. 
  • Humility: Seek and be open to learning that may result in our own mindset shifts. 
  • Steadfastness: We are committed to long-term sustainable mindset shifts and systems change, even when situations demanding immediate response may momentarily slow the broader commitment to change. 
  • Patience: Change does not come quickly.
  • Persistence: We are trying to shift entrenched beliefs and recognize that the old way of doing things may not be optimal. 
  • Creativity: We are willing to consider actions we may not have tried before and are open to experiencing the learning opportunities provided when we don’t get the results we intended.
  • Collaboration: Pooling our knowledge, leveraging our differences, and co-creating the definition of success will bring about better results than any of us could achieve alone. 


  • Primary Prevention: Utilizing a public health approach to identify the supports, policies, and structures in communities that help families be their strongest. All families should have access to the resources and supports that enhance the social determinants of health and historically marginalized groups should have a voice in community planning efforts.
  • Courageous Honesty: Listening deeply to other perspectives about our work and needed changes in our system. 
  • Inclusion: Including the voices of those who will be most impacted by the change, especially caregivers and youth who have been involved in the systems we seek to change. This means sharing power, resources, and information, and using language that is easily understood and accessible.
  • Investing Time: Investing time to come to a shared understanding of key terms and concepts. 
  • Data-Driven: Integrating evaluation of our efforts from the beginning so that we can clearly identify our successes and what needs modification. 
  • Flexibility: Knowing that the work must be dynamic, we are intentional, reflective, and willing to make changes when our analysis of the data or our partners’ perspectives on the data indicates we should. 
  • Commitment to Racial Justice: Recognizing that in the child-serving system there are disparities in experience, how individual families are treated, and outcomes of Black, Indigenous, and other people of A mindset shift must have equity and racial justice at the center; this will be facilitated, in part, by equitable inclusion of representative perspectives.
  • Trauma-Informed: Integrating our knowledge about the impact of trauma, we actively resist retraumatization, and support actions and programs that promote healing. 
  • Reduce Stigma: Acknowledging that a barrier to families seeking support sooner is the stigma associated with asking for We see reducing this stigma as a component of our work.
  • Contribution to a growing body of work: Articulating our lessons learned not only to benefit the states participating in the Institute but to contribute to the growing body of work transforming child welfare systems into child wellbeing systems. 


References for what shared values and principles offer to systems change collaboratives and organizations:

Hsieh, Tony. (May 24, 2010).  How Zappos Infuses Culture Using Core Values. Harvard Business Review.

Stanleigh, M. (June 16, 2011). How to Make Your Organization’s Values and Principles More Effective. Business Improvement Architects.

 Stroh, David Peter. (2015). Systems Thinking for Social Change:  A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results, Chelsea Green Publishing, (pps. 84 and 201).

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PMI Newsletters

This edition of the Prevention Mindset Newsletter has been edited by Corey Best, a consultant and founder of Mining for Gold, Inc., and Dana Fields-Johnson, an Associate Program Director with the Prevention Institute. Three ideas, four quotes, and one question are centered on racial justice, families, and child welfare practices. Mining for Gold and the Prevention Institute are partner organizations with FRIENDS’ Prevention Mindset Institute.

A future issue is planned for July, 2021.

The format, 3-2-1, is based on James Clear’s newsletter that shares ideas related to developing effective habits, drawing from his book, Atomic Habits.

Three Ideas

Years ago, I stumbled across a book entitled “Jim Crow Wisdom—Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940.” In this fascinating depiction of America’s adoration with othering, denial, marginalization, power and regulating families, IT was revealed. The IT being our country’s child welfare system is only a relic of the peculiar institution of slavery. And many of us who work to transform, advance racial justice, and preserve families through preventive approaches, are completely unaware that we support a system that consistently advantages those who have become known as white. While over-surveilling, separating, and creating prolonged trauma for Black and brown families.

Since the 1960’s, Black children and their loving families have been given credit for their collective resilience, fortitude, and strength in the face of adversity. But not their collective humanity. It is time to level-UP. Families are growing weary of having to be knocked down, cut, wounded, and scarred because of white-dominant ideology that tolerates the “presumption of guilt”. Black families demand to be viewed as human beings and treated equitably. And it takes courageous leadership to cultivate a culture that recognizes how “history is perpetually suspicious of memory, and it’s true mission is to suppress and destroy it.” Race no longer must be the number one proxy for negative outcomes. Through courageous leadership, we can get closer to the aspiration of justice within our child welfare system by always telling the truth.

Book referenced: Jim Crow Wisdom—Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940,
Jonathan Scott Holloway, August 2015.

Idea #1:
Build relationships with communities and staff most harmed by the system of racial oppression. And vet all strategies and plans through their lens.

Idea #2:
Develop core guiding principles and measure authentic family engagement.

Idea #3:
Focus on process. Not projects

~Corey Best, Consultant, Founder, Mining for Gold, Inc.

“Race continues to play a defining role in one’s life trajectory and outcomes. A complex system of racial bias and inequities is at play, deeply rooted in our country’s history, culture and institutions. This system of racialization— which routinely confers advantage and disadvantage based on skin color and other characteristics—must be clearly understood, directly challenged and fundamentally transformed. If our nation is to live up to its democratic ideals—that all people are created equal and treated fairly—then racial equity and inclusion must be at the forefront of how we shape our institutions, policies and culture.”

~ Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide: Seven Steps to Advance and Embed Race Equity and Inclusion in Your Organization. Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014. Accessed at:

“The new politics of child welfare threatens to intensify state supervision of Black children. In the past several years, federal and state policy have shifted away from preserving families toward “freeing” children in foster care for adoption by terminating parental rights. Welfare reform, by throwing many families deeper into poverty, heightens the risk that some children will be removed from struggling families and placed in foster care.”

~Dorothy E. Roberts, 2002
George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania, Carey Law School

“In order to create policies that support children and youth of color, anti-racist policy approaches should focus on whole families. In the past, public policy has too often been siloed, and policies intended to support children have failed to address the larger struggles their families face. Policy has even actively undermined families in the name of protecting children—as we see with the child welfare system, which disproportionately threatens and separates Black and Indigenous children from their loved ones. Anti-racist policy must be designed to support and strengthen the whole family and ensure family economic security, so that families can thrive together. This requires supporting not just parents and siblings but also grandparents and other caregivers and loved ones who constitute a child’s family. It requires affirming children and families, building on their strengths, honoring and deepening their social connections, and connecting them to the basic supports they need.”

~Principles for Anti-Racist Policymaking, Center for the Study of Social Policy, December 2020. Available here:

“Do people really think that somehow the child welfare system targets Black people but targets them in a good way?” If we can agree that implicit bias and racism are at least part of why our society is more likely to shoot a Black person, call the police on Black people, or profile a Black body, why do we believe that there are more noble reasons for the disproportionate reporting of Black mothers and removal of Black children? The reality is that both the criminal, legal, and the foster systems are rooted in deeply violent historical narratives about Black bodies that do more to promote punishment than safety.

~Joyce McMillan, 2020, child welfare advocate

What are three tangible benefits for white people to advance racial justice?

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This 3-2-1 newsletter shares three ideas, two quotes, and one question to ponder. In this edition, we focus on what a reimagined prevention services system will require and on families as important leaders of this new vision and transformation. A special thank you to Teresa Rafael, Executive Director of the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, for developing this edition of the newsletter.

Future issues are planned for May and July 2021.

The format, 3-2-1, is based on James Clear’s newsletter that shares ideas related to developing effective habits, drawing from his book, Atomic Habits.

Three Ideas

1) Creating a reimagined Prevention Services System in the United States will require a whole new approach not only to the services we deliver but also to the ways in which we deliver them...

A robust, comprehensive prevention system would not just prevent tragedies before they occur, but it would also offer upfront, cost-effective strategies that could strengthen all families and reduce the need to remove children from their families in the first place. ...

We envision this new system being led by a dedicated agency or department that is adequately funded to ensure the coordination of prevention resources so that all families, regardless of where they reside, can access services to keep their children safe, healthy, and well. This prevention system would provide equal attention to the prevention of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the promotion of positive childhood experiences.

This focus on prevention will need to be supported with a robust policy agenda, including policies that address the economic strain that affects all too many families... This prevention system must be constructed with the recognition that there are systemic injustices in our society that limit opportunity and access for some children and families.

Many families do not trust the systems that have been put in place to “help,” because they often experience discrimination when they attempt to access those services. A new, comprehensive prevention system would fundamentally work to alter the conditions and contexts in which children and families live in order to produce equitable outcomes for all.

~The Chronicle of Social Change, It’s Time for State Prevention Services Systems, July 21, 2020
Jennifer Jones and Bart Klika (Prevent Child Abuse America)

2) We hope that in the future, it will be common practice for leaders, service providers, child welfare workers, and other stakeholders to respond to families’ requests and needs in a way that builds trust and strengthens the capacity of parents. As parents, we want to feel comfortable calling a service provider and being able to ask questions when needed. For example, one of us might have a question relating to our child’s limited use of words and wonder whether this is typical of the child’s developmental stage or something we should worry about? We are asking for help in fulfilling our role as providers and caretakers for our children. We are not asking for you to fix our problems but to help us identify what is best for our family. We want YOU to help US help our children in the best way possible...

Our hope is that families are, ultimately, connected to appropriate resources through the prevention system and that we are able to prevent families from becoming involved with the child welfare system. Please be the person who gives us real hope, not because you have all the answers but because you help us believe in ourselves. We challenge you to join with those who already focus their work on building relationships with families, being dependable, and identifying strengths. As a service provider, always ask yourself, how have I worked in partnership with this family and supported them to reach their full potential? As a leader, ask yourself how have I partnered with family members to be sure our policies and practices reflect what will be most successful in my community or state. We, as parents need to be supported and guided in our journeys to address challenges that led us to reach out for support. Later, we want opportunities to use our life experiences to give back to the communities and agencies that helped us grow and change.

We are working to expand the recognition that supportive communities can help build strong families willing and able to ask for help. We must join together to change public perceptions regarding families. We are recommending that systems create opportunities for parents to work in partnership with community service providers, systems leaders (including child welfare leaders), and other key stakeholders to promote a culture shift where asking for help is normalized and seen as a strength. We have seen how powerful it is when parents and service providers work with community, state, and national leaders to build a public perspective that values families and the importance of supporting their growth, including extended family, friends, and other supportive individuals. When we all work together, we can change public attitudes and build support for this approach.

~Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, Birth Parent National Network, 2020,
What Parents Say About... Building a 21st Century
Community-Based Approach to Strengthening Families

3) The key to moving forward in transforming the current child welfare system into a new way of work that keeps children safely with their families is requiring systems to work together and in partnership with families and communities. Transformation is a goal too massive for any one person, organization, or system to do alone. True change will come when we work together to create community conditions where all people, especially children, and their families, can thrive. We don't need to know exactly what to do to begin, and it's not up to professionals or systems to figure this out by ourselves. We just need to take the lead from families—who know better than anyone else what their needs are—and start "doing." Helping families to safely raise their own children is the key. Hero-based rescuing and removing and out-of-family placement must end. We simply know better; now let's do better.

~Building a New Way, Together, Dr. Amelia Franck Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, Alia,
CBX, August/September 2020, Vol. 21, No. 6

“When parents seek resources, let us remove punitive system barriers and change the way we see and talk about helping families and ensure that our efforts build hope. If a child asked for support, we would comply without any hesitation. Let us be as motivated to support parents as we are children and acknowledge the importance of keeping families together.”

~Shrounda Selivanoff, birth parent (Washington)

“As parents the hardest thing in the world to face is not being able to meet the needs of our children and having to ask for help. We go back and forth in our thinking – should I pick up the phone and ask for help? Will you judge me for asking? Are you going to call child protective services? All we want to do is provide for our children.”

~Kimberly Mays, Parent and Social Services Worker, Washington State Office of Public Defense
Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, 2020, What Parents Say About... Building a 21st Century Community-Based Approach to Strengthening Families

(Kimberly Mays, Parent who lost custody of nine of her ten children and they have now all reunited with her as adults. Kimberly now has an MSW and was instrumental in starting the first Parent for Parent Program in WA State. She is a social services worker with the Washington State Office of Public Defense and a caregiver for relative and non-relative foster youth.)

What would it look like if parents in communities across the country could seek and find help without fear of shame, blame or loss of their children?

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This 3-2-1 newsletter shares three ideas, two quotes, and one question to ponder. In this edition, we focus on developing a prevention mindset and the impact of trauma and avoiding re-traumatization of families and communities. A special thank you to Theresa Costello, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Action for Child Protection for developing this edition of the newsletter.

Future issues are planned for March, May, and June, 2021.

The format, 3-2-1, is based on James Clear’s newsletter that shares ideas related to developing effective habits, drawing from his book, Atomic Habits.

Three Ideas

1) “While child welfare has always had a focus on the physical safety of the child, a trauma-informed child welfare system must go further and recognize that psychological safety of both the child and his/her family is extraordinarily important to the child’s and family’s long-term recovery and social and emotional well-being. Psychological safety is a sense of safety, or the ability to feel safe, within oneself self and safe from external harm. This type of safety has direct implications for physical safety and permanence and is critical for functioning as well as physical and emotional growth. A lack of psychological safety can impact a child’s and family’s interactions with all other individuals, including those trying to help them, and can lead to a variety of maladaptive strategies for coping with the anxiety associated with feeling unsafe.”

~Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System. (2014). From

2) “In recognizing the impact of childhood adversity on child and adult outcomes, trauma-informed services strive to build trustworthy collaborative relationships with children and the important adults in their lives, as well as improve consistency and communication across linked organizations and sectors, with the aim of mitigating the impact of adversity by supporting and enhancing child and family capacity for resilience and recovery.”

~Bunting, Montgomery, Mooney, MacDonald, Coulter, Hayes, & Davidson. (2019).
Trauma Informed Child Welfare Systems—A Rapid Evidence Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(13), 2365.

3) Trauma-informed care redirects attention from treating symptoms of trauma (e.g., mental health disorders, behavioral problems) to treating the underlying causes and context of trauma. Trauma-specific interventions include medical, physiological, psychological, and psychosocial therapies provided by a trained professional that aid in the recovery from adverse trauma exposures. Treatments are designed to maximize a child’s sense of physical and psychological safety, develop coping strategies, and increase a child’s resilience. These treatments allow children to attain a sense of balance, make strides in meeting developmental benchmarks, heal deep emotional scars, and achieve stability in their foster placements [or at home with parent(s)].

~Klain, E., & White, A. (2013). Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in Child Welfare. From

“Trauma Informed Systems’ principles and practices support reflection in place of reaction, curiosity in lieu of numbing, self-care instead of self-sacrifice and collective impact rather than silo-ed structures.”

~Epstein, K | Speziale, K | Gerber, E | Loomis, B (2014). From Trauma Transformed’s website:

“A trauma-informed child and family service system is one in which all parties involved recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress on those who have contact with the system including children, caregivers, and service providers. Programs and agencies within such a system infuse and sustain trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into their organizational cultures, practices, and policies. They act in collaboration with all those who are involved with the child, using the best available science, to maximize physical and psychological safety, facilitate the recovery of the child and family, and support their ability to thrive.”

~Peterson, S. (2018, September 20). Creating Trauma-Informed Systems. From The National Child Traumatic Stress Network website:

How do we move from being “trauma-reactive” to minimally “trauma-informed” and ideally to a “healing organization/system”?

~Trauma Transformed website. October 2020 from:

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This 3-2-1 newsletter shares three ideas, two quotes, and one question to ponder. In this edition, we focus on systems change and shifting mindsets. We will send new issues in December, March, April, and June, prior to the in-person Institute.

The format, 3-2-1, is based on James Clear’s newsletter that shares ideas related to developing effective habits, drawing from his book, Atomic Habits.

Three Ideas

1) “In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought. In other words, when change works, it’s because leaders are speaking to the Elephant as well as to the Rider.” Change only works if the Elephant and Rider are working together.

Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, explain that we have two parts to us. We have the emotional side (the Elephant) and the rational side (the Rider). Most of us think that the Rider always controls the Elephant, but in most cases, it’s the other way around. The Elephant somehow ends up controlling the Rider. If the Rider can direct the Elephant down a well-prepared path then there is a good chance for change.

~Heath, Chip and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.
Toronto: Random House Canada, 2010.

2) Shifts in system conditions are more likely to be sustained when working at three different levels of change: explicit, semi-explicit, and implicit. FSG sees these levels as 1. structural change (explicit-policies, practices, the flow of resources), 2. relational change (semi-explicit- relationships and connections, power dynamics), and 3. transformative change (implicit-mental models). FSG correlates transformative change with mental models or deeply held beliefs and assumptions that influence one’s actions. These three levels of change can be independently defined, measured, and targeted for change, and they are intertwined and interact with each other.

“Since the less explicit conditions are the most challenging to clarify but can have huge impacts on shifting systems, changemakers must ensure that they pay sufficient attention to the relationships, power dynamics, and especially the underlying mental models (such as racism and gender biases) embedded in the systems in which they work.”

~John Kania, Mark Kramer, Peter Senge. The Water of Systems Change. FSG:  Reimagining Social
, May 2018.

3) In a conversation with two parent leaders, Valerie Lebanion and Joanne Hodgeman, who are both also full-time social workers and family advocates, several important ideas were shared. A few are offered here:

Child protection service providers and primary preventionists, need to continually ask themselves, “What is it that keeps families from asking for help sooner?

”Often family support services are available but it can be difficult for even trained professionals to easily identify and thereby access the services.  Ultimately, we need a full-time person in every state whose job it is to maintain an accurate, up-to-date registry of appropriate services that are available throughout the state. At a minimum, “If the state is funding you, the state should be promoting you.” Lebanion and Hodgeman have discovered that even state-funded services are sometimes not marketed in such a way as to be easily identifiable. How does your state or county share information on support services with agencies and families?

~Read more about Joanne Hodgeman and Valerie Lebanion:

“We must recognize that all of these systems are operating within, and often constrained by, an overall system that itself is built on a history of racism and lack of priority for children, poor people, and more recently, immigrants.” James-Brown said, in a letter to the Child Welfare League of American membership.

“I say go back to our founding – was the system founded by white men and funded by white men for racist reasons? Yes. The funding and policies of the CPS system in particular were developed by White men and reflect their values and views about families. But it is what it is. So now how do we go and root out the things that allowed the system to operate that way?

Our front door is very problematic, the way children get into the child welfare system and why. Who are the reporters to our hotlines? What does the hotline do with the information? How good is the training for reporters? How good are the alternatives and to what extent do we use them? Our group has had a lot of discussion about moving the system to understanding its role as strengthening families instead of being looked at as the ones who want to remove children.

We need to focus like a laser on keeping kids with their families and acting as advocates for them getting the dollars they need to do what they want to do. The guidelines and practices around the whole CPS area are important.”

~Christine James-Brown, CEO Child Welfare League of America interviewed in an article, Child Welfare League of America CEO: Field Must Confront Its Racist Roots, written by Michael Fitzgerald and posted on 8/2/202 in The Imprint: Youth and Family News.

“One of the great errors that organizations make is shutting down what is a natural, life-enhancing process---chaos. We are terrified of chaos. As a manager, it signals failure. But if you move out of control and into an appreciation of natural order, you understand that the only way a system changes is when it is far from equilibrium, when it moves from the 'quiet' we treasure and is confronted with the choice to die or reorganize. And you can't reorganize to a higher level unless you risk the perils of the path through chaos.”

~Margaret Wheatley -

“Assume that more than one path exists to achieve your ideal life.”

~James Clear’s 3-2-1 Newsletter released on 7/16/2020

This would suggest that more than one path exists to change your child welfare system.

What would an alternative path look like?

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