Research + Experience + Accountability + Common Sense = Sustainable Change

what if the children and families we engage and empower today become the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow?

Photo of Leanne McEvoy
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

The ECF team has over 50 years of experience working with children and families impacted by trauma, abuse, neglect, and poverty. "Ana" was sexually abused and after four years in foster care was adopted and moved away from her biological family. "Ana" was verbally and physically abused by her adoptive parents. "Ana" continues to struggle with PTSD, depression, and low self esteem. We work for "Ana" and countless others like her. "Ana" designed the ECF logo.
"Maya" lived in a home with two brothers, mother, and stepfather. "Maya" reported the abuse to her teacher and the three children were removed and placed in separate foster homes. To the state "Maya" was a statistic and the plan was reunification with her mother and stepfather. "Maya" was a teenager with no self esteem, no friends, and failing in school. A comprehensive psychological evaluation identified artistic strengths, a learning disability, anxiety, and a witty sense of humor. Through the treatment process, working with a mentor and child advocate, and being in a great foster home, "Maya" developed a stronger sense of self, managed to allow some of the walls to come down, began excelling in school, and made lots of friends. "Maya" became her own best advocate and convinced a judge not to send her back home. The team working with "Maya" were willing to fight for her and taught her how to fight for herself. We work for "Maya".
With 50+ years of experience, we've lived it. And change starts now!

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Connecticut

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

ECF's mailing address is in Monroe CT. Our work is done in Bridgeport, Fairfield, and Norwalk, CT.

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Connecticut

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Bridgeport CT

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

450 characters aren't enough to adequately explain the problems with government systems trying to "help" children and families. Let's just say that ECF has gained significant momentum from stakeholders, donors and community partners because ECF has chosen to raise money privately. Please refer back to the title: Research + Experience + Accountability + Common Sense = Sustainable Change.
This week I met with a man who has lived in Bridgeport his whole life. He's been the drug dealer, been in gangs, and made bad choices. This man is connected to youth, to young single mothers, to gang members, to fathers who have been incarcerated. He's entrenched with the community ECF is helping. He said....." are someone who actually wants to do something.....instead of just talking about doing something"! We must engage the communities we serve for change to occur.

Attachment theory is at the root of children's wellbeing.  A child with secure attachment to a parent/caregiver evolves with stronger sense of self and belonging vs. a child with insecure attachment evolves lacking that sense of self and security. Check out this article for a better explanation.

What is the solution?  Help children and parents become more securely attached to each other.  Spend more time listening and less time talking.  Be vulnerable and culturally sensitive.  Don't tell someone what they need, ask what they need.  Don't tell them how to do them how to do it.  Ask how you can help.  Don't judge.  Pay it forward.  Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Lead by example.  Engage children and families in the process of helping themselves. Don't give them a fish, teach them to fish.

A child is part of a family system.  The family system is part of larger systems: school, work, community.  If a family isn't functioning as an internal system, how can they possibly be successful in external systems?  The solution for sustainable change MUST be to engage and empower the entire family.    After's a high probability the parent(s) suffered many of the same trauma and challenges when they were children.  Recognizing that policies and procedures are important...WE as a society need to remind ourselves that we're talking about people, real people, and impacting human beings.  Being reactive with one size fits all solutions isn't working. Solutions need to be proactive, culturally sensitive, and family centered.  

We all want to be loved.  We must love ourselves first.  Telling children they are loved and showing them they are loved are gifts every child deserves.   We as individuals and as communities all need to work on helping all children (and their parents) unlock their fullest potential.


Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

ECF's first family: a single mother with 5 children. Mom battles severe mental illness making parenting harder. The 11yo was misdiagnosed with ADHD and treated with multiple medications that didn't work (for three years). After a comprehensive psychological evaluation of mom and the 11yo, ECF is providing the following: in home parenting support (helping the family grow closer), individual and family therapy, mentors, educational advocacy, and getting the 11yo signed up to play basketball. Connecting mom and the 11yo to mentors provides positive relationships, social/emotional development and support. Engaging the 11yo in basketball improves self esteem, healthy behavior, and making new friends. Next step: engaging the 2 younger kids.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

ECF is in pilot/demonstration mode. Last year was spent networking, developing community relationships, identifying strategic partners, and building a solid business infrastructure. In the pilot stage ECF implements the model with 5 families. The data from our work with these families will set the stage for increasing funding, ability to serve additional children/families, and start to have a larger impact on Bridgeport, other communities in CT and in the US. How the ECF model truly makes a difference: Starting with a comprehensive psychological evaluation (PE) administered only by a licensed clinical psychologist is the key in getting the strengths, challenges, and diagnostic piece right from the get go. PE's remove two critical errors made often in the assessment/screening process. Type A error - misdiagnosis. Type B error - giving a diagnosis where there isn't one.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

In the pilot phase ECF's staff of four are volunteering their time and resources to implement the model and gather the outcome data. In ECF's initial phase we are securing donations privately, leaving ECF free from government bureaucracy and political agendas. Long term sustainability will include private, state, and federal funds. ECF's vision is to set the treatment standards for mental health and wellbeing.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Mental health assessments and screenings are the predominant tools used to diagnose and treat children and parents. Millions (billions?) of dollars are wasted when a child/parent are misdiagnosed and treated incorrectly. In juvenile court child abuse proceedings, the court may order comprehensive psychological evaluations (PE's) for the entire family. Sadly, the report is owned by the court and the parents NEVER even see it. It's criminal. ECF wants to change that. PE's are more expensive yes. Compared to the millions (billions?) wasted on ineffective treatment, PE's are a no brainer.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Too many years of reactive and "one size fits all" solutions. It's time for a personalized family centered approach to mental health and well being. Let's get past the buzzwords and short term fixes...and finally do something that engages and empowers people to change. It's time for a new paradigm. We MUST transition from a paternalistic approach (us vs. them) to a a "WE". Too many news headlines about politicians seeking "ideas" on how to change. So many individuals and even foundations wanting to "research" what's needed. We know what's needed, let's make it happen! Be the change!

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Program Design Clarity

A. Bridgeport CT, 34% African American, 38% Hispanic/Latino. Children below poverty level 34.2% B. Psychological evaluation, in home parent aide/education, individual/family therapy, mentors, educational advocates, tutors, and enrichment (sports, arts, music, camps, etc). C. Determined by the strengths and challenges of the family (their home, school, church, or community space) and http://1-3x/ needed. D. ECF staff, community volunteers, Fairfield University Koslow Center for Marriage and Family Therapy. E. ECF is swimming against the govt tide, it's a radical the change.

Community Leadership

The ECF model is driven by personal/professional experience, community members (ex gang members, ex drug dealers, survivors of child/sexual abuse and neglect, reformed criminals), child and family advocates, children, youth, parents, educators, clinicians, and clergy. The ECF board and staff is dedicated to racial equity. Our vision is to help children and they in turn will help others in their community.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

Ashoka and RWJF are fostering the strategies of shaping systems, culture, and behavior by allowing pioneers of children's wellbeing to collaborate, partner, and impact change. ECF has already made key connections with pioneers to bring new/alternative strategies to the community ECF serves.
Ashoka and RWJF are powerful brands in a position to collect impactful data, bring it to key federal policymakers, and change millions of lives.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Secure attachment is critical in cultivating children's sense of self, connection to others, and sense of belonging. Psychological evaluations for the child and parent(s) identifies strengths, challenges and provides a personalized roadmap to sustainable change. All children and adults need positive relationships to help them reach their full potential. Building blocks for success are education, social/emotional development, and enrichment.

Leadership Story

Every challenge, mistake, and learning experience has lead me here. My professional career began in the business world where I was very successful in my 20's and into my 30's. But something was missing. I started mentoring kids in foster care and found my true calling. Getting my masters in social work forced me to address my own problems from childhood. Only after working through my own character flaws could I put myself in a position to truly and effectively help others. I wish an organization like ECF had existed when I was a child. I'm driven by faith, family, and community.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Pioneer of Children's Wellbeing

Organization's Twitter Handle


Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

Attachments (1)

ECF 2016.docx

This document represents some of the challenges we're dealing with in CT. It also recommends specific solutions to those challenges. The ECF model explains how our team will work with families, holding them and their providers accountable, demonstrating positive results to maintain sustainable change.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Charlotte

This looks like a great project - I love the customization of the program for each family and the "re-investing" of the cost of incarceration on positive outcomes for families in need. I agree with the comment below that funding may be a challenge. Hopefully your results will allow for buy in from funders. Our project will also invest upstream to prevent costly consequences of poverty, abuse, neglect and trauma, providing medical care for kids and wrap around services for the family. We need to find more partners willing to invest upstream. Best of luck.

Photo of Leanne

Hi Charlotte.  Thanks so much for taking the time to read about ECF and provide feedback.  "Re-investing" is a great concept...and I hear a lot of people talk about it...but in the state of CT, I haven't seen it happen.  YES...on finding more partners to invest in upstream.  Interestingly...I'm going back to colleagues and friends from my years spent in the for profit world and talking about social change.  Many have gone on to be very successful but they haven't participated much in any type of social responsibility.  Networking is my middle name these days!  Best of luck to you also!  

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