Partnering for Resilience- helping kids make a better future

Supporting high needs families with young children through collaborative problem-solving, resilience and independence

Photo of Rick Loseth
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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.

Many families in our rural Minnesota service area are challenged by hardships including: poverty, immigration status, mental health, chemical dependency and Adverse Childhood Experiences or trauma. After training in our five counties about ACE's, we have been looking for ways to support families impacted by ACE/trauma in addition to more comprehensive needs. Limited funds end up being devoted to "putting out fires" rather than fundamental issues contributing to family difficulties.

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

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

Caucasian: born an raised in the Midwest.


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Minnesota

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Willmar, MN, 56201

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

  • Minnesota

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

PACT for Families serves five counties in west central MN. They are Kandiyohi, Meeker, McLeod, Renville and Yellow Medicine.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Families with complex needs face a number of barriers to effective responses to their situation. Services providers define to whom and in what manner they are provided, based on eligibility and funding resources. Providers are often organized by county, school district, or type of service (mental health, housing, etc). In rural communities services can be disjointed, fragmented and temporary, resulting in limited impact over the long term.

Our activities are intended to address the needs of children and families who experience multiple life challenges, increase collaboration among service providers, and involve other community resources who have not typically been engaged in coordinated services to this population. We intend to gain insights from families with complex needs by surveying this population. Utilizing the strong network of partnerships already in place to help us connect with this population, key questions will be posed. We will also elicit input from our Parent Advisory Committee, which is comprised of parents with children that have mental health issues and other complex needs. Finally, service providers will be surveyed and their insights will be captured at the regional meetings. The perceptions gathered from families and service providers will help us assess the barriers that impact services and set the stage for looking at ways to have an impact.

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

  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Our partner organizations include parents, public health and county government.

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.

Organizations that serve children each have their own mission, guidelines and procedures that define who they are and what they do. While always intended to be supportive and responsive, procedures may not always be effective when dealing with children who have experience trauma, living in poverty or other complex family issues. Agency staff may not realize the complicating issues a family is facing, and parents may not be able to communicate their needs adequately to people wanting to help. Bringing a cross section of service providers together with accurate data and examples in a focused conversation and problem solving approach has led to increased understanding of issues impacting kids and modifying procedures to be more effective.

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

We utilized a similar process over the last two years to address the topic of chronic absenteeism by students in our schools. We made use of data from students, parents and professionals to help dig deeper into causal factors and looked at more effective ways to address the issues contributing to students not attending school. Each of our five counties developed strategies to positively impact attendance. School policies were reviewed, communication increased, staff positions were added to support earlier intervention, handbooks were developed for each county to use during fall meetings with schools, county social services and the courts and several schools combined efforts to bring training for a model program to help with school connectedness to their districts. Kids benefitted from increased understanding by all of the complex issues that impact school attendance.

Organization Type

  • government

Annual Budget

  • $500k - $1m

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

Our planning process is very aware that we need to make use of our current resources and programs to sustain our efforts over time. We intend to look at ways to use current staff training experiences and existing agency budgets to 'do business differently' as a result of our discussion and planning. We understand the challenge to accomplish this, knowing that new financial resources will not be readily available or accomplish what we want alone.

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?

The innovation from our project comes from bringing data from multiple sources into a focused conversation and planning process, intended to lead to a meaningful set of changes. We already have a number of key agencies involved; we will be intentional to involve those not at the table into the discussion and planning. We also plan to engage providers who work with different ages of children who may not always be working together with families for different reasons. This project makes use of key strategies used by others-really listening to all involved with the issue to find a better response.

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?

We see great potential for staff working with both kids and adults to benefit from an understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE's). This framework provides ways for agencies to have a common understanding of what might be impacting behaviors and decision making and more importantly, provides a framework for looking at ways to build resiliency for individuals, families and within the larger community. Engaging key providers in conversation and planning process driven by data and input from families with an intended outcome can lead to new ideas that can have an impact.

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

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Through a newsletter article referred by another agency staff person.

Program Design Clarity

Our "community" are children, families and service providers who live and work within the five counties served by our collaborative. The main emphasis are all providers who interact with families with young children birth through age 8. Our hope is that the day to day interactions will change to be as responsive as possible to the needs of kids impacted by ACE's - providers and their organizations will change how they do their work. The changes will be subtle - how a question is asked and how a comment by a child or their parent is really heard by a service provider.

Community Leadership

Our planning process is intended to engage both parents and service providers in a more meaningful conversation and to incorporate their responses into the planning. We will be hosting 'listening sessions' with both parents and a cross section of service providers. Questions are being developed with input from a steering committee to help design what information and stories will be the most useful for our planning process.

Age of Children Impacted

  • Pregnancy - 0
  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12

Spread Strategies

Our primary tool for helping to shape systems will be the 'lessons learned' and stories gained from this process. Our intent is use the information gained to better shape the response from all providers. We will be using our network of contacts already in place through the collaborative and the larger network in place within our state with other collaborative organizations.

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

Our collaborative has been supporting the social and emotional development of children for a number of years, and in a number of ways. We know that for children to succeed, they need skills that are developed from a very young age, the support of their parents and support from the larger community. Developing resiliency in children can be accomplished in a number of ways through working across all community systems.

Leadership Story

PACT for Families as developed by a group of people who saw the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and their families through working together in new ways. There was probably not one key turning point, but rather a number of successes, both large and small over the last 20 years. As the emphasis shifted to "our kids", partners saw that existing resources could be shared and expanded, and new ones developed. Those changes have been accomplished with the support of dozens of people who have found ways to share in the vision of the collaborative.

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

Note at this point - is a new project

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 66.7%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 0%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 33.3%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 66.7%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 33.3%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 100%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 0%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 66.7%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 33.3%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 50%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Karla Mitchell

Rick, I love that your project captures the positive impact of understanding ACES in community settings.  Though this study came about some time ago, not enough focus is placed on assessing and understanding risk, or averting its impact.  I wish you the best of luck in your program.

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