Drive to Thrive

What if we started asking "what happened to him" instead of "what is wrong with him"? How could that shift change how we support children?

Photo of Lucy Joswick
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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.

For thirty years, we have offered a variety of programs, centering on children, parents, and families. In that time, we all have experienced changes in our society, in parenting and family, and so many other influences in our lives. This evolution has also revealed two growing issues impacting the lives and early development of the children in our community. They are trauma and toxic stress. These issues stand in the way of accomplishing the mission of Family Futures and require our combined effort to address. Trauma can be experienced in a physical, emotional and psychological sense that can have a crushing effect on children as they grow and develop. Accepting it as a normal occurrence in life and doing nothing to address it, only deepens its effect. Our children deserve better. Their future depends us doing all we can to prevent and respond to trauma and toxic stress. No child is immune. Consider Derek’s story… Derek is a four-year old boy who is the oldest of two. Shortly after the birth of his little sister, Zoey, his mother was suffering from post-partum depression. His father has issues with anger control, which escalated during Derek’s mother’s depression. Derek’s parents are now divorced and he lives with his mother who continues to struggle with depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, stories like Derek’s are far too common. Stories like this illustrate the experiences that shape children's ability to thrive. They cannot be ignored.

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

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


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Michigan

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Grand Rapids

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

  • Michigan

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

West Michigan, primarily Kent County.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Drive to Thrive is broadening Family Futures' focus from preventing child abuse and neglect to preventing and responding to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). ACEs are extremely common, with almost two-thirds of the CDC's study having at least one ACE. When these experiences occur, they cause trauma and toxic stress that changes a child's biology, impeding their ability to thrive. These experiences include a child living with or witnessing: • Violence • Divorce or separation • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse • Drug or alcohol abuse • Depression and mental illness • Ongoing economic hardships These experiences often lead to a lifetime of emotional, cognitive, physical and social dysfunction. Early identification and intervention can curb these affects on children. This, coupled with a trauma informed community, builds one's resilience and potential to thrive.

Drive to Thrive will enable Family Futures to build and provide a first of its kind community wide prevention strategy and compassionate response to those impacted by trauma and toxic stress.

We will develop, integrate and sustain a knowledge-base and trauma-informed strategy in our work to shape a community where all children are supported to reach their full potential. Our work will respond to the needs of children experiencing trauma, build resilience in families and shape a trauma-informed Kent County.

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

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

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:

Home visiting providers, family medical homes

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

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

What if a child received more from every aspect of their circle of support? What if pediatricians were informed on how a child's experiences shape their development and saw this as a predictor of future health outcomes? What if a childcare provider could understand not only the cognitive, but the social-emotional health of a child? What if teachers knew what behaviors were not examples of rebellion, but rather a call for help? What if every agency that serves children understood how adverse childhood experiences shape child development and was equipped with knowledge and resources to respond? We believe that a trauma informed community has the capacity to decrease child maltreatment, increase academic performance and improve healthcare.

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

As leader's of our county's Community Health Improvement Plan, over the last year we have created a comprehensive growth plan for our agency and our county focused on shaping a trauma informed community. This has included: -Expanding our services to serve all local foster care agencies with developmental/social-emotional screening and parent education/coaching -Piloted serving families referred from our local child protective services to increase parent education, build healthy attachment and provide trauma, developmental and social-emotional screening -Developed and piloted an Adverse Childhood Experiences training with the target audiences of childcare providers, home visitors, law enforcement officers, pediatricians, social-service providers and local tribal communities -Grown to work with 35 childcare and pediatric partners on embedding developmental screening into their work

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $500k - $1m

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

The largest expenses are with the initial investment of capacity of our agency to provide trauma informed care and to shape a trauma informed community. Once established, these costs will roll into our agency's annual budget and will also be sustained by earned revenue via increased community education fees obtained and continued revenue via grants and contracts from local and state funding streams.

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?

Through this work, we do nothing in silos, only in partnership. We have been asked by our county health department to lead this effort and are actively working with our local DHHS on shaping trauma informed social-services. Through this, we are coupling high impact services with intentional community change. Specifically: -Provide trauma and brain development focused services -Expand our screening services to include social-emotional and trauma screening -Expand community education on adverse childhood experiences and trauma informed care -Expand screening partnerships

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?

Developing active and rapid responses to the realities of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study is critical in all sectors and requires a cross-section of systems to respond with intervention, but most importantly prevention. To advance children's wellbeing, we must be ready as a society to invest in children and families by investing in early childhood services, parent education/empowerment, early screening services and strengthen trauma-informed support for children and their families.

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

  • Word of mouth

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

We learned of this from the Kent County Health Department.

Evaluation results

6 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. - 50%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 16.7%

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. - 16.7%

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. - 16.7%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 33.3%

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). - 33.3%

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). - 16.7%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 33.3%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 16.7%

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! - 16.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 16.7%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 16.7%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 16.7%

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). - 0%

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. - 100%

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. - 33.3%

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

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 33.3%

Attachments (1)

6-9 Drive to Thrive Booklet.pdf

This booklet explains the Drive to Thrive campaign in detail.


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Photo of Andre Wicks

Also, I meant to say that I really appreciate how you reframed your question...THE key to doing something differently is thinking differently!

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