Research by Dr. Cassie Landers, assistant professor of population and family health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a senior partner at Maestral International, contributed to the proposal Changing the Way We CareSM, a finalist in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 100&Change competition. Maestral International is a global leader in supporting the development and strengthening of child protection and social welfare systems for children in adversity.
[Photo: Dr. Cassie Landers]
At the Mailman School of Public Health, Dr. Landers focuses on designing interventions for children and their families in low and middle-income countries. Over the past 20 years, she has provided technical assistance and support to child development programs in over 60 countries throughout Southern Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Dr. Landers has extensive experience in the design, implementation, and training of practitioners at all levels, and has designed interventions for children in conflict and post conflict situations including Haiti, Liberia, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Romania.
MacArthur’s 100&Change competition will award $100 million to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time. The proposal by Maestral International, which reunites children in orphanages with their families while providing critical family support so families can remain intact, brought together Maestral International, Catholic Relief Services and Lumos. The latter has extensive experience working with children and families in Eastern Europe and was founded by Harry Potter author Ms. J.K. Rowling. The winner of the competition will be announced in December.
Changing the Way We CareSM recognizes that poverty or disability are the real reasons most children are in orphanages. However, research shows that even the best institutional care damages the development of children. Changing the Way We CareSM will return these children to family care by providing the critical support families need, while preventing more children from needlessly entering orphanages. Under the proposal, existing orphanages will become family support centers that will provide critical services that help families stay together. The team will initially work in Guatemala, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon and Moldova.
“We know that early experiences affect the development of brain architecture which lays the foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and health,” said Dr. Landers. “Children thrive in environments that provide stable, consistent, and responsive interactions with caring adults. With support from the MacArthur Foundation, we are eager to work in partnership with governments and communities to develop strategies that will give all children a chance to thrive in supportive and nurturing family care.”