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Department ofChild Studies

Barbara Burns

Barbara Burns


Barbara M. Burns, Ph.D. is a developmental psychologist and a professor of Child Studies at Santa Clara University. Her research is focused on strengthening child and family resilience and preventing child abuse and neglect in families with young children. Since coming to SCU in 2012 she has collaborated with Sacred Heart Community Service (SHCS), a large community agency that combines essential services with programs that foster self-sufficiency (employment, family mentoring, citizenship, and youth and adult education), and outreach. Burns’s research partners at SHCS include Roberto Gil, Maria Gallardo, Ana Morante and a large number of community leaders/promotoras. Together they have successfully expanded a child abuse prevention intervention, called Safe, Secure and Loved: Resilient Families (SSL:RF), into community-led parent education programming that is now offered at many sites (schools, libraries, nonprofits, faith-based institutions) in San Jose and Gilroy. As part of SSL:RF, community leaders facilitate neighbor-to-neighbor group discussions and share ways for parents of young children to practice responsive and nurturing behaviors (called habits of resilience) during family routines. Following the completion of the manualized six-workshop program, parents show increased family functioning and resiliency, nurturing and attachment, and parenting knowledge. Families have also reported increases in connecting to other social and community services. SSL:RF is supported by the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Child Services as one of their primary prevention programs.  Funders for SSL:RF have included the Bella Vista Foundation, Kaiser Community Grant Foundation, and the Sacred Heart of Saratoga Catholic Church’s Social Justice Committee. The initial funding for Burns to expand community-led programming came from SCU College of Arts and Sciences and the SCU Ignatian Center-Thriving Neighbors Initiative.

Safe, Secure and Loved: Resilient Families Program and Students at SCU. Students majoring in Child Studies, Psychology, Public Health, Physics and Engineering, have been integral to the success of this community-engaged research to promote family resilience and prevent child abuse and neglect. SCU students have presented their work at community organizations and child development research conferences; published journal articles and animations; and created community murals. Students are currently preparing to launch a 7-episode telenovela (podcast), called Safe, Secure and Loved: Letitia’s Journey which was supported by SCU Arts for Social Justice. Undergraduate students on the SSL:RF team have continued their education in psychology, child development and education, public health, family law, refugee studies, nursing, and medicine.


Selected Research Publications

  • Burns, B. M. (book manuscript, in preparation) Safe, Secure and Loved: A neighbor-to-neighbor approach to strengthen child, family and community resilience.
  • Burns, B. M., Merritt, J., Chyu, L., and Gil, R. (2019) The implementation of mindfulness-based, trauma-informed parent education in an underserved Latino community: The emergence of a community workforce.  American Journal of Community Psychology, 63, 338-354. 
  • Burns, B. M. (2018) Mindfulness-based parenting programs: Significance for young children experiencing adversity and trauma. In T. G. Plante (Ed.) Healing With Spiritual Practices: Proven Techniques for Disorders from Addictions and Anxiety to Cancer and Chronic Pain. NY: Praeger. p.131-142. 
  • May, M., Fayram, E., Crespi, S., Ilicin, M., Sherwin, E., Vaccaro, J., Franke, K., Franklin, C., Richardson, S., Goitom, S., Dong, S. Schuller, M. & Burns, B. M. (2016) Resilient Families Community Movement. International Journal of Student Voice, Vol. 1 (1) (Animation).
  • Burns, B. M. and Maritz, Y. (2015) Mindful parents, resilient children: The significance of compassion for parenting. In Plante, T. G. (Ed.) Maximize Compassion, Minimize Cruelty: Psychological, Spiritual, and Religious Influences. NY: Praeger. Isbn: 978-1-4408-3269-7. P. 125-141.
  • Burns, B. M., Fayram, E., Strong, K., Ruiz, A., Arellano, B., Ilcisin, M., Dong, S., Schuller, M., Gil, R., Franklin, C., Agelson, D., Cruz, V., Crespi, S., Vaccaro, J. (2015) Resilient Families Program: Promoting young children’s resilience through parenting. International Wheelock Journal of Children, Families and Social Change. e1-e9.
  • Burns, B. M., Haynes, L., Bauer, A., Shetty, A., Mendoza, J. Fregoso, F., Strong, K., Arellano, B. (2013) Strengthening children’s resilience through parenting: A pilot study. Therapeutic Communities: International Journal of Therapeutic Communities 34(4), 121-131.