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Child Studies Program


Barbara Burns

Hear more about Burns' research

Barbara M. Burns, Ph.D. Barbara Burns is a developmental psychologist and a professor of Child Studies at Santa Clara University. Since coming to SCU in 2012, she has collaborated with community nonprofits, schools, faith-based institutions and early childhood programs to provide ‘Safe, Secure and Loved-Resilient Families’, a system of trauma informed, mindfulness-based parent education that promotes family and community resilience. In SSL Resilient Families parents learn ways to deepen their joy of parenting and learn strategies to help cope with stress, anxiety and negative mood that may come with the many challenges of raising a family in communities with inadequate resources and social support. 


What is the Safe, Secure and Loved-Resilient Families Program?  A trauma-informed, community-led, mindfulness-based parent education program designed to promoting resilience in families of young children. (See the video for an overview of the program vision.)


The Safe, Secure and Loved-Resilient Families Program embodies a community approach to strengthening communities and preventing child abuse and neglect. Community leaders receive training to become coaches and resilience guides to discuss parenting stressors, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), early child development, and community strengths.  In neighbor-to-neighbor discussions, families learn ways to practice responsive and nurturing behaviors (called habits of resilience) during family routines. The results from this initiative, although preliminary, show great promise. Following the six-workshop program, parents have shown increased family functioning and resiliency, nurturing and attachment, and parenting knowledge. Families have also reported increases in connecting to other social and community services. 


What have been the outcomes of the Safe Secure and Loved: Resilient Families Program for the community?  Across the last 10 years, our initial research intervention study has transformed into community-led parent education programming that is being offered at many sites (schools, libraries, nonprofits, faith-based institutions) in the San Jose and Gilroy community.  The Safe, Secure and Loved: Resilient Families program has been adopted by Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose and is supported by the SCC Dept of Family and Child Services as one of their primary prevention programs.  The program has also been funded by the Bella Vista Foundation, Kaiser Community Grants, and the Sacred Heart of Saratoga Catholic Church’s Social Justice Committee.  Our initial funding for the Resilient Families Project came from the SCU College of A & S and the SCU Ignatian Center-Thriving Neighbors Initiative.


How have SCU students been involved in the Safe, Secure and Loved: Resilient Families Program?

Students majoring in Child Studies, Psychology, Education, Physics and Engineering, have participated in all aspects of the community research which examines the impact of community-led parent education on family resilience.  The long-term goal of the research is to establish effective community-based prevention of child abuse and neglect.


What have been the outcomes of the Safe Secure and Loved: Resilient Families Program for the SCU students?  

SCU students have been involved in:

  • Research presentations at child development and psychology conferences
  • Research publications 
  • Community presentations 
  • Video productions
  • Telenovela (7-episode podcast) coming in 2021 called “Safe, Secure and Loved: Resilient Families” telenovela, funded by SCU Arts for Social Justice


Students working with Dr. Burns on the Resilient Families Project have continued their education in psychology, child development and education, public health, family law, refugee studies, nursing, and medicine. 


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