Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood Initiative

Learn about the Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood Initiative (Mass EfC) definitions, partners, and Collective Impact Teams (CIT).

Table of Contents


Young children experience their world through their relationships with parents and other caregivers. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to preventing child abuse and neglect.

Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood Initiative (Mass EfC) promotes safe, stable, nurturing, environments and relationships for the communities in which we live, learn and work. Additionally, Mass EfC promotes community social connection and fosters collective responsibility for the wellness of families, so that children of all races and socio-economic status can thrive.

The collaboration

Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood (Mass EfC) is a collaboration of public and private stakeholders across multiple sectors to address the public health problem of child abuse and neglect. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and led by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Mass EfC is an integrated, multi-sector and community-based approach building on important family strengthening initiatives.  

Lead partners

Collective Impact Teams (CIT)

  • Racial Equity CIT:
    Racial Equity is a key element for all Mass EfC’s strategy and policy recommendations. The Racial Equity CIT will ensure that a racial justice lens is applied to all of Mass EfC's work, and will develop or adapt tools for communities to advance racial justice and health equity.
  • Data and Evaluation CIT:
    Led by Tufts University and Child Trends, the Data and Evaluation CIT will track and analyze the strategies and activities that lead to Mass EfC’s effectiveness.     
  • Policy/Economic Opportunity CIT:
    The Social Determinants of Health are a primary driver for child abuse and neglect. The Policy and Economic Opportunity CIT strategies include increasing the number of families filing for their Earned Income Tax Credit (EICT) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) through Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in local health care settings and working toward equitable implementation of Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave.
  • Community Connection CIT:
    The proposed strategies, policies and tools developed across CITs are field tested by the Community Connection CIT. These include the Plans of Safe Care brief and videos, Pathways to Connectedness videos, a Social Connectedness Municipal Check List, and the Racial Equity Toolkit. Mass EfC’s newsletter and social media are two communication activities managed by this team. The Community Connection CIT also organizes Mass EfC’s annual summit and community award presentations to Essential Agents of Change. 

The problem

Child abuse and neglect is a significant public health problem. Abused or neglected children often suffer physical injury. Child abuse and neglect can also affect broader health outcomes, mental health, social development and risk-taking behavior into adolescence and adulthood.

Key definitions:

  1. Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) or Child Maltreatment (CM):
    Any act or failure to act by a parent or a caregiver that results in actual or potential harm to a child. It can occur in a child's home or in the organizations, schools or communities where the child may be. All types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role (such as clergy, a coach, a teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child is child abuse and neglect or child maltreatment. Watch CDC's video: What are child abuse and neglect?
  2. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs):
    Stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have been incarcerated or have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of physical and mental health problems throughout a person’s lifespan. Watch CDC's video We Can Prevent ACEs, or download the infographic: What are ACEs?
  3. Social Determinants of Health (SDoH):
    The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work, play and age. Economic forces and social policies often shape these circumstances. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status. Watch the University of Michigan School of Public Health's video: What Are Social Determinants of Health?
  4. Safe, Stable and Nurturing Environments and Relationships (SSNRs):
    Safety, stability and nurturing are three critical qualities of relationships that make a difference for children as they grow and develop. These qualities shape the development of children’s physical, emotional, social, behavioral, and intellectual capacities. SSNRs have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential. Read more at Essentials for Childhood: Creating Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships and Environments
  5. Social Norms:
    Social norms are the accepted standards of behavior of social groups. They provide us with unwritten rules of how to behave in a particular social group or culture. These groups range from friendship and work groups to communities, and nations. 

Learn more

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