Shadi Houshyar, Ph.D.

Director of Early Childhood and Child Welfare Initiatives

Shadi Houshyar is Director of Early Childhood and Child Welfare Initiatives within Families USA’s Health Policy team. In this role, Shadi leads our policy development on the national and state-level for policies to promote the healthy development of children, including preventing and mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), ensuring access to trauma-informed care, and promoting resiliency in young children and families. With expertise in health care, early childhood, and child welfare systems, Shadi’s work centers on developing sustainable financing to support the needs of children, including the role of communities, states, health systems, and existing public programs, to ensure the strongest possible supports for children and families. Working closely with national partners within the early childhood community and across other sectors, Shadi also is developing a proactive early childhood policy agenda focused on elevating the national dialogue on the importance of early experiences and relationships as foundational to child health and wellbeing.

Prior to joining Families USA, she was Senior Associate and Project Director at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), working on preventing and mitigating the effects of toxic stress on young children and families. At CSSP, Shadi oversaw the successful implementation of a universal pediatric intervention for infants, birth to six months, aimed at promoting protective factors, addressing social determinants of health, and enhancing parent agency as part of community approaches to preventing and mitigating toxic stress. She also provided support to CSSP’s Young Children and Families Team’s early childhood systems-building initiative, Early Childhood-LINC.

Shadi also has experience working on federal child welfare policy, with a focus on identifying opportunities to address the health and behavioral health challenges of children and youth impacted by the child welfare system.  This includes serving as Vice President for Child Welfare Policy at First Focus, a national bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. She was also directed First Focus’s State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC), a national resource center for state-based advocates, aimed at improving outcomes for children and families involved with the child welfare system by building the capacity of, and connections between, state child welfare advocates. Shadi has also served as a fellow of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale and as an AAAS/SRCD Congressional Fellow for Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), working on health, education, and disability policy and other issues within the jurisdiction of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Shadi received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Yale University, where she worked directly with children who were abused and neglected. Her research focused on identifying factors that foster resilience in children exposed to trauma. Shadi’s graduate research involved an evaluation of an intervention program in the state of Connecticut designed to minimize multiple placements, re-abuse, and re-entry into the child welfare system. Her research was recognized with awards from the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students.