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Who was eight-year-old Anna?

The short life of eight-year-old Anna was the catalyst for Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello writing the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment. Anna is a fictional character based on very real children within the child welfare system. While working in New Mexico’s Child Protective Services Research Assessment and Data Bureau, Dr. Ortega Courtney and Cappello heard of a child that had been in and out of the system eight times, only to be returned to her deeply troubled mother who kicked her to death. There were expressions of moral outrage across the news media both locally and nationally, yet the reforms suggested and implemented would not be sufficient to address the systemic challenges within child welfare. The co-authors made a commitment to do whatever it took to keep a case like Anna’s from ever happening again.

The authors hoped that the book Anna, Age Eight, published in 2017, would catch the attention of local and state lawmakers to push data-driven reforms in the state capital, along with public engagement on the issue of preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma across the state. Over the course of a year, the state of New Mexico would fund the development and launch of Anna, Age Eight Institute to implement the book’s recommendations to empower county leaders as they mobilize to ensure the ten vital services for surviving and thriving that include medical care, mental health care, house security programs, food security programs and transportation.


What are the costs of the status quo?

There are costly consequences for all of us in ignoring ACEs. Directly or indirectly, ACEs, trauma and social adversity impact all of us. While some may score a zero on the ACEs ten-question survey, we all navigate a world of relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers who may have scored much, much higher.

Anna, Age Eight describes how slowly and silently, these emotional and physical adverse childhood experiences can have long-term and life-long consequences depending on the survivor and family’s access to treatment and resources.

“The authors offer common sense solutions including systemic change and a plea for attention on the part of citizens and lawmakers.”—Pamela Etre-Perez, PhD, Former Director of Adult Education, State of New Mexico; Former Dean of the School of Adult Education, Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque

“The authors offer common sense solutions including systemic change and a plea for attention on the part of citizens and lawmakers.”

—Pamela Etre-Perez, PhD, Former Director of Adult Education, State of New Mexico; Former Dean of the School of Adult Education, Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque

Most forms of ACEs are hidden across all socio-economic groups and fly under the radar of schools and child protective services, yet the consequences of untreated childhood trauma can destroy essential relationships, fill our jails, diminish our workforce, inhibit learning in our schools, overtax our emergency rooms and encourage the sort of hopelessness that drives people to drugs and other self-destructive behaviors. Everyone is harmed as the trauma is passed from generation to generation.

Despite decades of denial and finger-pointing, our nation continues to be in the midst of an epidemic of childhood trauma. That must stop now. The work of data-driven prevention has been initiated by champions who read Anna’s story and feel compelled to act, empowered with a framework for preventing trauma before it starts.


Prioritizing our children every day

Anna, Age Eight is a call to action for ensuring safe childhoods in all our communities, promoting public and private sector collaboration between city councils, school boards, universities, state legislators, business leaders and a solution-seeking public. As all child advocates know, it’s important to keep child safety a priority 24/7 – 365 days of the year. In times of crisis, it is especially important to keep the safety of children a priority. 

Reading Anna, Age Eight, you’ll discover how your city can harness the power of data and technology to end childhood and family trauma that leads to substance misuse and untreated mental health challenges. 

What makes Anna, Age Eight groundbreaking is that it provides to all city and county leadership a systems approach to prevention. This requires building the ten vital services that can ensure safe childhoods and resilient families — what we refer to as the 100% Community where every child’s health, safety and education is a priority.

Childhood trauma, along with child maltreatment that pushes families into the child welfare system are both predictable and preventable. Anna, Age Eight suggests a series of shockingly modest yet strategic reforms, changes that can ensure that the future systems of protection in every community are better at identifying their own shortcomings and fixing them. The book offers a way to address the root causes of childhood trauma that impact student achievement, family safety, employment and economic development.

The authors’ main thesis, quite simply, is that protecting all our children is entirely possible, but only when we know the scope of the challenges faced by families of all socio-economic levels in each unique community. The book provides a detailed, data-driven analysis of the scope of the problem and how to strengthen key systems, called “survival services” and “thriving services,” designed to protect 100% of our children and strengthen families and communities. The proven strategies proposed, guided by decades of research focused on the social determinants of health, have the power to heal families, illustrating how we can all take courageous and compassionate steps toward designing family-focused and child-centered communities.


Meet the authors


Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello are advocates for turning crisis into opportunities for improving systems, solving challenges using data, technology and collaboration. They know why systems that should protect us, can fail us — and teach leadership development and data-driven problem-solving. Dr. Courtney’s expertise in data analysis, continuous quality improvement, collective impact and experimental psychology guides communities and organizations through turbulent and timely change. Cappello is a health systems strategist and New York Times bestseller author, whose Ten Talks book series on family safety reached a national audience when his innovative work was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Please visit Bios to learn more about the authors and their collaborators.


What do readers say about Anna, Age Eight?

“Congratulations to Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney and Dominic Cappello on the publication of their powerful and important book.”
—Alan Webber, Mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and co-founder of Fast Company magazine

“The book asks that we educate ourselves about this hidden epidemic of trauma and mobilize our cities and towns around evidence-based solutions. The book is a blueprint for creating family-friendly and trauma-free communities across the nation.”
—Pepper Schwartz, PhD, Author and Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington

“Quite simply, everyone who has a child or works with children in any capacity should read this book. All of us—parents, educators, physicians, those in all walks of social work and law enforcement.”
—Heather Race, former educator

“This book brought data to a place of relevancy for social change. It was written in an easy to follow, plain-speak format which made the read not only informative, but very enjoyable and motivating.”
—Dr. Melissa Hardin, Program of Social Work, Eastern New Mexico University

“I love this book because it’s recommendations are actionable, at what ever level of public engagement you begin from.”
—Robin Swift, New Mexico Public Health expert

“I appreciate the genuine and authentic approach to creating a narrative for a very emotionally charged social and public health issues.”
—Xenia G Becher, MSW, Syracuse University

“Anna, Age Eight should be required reading for every teacher, every parent, and every public leader from health official to mayor—because this epidemic of trauma is real and must be taken seriously.”
—Yarrott Benz, teacher and author of The Bone Bridge: A Brother’s Story, IPPY gold medal winner



When can I start reading Anna, Age Eight?

You and your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and community’s high school and college students can start reading now. New Mexicans can download a PDF copy of Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment free-of-charge. Please go here for a copy of Anna, Age Eight if you are not in New Mexico.  

Translation of Anna, Age Eight into Spanish was made possible through the generous support of the Brindle Foundation.

Free Digital Download for New Mexicans

Anyone in the state of New Mexico can download a PDF copy of Anna, Age Eight for free. (Una versión en español del libro está disponible aquí.) If you would also like to download a Spanish language PDF of the book, you will find a link to it on the download page. Just complete the form below.

Non-New Mexico residents, please go to the Ten Vital Services website to obtain a copy of Anna, Age Eight.

After completing the form below, we will immediately provide you with a personal download link. If you have problems please contact us for assistance.

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To get more information on Anna, Age Eight and 100% Community book clubs, as well as community forums, take the next step and contact us.

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