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California Essentials for Childhood Initiative (CA)

The California Essentials for Childhood Initiative uses a public health and collective impact approach to align and enhance collaborative efforts to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children, youth and families through systems, policy and social norms change.

Meet the Essentials for Childhood Initiative Team (Part 1/2)

Meet some of the Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative team members:

ecElena Costa – Elena Costa is the new Program Coordinator for the Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative with the Safe and Active Communities Branch (SACB) at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Elena joined the EfC Initiative in April of 2019 and is excited to work with the membership of the Initiative to promote Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships, and Environments (SSNR&E) and assist with efforts to create policy change to prevent and reduce child maltreatment and other childhood adversity among California’s children.

Prior to working for the EfC Initiative, Elena supported efforts to create local and statewide tobacco-related policy change with CDPH’s California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) and with the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), Operations and Accountability Office, to assist individuals with disabilities achieve employment, independence, and equality.

Before working for the State of California, Elena worked for local non-profits coordinating the Sacramento LGBT Center's health programs and WellSpace Health’s mental health crisis programs. Elena earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science, with an emphasis in Community Health Education, from California State University, Sacramento. Elena’s interests outside of work include spending time with friends and family, acting as the cheering section during her children's numerous extracurricular activities, and tending to her fledgling garden.


dgDaniela Guarnizo - Daniela Guarnizo is a Program Analyst for the Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative at the California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention (CDSS/OCAP). Daniela supports the EfC Initiative in meeting its plan objectives, including interventions that focus on the expansion and strengthening of economic supports and trauma-informed initiatives throughout California.

Prior to joining the CDSS, Daniela was part of the Capital Fellows Program in 2017-2018. As an Executive Fellow with the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, she assisted in the development of statewide workforce co-enrollment initiative to better serve low-income Californians, with a focus on California’s immigrant community. Daniela received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Central Florida.

In 2017, Daniela was appointed by the former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to the California Department of Education Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup, and in 2018 she was appointed to the County of Sacramento Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Steering Committee. As a member of these committees, she has helped with the passage and implementation of key initiatives to improve behavioral health services in California and the County of Sacramento.

Daniela was born in Bogotá, Colombia and immigrated with her family to the United States seeking political asylum when she was ten years old. After living in Orlando, Florida for 13 years, she made California her home in 2016. She is an active mental health advocate, and openly shares her lived experience with mental illness with community members and leaders. In her spare time, she enjoys sharing her passion for Latin dance with others, hiking to connect with nature, and spending meaningful time with friends and family. She speaks, writes, and reads Spanish fluently.


hjHannah James – Hannah James is a Program Analyst for the All Children Thrive (ACT) and the Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative at the California Department of Public Health, Safe and Active Communities Branch (CDPH/SACB). Hannah supports the EfC Initiative in meeting its plan objectives including interventions that focus on the expansion of economic supports and trauma-informed initiatives throughout California.

Hannah completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies and Anthropology at Yale-NUS (National University of Singapore) in Singapore. After becoming acquainted with public health through sociological and historical angles, i.e. how many formerly colonized cities were built upon the concept of sanitization via segregation, she became increasingly interested in how people not only conceptualize health and disease, but also how urban form and  policy dictate and inform peoples’ understandings. She hopes to be able to bridge her passions in urban sociology and public health by obtaining a Master in Urban Planning and a Master in Public Health one day.

Hannah is a devout carne asada burrito lover and aspiring vegetarian.


msMarja Sainio – Marja Sainio is the manager of the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) unit at the California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention (CDSS/OCAP). Marja has been with the CDSS/OCAP since 2015, where she started as an analyst. In her current role as manager of the FCSS unit, Marja provides oversight of Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative activities at CDSS, and expertise regarding current and proposed child abuse and neglect prevention and intervention policies and strategic planning. 

Previously, Marja was employed as a Global Programs Associate at Freedom from Hunger, a charitable organization which develops financial and educational tools for women so that they and their families can escape poverty. During her time at Freedom from Hunger, Marja led the development, implementation, and coordination of knowledge management practices and activities for the Global Programs team, including the rollout of the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management system for the organization. Marja also lived and worked in Caracas, Venezuela, where she was employed as a project assistant at Urban-Think Tank during the unveiling of a major social architecture project, the San Agustin Metrocable, which connects hillside Caracas slums with the city center.

Marja obtained her Master of Arts in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, and two Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Cornell College (in Iowa, not New York).

Marja lives with her dog, cat, and husband in Sacramento, and while she loves having a home filled with houseplants, she can’t anymore because the cat eats them all.


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Hello Lucy,

Thank you so much for your comment, you raise an important topic. Staff to the EfC Initiative are very interested in engaging organizations and subject matter experts who represent and/or work on behalf of priority populations, such as Californians who are LGBTQ. I look forward to hearing more from you and others on how the staff to the EfC Initiative can best engage on the needs of children who are LGBTQ at the convening and in subcommittees!

Last edited by Elena Costa
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