Our Mission & Team


The Devereux Center for Resilient Children (DCRC) strives to promote social and emotional development, foster resilience, and build skills for school and life success in children birth through preschool, as well as to promote the resilience of the adults who care for them. Our nationally standardized strength-based assessments, strategy resources, and professional development are grounded in resilience research, and for over 25 years have been used by thousands of programs across the U.S. and internationally.

Meet Our Team

Susan Damico, M.A.


Susan is a graduate of Bucknell University and received her master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago. Prior to returning to graduate school, Susan worked in Washington, D.C. as a legislative assistant on Capitol Hill, providing constituent support in areas including healthcare and education. Susan joined Devereux in 1996 as the project coordinator for the Devereux Early Childhood Initiative (now the Devereux Center for Resilient Children). Working in partnership with her Devereux colleagues, Susan has been instrumental in the publication of the suite of Devereux resilience resources, including the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) Program for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. In her current role, Susan is responsible for promoting the national and international use of Devereux’s strengths-based and research-informed assessments and strategies to foster the resilience and social and emotional development of young children, and of the adults who care for them. Susan also appreciates the opportunity to share the hopeful and promising message of resilience through the delivery of professional development events and conference presentations nationwide.

Debi Mahler, LCSW

Director of Professional Development

Debi received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, and received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Debi spent the first part of her career working in community mental health as a clinician, and then the program manager for an elementary day treatment program. Debi also started a therapeutic preschool program and provided early childhood mental health consultation services to area preschool programs. Since the start of her work for the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2002, she has provided professional development to programs around the country, developed training and resources, and currently manages all aspects of professional development offered by DCRC. When time allows, she still loves to provide training/workshops to programs and communities on topics related to promoting the social-emotional health and resilience of young children, along with the adults who care for them.

Nefertiti B. Poyner, Ed.D.

Early Childhood Specialist & National Trainer

Nefertiti received her undergraduate degree from Virginia State University, her graduate degree from Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania, and her Doctoral of Education Degree from Walden University. Prior to joining the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Nefertiti worked as a preschool and kindergarten teacher in the city of Philadelphia. Since joining DCRC in 2002, Nefertiti has provided professional development and presentations that focus on educating parents, teachers, and administrators on the importance of paying attention to not only how children perform academically, but also how they feel, socially and emotionally. Nefertiti has co-authored two resources – Building Your Bounce: Simple Strategies for a Resilient You, and the award-winning Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure: 50 Activities to Promote Resilience in Young Children.

Rachel Wagner, MSW

Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist & National Trainer

Rachel received her bachelor’s degree in clinical sociology from Ithaca College and received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Albany. Rachel is the author of FLIP IT! Transforming Challenging Behavior. She is also the co-author of Your Journey Together: Building the Resilience of Children and Families and the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey (DERLS). Rachel travels the country speaking to groups on topics related to social-emotional health and resilience. In her work at DCRC, Rachel enjoys a variety of responsibilities, including: adult learning design, live and web-based professional development, resilience resource creation, technical assistance, and long-distance reflective supervision to groups and individuals providing early childhood mental health consultation, coaching and leadership services.

Rudee Abello

Marketing Communications Manager

Rudee received her bachelor’s degree in business administration/marketing from the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University. Rudee joined the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2017 to take on the team’s marketing initiatives, specifically, their website and email communications. Additionally, she was responsible for managing customer service for those utilizing the team’s web-based assessment and planning system. Since then, Rudee has elevated the team’s overall marketing communications strategy and programs, including branding, product/service promotion, and content development. She strives to not only promote the team’s products and services, maintaining and attracting a customer base, but also to build up their reputation and expand their reach. Rudee’s goal is to help make the Devereux Center for Resilient Children one of the top thought leaders when it comes to early childhood, resilience, and social and emotional development.

Hadley Kunz, M.Ed., BCBA, LBS

Coordinator of Professional Development Learning Events

Hadley received her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, and received her master of education in child development from Chaminade University. Hadley worked in non-profit management at several education centers for children in both Hawaii and the Philadelphia region. She joined Devereux in 2017 as an instructional coordinator in one of Devereux’s schools for children with disabilities, and most recently worked as a clinician at Devereux’s community-based autism program for adults. During her time at Devereux, Hadley completed additional graduate work in Applied Behavior Analysis at Penn State University, and earned her board certification in behavior analysis (BCBA). Hadley joined the Devereux Center for Resilient Children in 2022 to support the professional development learning events and office management.

Resilience-Focused Change

From our team to you and yours, we share with you our stance on the fight to end racism, and we stand alongside all those seeking to nurture resilience in children and families made vulnerable by systemic oppression. If you have not yet seen our team's statement shared back in June 2020, we encourage you to read it now. Know that being resilience-focused in this moment means calling upon and nurturing protective factors within others and ourselves.

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Villanova, PA 19085

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