Dr. Kathleen L. Kostelny

International Child Protection Consultant
Columbia Group for Children in Adversity

Focus Areas

Mental Health / Psychology
Social Justice
Gender-Based Violence
Youth Development
Youth Development


Kathleen Kostelny, Ph.D., is an international consultant on children affected by armed conflict, community violence, and natural disasters. She has extensive experience in emergency situations in child protection, early child development, and psycho-social assistance for children and youth. She has worked on behalf of vulnerable children, youth and families in war zones – including Afghanistan, East Timor, Cambodia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Angola, Mozambique, and Kosovo – as well as in high violence communities in the U.S. She has helped developed psycho-social programs for children and families impacted by the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India, as well as with children and families impacted by Hurricane Katrina. In these settings she helps non-government organizations develop culturally grounded, community-based programs that assist vulnerable children, youth, and families. Her research has focused on the impact of violence and armed conflict on children and families, the impact of psycho-social interventions, and factors that promote coping and resilience in children and caregivers. I have been doing several research projects for the Christian Children’s Fund. One is looking at the impact of an intervention that engages communities to work with children after armed-conflict or a natural catastrophe, such as the 2004 tsunami. The communities establish child-centered spaces to try to normalize life for children. These places are presented as an idea to the community and they are offered some materials, but it’s really the adults in the community that take it on and run the centers on a volunteer basis. This is important, because they are still there at the end of the day, unlike outside volunteers who come for a short while and then leave. One center is in Northern Uganda and was established after 20 years of war. Before the center, there was no place provided for young children. They were too young to go to school, and parents had to work in the fields. The children were left alone and some were sexually abused, some were burned trying to cook for themselves, some were hit by cars…. The center allowed children to be safe and supervised. I was able to show what a profound improvement the Uganda centers had in children’s emotional well-being—they experienced less sadness, less misbehavior, and less emotional distress.