Donna Rafenello
Professor, Child Development & Director, Project RISE

Profile LAC, F-113

Donna relocated from Chicago in 2002 and will probably always consider herself a Midwesterner, as grateful as she is to leave Chicago winters behind! She earned her B.S. in social work from Loyola University and her M.Ed. in early childhood leadership and advocacy from National-Louis University, both in Chicago. Donna and her partner live in Huntington Beach and have a daughter named Sadie.

Work Experience

Donna has over 30 years’ experience working with children and families, including the following roles: preschool teacher and director, nonprofit administrator, program director, home visitor, nanny, child development lab instructor, and child & family counselor. Positions she has held in her career include:

  • Children Today: Child & Family Counselor, Program Director, Executive Director
  • Illinois Branch of the International Dyslexia Association: Executive Director
  • The McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University : (Director) Training Coordinator, Field Supervisor, Communications Manager, and Senior Research Associate
  • National-Louis University: Early Childhood Graduate Faculty
  • ChildServ: Parent Educator/Home Visitor

Areas of Expertise/Research Interests

Program administration, children’s mental health, child abuse prevention, and serving diverse populations in early childhood settings through a multicultural and anti-bias education.

Writing/Editing Credits

Donna’s writing has been published in numerous early childhood publications including Young Children, Child Care Information Exchange, and the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education. In 2004, Donna published her first book - Can’t Touch My Soul - based on personal interviews with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Donna’s writing and editing credits include:

  • Child Care Exchange: Associate Editor & Writing Project Director
  • UCLA: Senior Writer & Editor
  • American Academy of Pediatrics: Contributing Editor
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children: Consulting Editor
  • Chicago Parent Magazine: Columnist (book reviews)
  • Numerous Editorial Review Panels including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Cengage. 
  • California AEYC: Editorial Panel
  • Child Welfare League of America, National Task Force on Children and HIV Infection, Contributing Editor

Professional Activities

Current and past​ activities and contributions include:

  • Los Angeles County Workforce Development Consortium
  • Long Beach Early Care and Education Committee
  • Long Beach Homeless Coalition
  • Board Advisor, Children Today
  • Child Care Exchange
  • World Forum Communications Team
  • Validator, NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation 
  • Board of Directors, Chicago Metro AEYC
  • Advisory Board, Cook County Child Care Resource and Referral, Chicago, IL, 
  • Award Committee, Illinois Preschool Owners Association/NCCA