Project Team

Project Team

PROJECT LEAD: Margaret Leslie, Dip.C.S., C.Psych.Assoc.

Margaret LeslieMargaret Leslie is the Director of Early Intervention Programs at the Canadian Mothercraft Society. For 30 years, her clinical experience has been in the areas of prevention and early intervention services for families and young children living in conditions of risk. Her expertise is in the areas of infant and child assessment, infant mental health, and parent-infant therapy. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Breaking the Cycle program, which was recognized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a best practice program serving pregnant and parenting women with substance use problems, and their young children.

Ms. Leslie is the community co-chair of Infant Mental Health Promotion, and a member of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE). She has co-authored publications on pregnancy, parenting, substance use, and FASD issues, and provides training and consultation nationally and internationally. Ms. Leslie is the recipient of the National Harm Reduction Award for Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use Programming, the 2013 Elizabeth Manson Award for Community Service in Children's Mental Health, and the 2014 City of Toronto Public Health Champion Award. She is a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario.


Dr. Debra PeplerDr. Debra Pepler is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University and a Senior Executive Member of the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth. Dr. Pepler's research has focused on children's social-emotional development in the context of the peer group and family. In her seminal research, she developed a method to observe naturalistic interactions among school-aged children using remote microphones and video cameras. This research has been critical in revealing the processes involved in children's aggressive interactions and bullying.

Throughout her career, Dr. Pepler has stepped sideways into clinical and community settings to co-create both basic and applied research. Over the past 20 years, she has worked with Breaking the Cycle, a program for substance using mothers and their young children, to study the processes of change through treatment. She has also worked with the Stop Now and Plan® (SNAP) program for aggressive children and their parents, as well as with Pine River Institute for youth with addiction and mental health problems. This journey of co-creation led her into relationships that have been the foundation for the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet: Dr. Pepler co-directs PREVNet with Dr. Wendy Craig and with their partners, they are closing the science-practice gap to prevent bullying and promote healthy relationships for children and youth. Dr. Pepler has been honoured for her research with numerous awards including the Contribution to Knowledge Award from the Psychology Foundation of Canada, the CPA Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community Service, and the Humanitarian Award from Queen's University Alumni Association.

CO-INVESTIGATOR: Mary Motz, PhD., C.Psych.

Dr. Mary MotzDr. Motz is the Clinical Psychologist at Mothercraft's Breaking the Cycle (BTC) program and an Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Psychology at York University. Since obtaining her degree in clinical-developmental psychology at York University, she has been working as a clinical psychologist with infants, young children and their mothers who are at risk for maladaptive outcomes due to issues related to maternal substance use and mental health difficulties, trauma, family violence, and poverty. Dr. Motz is on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Diagnostic Teams at BTC and Anishnawbe Health Toronto. Dr. Motz was a previous Post-Doctoral Fellow at the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research. In collaboration with Dr. Debra Pepler, Dr. Motz has led the program evaluation and research at BTC and has supervised numerous research and clinical practicum students. Her research focuses on mechanisms which support women with complex needs to engage and utilize relationship-focused intervention services to foster their own well-being, as well as the development and mental health of their infants and young children.

RESEARCHER: Naomi Andrews, Ph.D.

Dr. Naomi AndrewsDr. Naomi Andrews is a postdoctoral fellow at Mothercraft's Breaking the Cycle program and the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research at York University. She obtained her Ph.D. from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. There, her research focused on children and adolescents' involvement in problematic social behaviors, including aggression, victimization, and delinquency. From the lens that these problem behaviors are inherently social phenomena, she has focused on disentangling the complex social relationship processes that underlie problem behaviors. In attempting to understand and decrease children’s involvement in aggression and victimization, Dr. Andrews has conducted research considering who is interacting with whom, the nature and quality of those relationships within the broader social context, and peers’ perceptions of their own and others' relationships. At Breaking the Cycle, Dr. Andrews is transferring this relational focus to an applied setting. She is interested in better understanding how healthy and unhealthy relationships impact children’s development, and how relationship focused interventions can be used to support at-risk populations.

RESEARCHER: Samar Zuberi, MSc.

Samar ZuberiSamar Zuberi is a Research Assistant for Building Connections at Mothercraft/Breaking the Cycle. She obtained an MSc. in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She has been engaged in social science research, working on social policy issues with a specific focus on topics related to women and children in vulnerable populations.

Ms. Zuberi has over seven years of work experience with the most recent four years spent working in multi-disciplinary research institutes gaining hands on experience managing and participating in field research and evaluating programs for government and donors. She has worked on projects ranging from violence against women, to cash transfer programs, to assessing the impact of floods on schools. Aside from designing and leading research, she has also managed stakeholder engagement and research communications with a focus on ensuring research findings drive policy and programmatic change.

Previously Ms. Zuberi worked in the corporate consulting sector.

RESEARCHER: Camilla Singh, B.Sc. MPH

Camilla SinghCamilla Singh is a Research Assistant for Building Connections at Mothercraft’s Breaking the Cycle. She obtained two BSc. degrees from the University of South Florida in the United States, in Public Health and in Biomedical Science. There, she concentrated her work and research on the health of women and children in underserved and vulnerable communities. She then went on to obtain her MPH from Western University in London, Ontario and has since focused on addressing abuse against women and child maltreatment.

Ms. Singh has over ten years of experience working on community engagement initiatives for marginalized populations in both Canada and the United States. She has engaged community organizations, hospitals, and schools to address topics such as access to health care for pregnant women, general health and wellness, mental health, homelessness and the need for stable housing, and interpersonal violence.


Lisa HowarthMs. Howarth spent the early years of her career working as a front-line women's shelter counselor and sexual assault crisis worker. She then joined the Heart and Stroke Foundation as Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge region and then the Director of Events at the Provincial Head Office in Toronto. The majority of Ms. Howarth professional career was spent at Today's Parent Magazine as the Director of Special Editions including the quarterly publications Pregnancy and Birth, Baby & Toddler, and the Pre & Postnatal News. In 2007 Ms. Howarth graduated from OISE with her B.Ed. and started a kindergarten and primary home school. She is delighted to join Mothercraft's Breaking the Cycle as the Project Coordinator for the Building Connections Initiative.