• Pediatricians screen parents for ACEs to improve health of babies

    TeriandRJ

    Pediatricians Teri Petterson (l) and RJ Gillespie (r) ___________________________________

    The Children’s Clinic, tucked in a busy office park five miles outside downtown Portland, OR, and bustling with noisy babies, boisterous kids and energetic pediatricians, seems ordinary enough. But, for the last two years, a quiet revolution has been brewing in its exam rooms: When parents bring their four-month-old babies in for well-baby checkups, they talk about their own childhood trauma with their kid’s pediatrician.

    Wait. What’s Mom or Dad’s childhood got to do with the health of their baby? And aren’t pediatricians supposed to take care of kids? Not kids’ parents?

    It turns out that just 14 questions about the childhood experiences of parents provide information critical to the future health of their baby, say Children’s Clinic pediatricians Teri Pettersen and RJ Gillespie. The answer to the questions can help determine not only if the child will succeed in school, but when the child becomes an adult, whether she or he is likely to suffer chronic disease, mental illness, become violent or a victim of violence.

    They explain how this is possible.

    It’s an understatement to say that raising a kid is a challenge, and not for the faint of heart. The many stressful moments of an infant or a toddler’s life include tantrums, colic, toilet training, sleep problems, colds, hitting and biting, say Pettersen and Gillespie.

    “At some point, a toddler is likely to hit or bite Mom and Dad,” says Pettersen. “How will they respond?”

    If parents have grown up with a lot of adversity in their lives and little help in understanding how that adversity affects their behavior and how they react to stress, they’re more likely to pass that on to their children, even if they don’t intend to, by reacting without thinking in typical “fight, flight or fright (freeze)” mode. They may hit the child, walk away from the child who’s asking for attention (albeit in a negative way), or freeze, only to be bitten or hit some more. None of that helps grow a healthy child or a healthy relationship between the parent and child.

    Long story short: The physicians at the Children’s Clinic believe that asking parents about their own childhood adversity is a good start to preventing their children from experiencing childhood trauma.

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  • Report helps police protect kids while arresting their parents

    By Stell Simonton, JJIE.org

    Police-child-illustration-771x484

    Each year in the United States, several million children witness the arrest of a parent.

    These arrests are most likely to be for domestic violence, drug-related incidents and property crimes, according to a report from the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The experience can be excruciating for children.

    “It turns their world upside down,” said Lisa Thurau, founder and executive director of Strategies for Youth: Connecting Cops & Kids, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit that provides training to both police and youth.

    Thurau wrote the report “First Do No Harm: Model Practices When Police Arrest Parents in the Presence of Children.”

    “[Children] often want to see domestic violence against the mother stopped, but the way the police conduct the arrest … can scare and traumatize them,” she said.

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  • OP-ED: Obey the signs or end up like me

    By Miguel Quezada, JJIE.org

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    Harris County Juvenile Detention Center, Houston, Texas.

    Seventeen years ago, at the age of 16, I sat in a juvenile hall holding cell waiting to be booked in on first-degree murder charges, three attempted murders, a gun and gang enhancement.

    In writing this, I had to think about how I ended up in that holding cell. What advice could I give that would help you avoid some of the mistakes I made? How could I put into words the destruction I caused to myself and so many other people so that it could be a lesson?

    I asked myself: What went wrong? What did I miss? Why did no one stop me?

    What I realized is that people did try to stop me. Things did happen that were the lessons I needed to put my life back on track to avoid that holding cell. There was plenty of advice but I did not care to hear or see it.

    There were signs telling me to slow down, to stop, that I was moving too fast. So I will sum up my life lesson, using the signs I missed along the road.
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  • Calling for reform, President Obama notes the impact of incarceration on families

    Aprison

    By Melinda Clemmons

    From a cellblock at El Reno Federal Penitentiary in Oklahoma on July 16, President Barack Obama, the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, spoke of his hope that his proposed criminal justice reforms will, among other positive outcomes, “perhaps most importantly, keep families intact.”

    His historic visit to El Reno capped a week in which the president sought to “shine a spotlight” on the U.S. criminal justice system, which he said in a speech July 14 at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia is “particularly skewed by race and by wealth, a source of inequity that has ripple effects on families and on communities and ultimately on our nation.”

    The day before his appearance at the NAACP convention, Obama granted clemency to 46 inmates, most of whom were incarcerated for non-violent offenses under mandatory minimum sentencing laws. In his speech in Philadelphia, the president said the mandatory sentencing laws for non-violent offenses are in large part responsible for the quadrupling of the number of people behind bars in the U.S. since 1980. He is proposing those mandatory minimum sentences be reduced or eliminated, allowing judges to use discretion in sentencing.

    Obama noted that while the U.S. spends $80 billion every year to incarcerate 2.2 million people, there are also “costs that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.”

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  • SaintA helps create a trauma-informed school in Green Bay, WI

    Sara Daniel

    Sara Daniel _________________

    As with many schools that have students living in poverty and who have a high number of adverse childhood experiences, Franklin Middle School in Green Bay, WI, has some who need assistance with attendance or behaviors.

    They received a grant to form the Responder Project to address school discipline issues. As part of the project, Sara Daniel, SaintA’s clinical services director, met with a group of 17 seventh-grade teachers and seven staff members, including a social worker dedicated to the project, several times since August 2014 to provide training in trauma-informed care and trauma-sensitive schools.

    As a result,  63% of the 22 students in the project had improved behavior compared to the previous year, 71% had excellent attendance, and 25% were referred to outside sources for mental health assistance.

    “Sara’s support has been critical; she’s key to all of this,” said Kim Shanock, the school district’s coordinator of Community Partners and Grants, who secured funding for the one-year pilot project. “She brought a way to think about kids’ mindsets, and the teachers and staff adored her.”

    Part of the reason for those feelings toward Daniel, Principal Jackie Hauser said, was that she did a great job of blending research with practical experience and real-life applications. In early meetings, she said, staff shared their frustrations and Daniel just listened.

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  • OP-ED: Justice foiled by ignorance of trauma

    By Judge George Timberlake, Ret, JJIE.org

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    At the supermarket last week, I saw a young woman who looked familiar, but I could not recall her name. I said “Hello” and continued looking for kale, quinoa and 15-grain bread — staples at my house since we are eating healthy.

    Two aisles over, I saw her again. She was thin, almost gaunt, dressed in worn clothes that didn’t fit, but I now recognized her from an appearance years ago in my juvenile courtroom. Let’s call her Kera.

    Kera recognized me, too. I tried to start a conversation. She mumbled a short response and hurried out of the store without making a purchase.

    In the parking lot, I sat in my pickup for several minutes thinking about this woman who had the outward appearance of a meth addict. I wondered how she came to be the person I just saw and what I might have done differently to improve her outcome.

    My thoughts turned to remarks delivered by Abigail Baird, a developmental neuroscientist studying brain development and decision-making by teenagers. She was addressing a symposium sponsored by the National Center for State Courts and the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative.

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