Midwest Regional Summit: Talking ACEs and community trauma-informed solutions

Laura Porter, co-founder ACE Interface (Mike Kelly photo)

Laura Porter, co-founder ACE Interface (Mike Kelly photo)

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CHICAGO—Across the United States these days, it seems as if hardly a week goes by without a conference or a workshop about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and how people are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices in their organizations — including schools, prisons, homeless shelters, hospitals, medical clinics, youth services or businesses.

This month ACEs and trauma conferences and workshops were held in Los Angeles, Santa Rosa and Pasadena, CA, in Dover, DE, Brainerd, MN, Austin, TX, and, the 2015 Midwest Regional Summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences held March 12-13 at Loyola University School of Law in Chicago.

For people who have known for years about the ACE Study, epidemiological research completed by Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and the Centers for Disease Control — such as Laura Porter and Dr. Roy Wade, both of whom spoke at the Midwest summit –- this interest can’t come soon enough, given the significance of the research.

Still, for most people – although including most of the 140 attendees at the third annual conference hosted by the Illinois ACE Response Collaborative  – their response is: “What are ACEs?” “What’s trauma-informed?” “What does resilience-building mean?”

Midwest Regional Summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences (Mike Kelly photo)

Midwest Regional Summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences (Mike Kelly photo)

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Research has shown a direct link between childhood adversity — ACEs – and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence, explained Wade, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and member of the Philadelphia ACE Task Force. ACEs create mental and physical health risks that continue to crop up over a person’s lifetime if not adequately addressed.

These can include developmental delays early in life, mental health and academic achievement issues in childhood, involvement in the juvenile justice system, and alcohol and drug abuse as a youth and adult.

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In Safe Babies Courts, 99% of kids don’t suffer more abuse — but less than 1% of U.S. family courts are Safe Babies Courts

"Prayer Time in the Nursery--Five Points House of Industry" by Jacob Riis. Residential nursery 1888.

“Prayer Time in the Nursery–Five Points House of Industry” by Jacob Riis. Residential nursery 1888.

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The dirty little secret about family courts – where kids and parents who’ve entered the child welfare system end up – is that they often make things worse, especially for the youngest children — from newborns to five-year-olds.

It’s not intentional – child welfare systems and family courts were set up to help children and their families. But traditional family courts can further traumatize kids already suffering from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) by moving them from one foster care home to another, by rarely letting them see their parents (if parents are willing and able), or by leaving them to languish in foster care limbo for years before finding them a permanent home. All this contributes to these children developing chronic diseases when they’re adults, as well as mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

It was decades of research that shows unequivocally how toxic stress caused by adversity does long-term damage to children’s brains and bodies that inspired

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Weathered by my high ACE score

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1. We are knee deep in one of the worst winters in history. When the winds pummel my house and the ocean flows through my basement, what am I thinking is: “I’m so glad I have flood insurance.”  What I am feeling is help. I scaredI want my mommy. I need a daddy.

It’s hard to admit as a middle-aged woman (and feminist) how much the idea of rescue appeals. I have decades of experiential knowing that wishing is futile.

I know my craving for the present, stable and loving parents I never had is like wanting to snort, stab a needle, drink too much or inhale food. I know not to dive into the craving but I can’t pretend desire is gone.

It comes and comes back. Always. Even when it goes away it returns. Usually when I’m tired, sick or afraid.

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Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. In this 16-minute TED Talk, pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.

This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. This is an impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.

Horses help kids recover from adverse childhood experiences

ChildWithHorseBackToCamera1Baylie is eight years old. Born to a mother addicted to cocaine and an alcoholic father, removed from her parents at six months and covered with bruises and cigarette burns, Baylie (not her real name) has spent her childhood shuffled from one foster home to another. She rarely speaks, makes little eye contact with adults, shows no interest in playing with kids her age, and recoils from any attempt at physical affection.

Baylie’s ability to connect with anyone, or anything, seemed impossible until the day she met a horse named Steady.

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‘Invisible Scars’ trailer out; documentary is story of healing journey from child sex abuse

Johnna Janis’s documentary about her experiences with child sex abuse and other childhood adversity will be out next year, when she’ll be taking it to film festivals before distributing it.

Although the beginning focus of her story is child sex abuse, it unwinds with many other issues that emerged from her childhood adversity. With Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-founder of the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,  watching, she does her ACE score (a 9, out of 10), and then interviews him. 

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Foster youth intern lands White House internship; working to make foster care trauma-informed

Amnoni Myers takes the stage at the 2014 Angels in Adoption celebration in Washington D.C. [CCAI photo]

Amnoni Myers takes the stage at the 2014 Angels in Adoption celebration in Washington D.C. [CCAI photo]

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By Daniel Heimpel

This fall, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Angels in Adoption celebration.

The event, which draws stars from entertainment and D.C.’s political elite, always fills the cavernous Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, providing a suitable stage for some real heroes.

One of these was Amnoni Myers, a 26-year-old member of CCAI’s 2014 Foster Youth Internship

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