‘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. 
As Janis notes: “This will be a great tool for people to see firsthand what happens to someone who has experienced trauma, and what steps can be taken to move towards healing. Great insight, excellent experts, and above all….room for prevention and education.”
Janis co-produced Invisible Scars with Sergio Myers, who directed the documentary. He is an award-winning director/producer who has been a good friend of Janis’ for almost 10 years. He is also a survivor of multiple ACEs, says Janis, and healed tremendously during the making of the documentary.
Janis said she brought him on board because of his background in film and television, and also so that he could use his own personal experiences to help shape the narrative of the documentary. They both share the desire to help others heal and grow.
“He was actually part of my educational journey,” says Janis. “According to my director, this film (in making it with me) has given him a voice to be able to talk about his past without having to publicly announce it, per se.”

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 Program (FYI). I remember her taking the stage, somewhere in between U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), to tell the crowd about the FYI program.

For Amnoni, CCAI’s marquee program meant interning for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and contributing to the increasingly influential policy report that the foster youth interns produce every summer. In that report, Amnoni drew from a robust body of research sparked by the 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study to deliver a compelling case for increased efforts to make the foster care system “trauma-informed.”

On stage at the Reagan Building, Amnoni described her experience and told the crowd that she had applied for an internship at the White House. Whoops and applause rose from the hundred or more tables tightly spaced across the floor.

Last week, Amnoni stopped by my office in San Francisco, with some good news in hand. In January, she will move back to D.C. to start that White House internship with the Domestic Policy Council.

Instead of brimming with pride, Amnoni was sanguine about the opportunity. Having come up in foster care, many of her peers and extended family never had the chance at an internship at the White

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San Diego Youth Services embraces a trauma-informed approach; kids do better, staff stay longer, programs more effective

Staff of the San Diego Youth Services TAY Academy welcome all Transition Age Youth (TAY) to drop-in. Left to right: Vanessa Arteaga, Indie Landrum, Stephen Carroll, and Gillian Leal.

Staff of the San Diego Youth Services TAY Academy welcome all Transition Age Youth (TAY) to drop-in. Left to right: Vanessa Arteaga, Indie Landrum, Stephen Carroll, and Gillian Leal.

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In 2010, 16-year-old Indie Landrum ran away from an unstable home where he lived with his mom and his grandmother. His older sister ran away when she was 16, and both of his brothers were incarcerated. Indie sought emergency housing at the San Diego Youth Services (SDYS) Storefront shelter, and lived there for several months before going into a long-term group home.

During his time at Storefront, SDYS began a dramatic transformation: the process of becoming a trauma-informed organization. Basically, that means instead of a staff member angrily asking a youth who’s acting out, “What’s wrong with you?” and punishing the behavior, staff members ask, “What happened to you?” and work with the kid on healing and recovery.

The results? Significant. Youth who were less likely to use the services now do, and more often. Police involvement and foster home/group home placements are down. And SDYS staff turnover has dropped. When Indie first arrived, “there were very specific rules that had to be followed to stay in shelter. If you weren’t in by 7:30 p.m., you couldn’t stay the night,” says Indie. “It’s not that they didn’t care, it just didn’t matter why you weren’t there.” At that time, SDYS shelter staff worked with youth on a system of rules and rewards: You made your bed, you got a point. It’s the way most youth shelters across the U.S. work. If a kid loses a certain number of points, the kid gets put on a seven-day restriction phase. It’s modeled after how parents discipline kids when they mess up at home — no phone, no TV, no video games. Kids are still required to go to dinner, group meetings, and shower, but they have to spend their hour and a half of free time in bed. If the kid continues to lose points while on restriction, they are asked to leave the shelter. Lose points on the first day of restriction? Out for the remaining six days and nights. “The belief was that when kids have to fend for themselves outside of shelter it makes them

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Paper Tigers trailer…a peek into documentary about Lincoln High School

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Documentary filmmaker James Redford released the trailer for Paper Tigers, a documentary that follows four teens who attend Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA. Lincoln was the first high school in the country to integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices, which resulted in an 85 percent decline in suspensions and a 40% decline in expulsions after the first year. After four years, suspensions had dropped 90 percent, expulsions dropped to zero, and graduation rates increased five-fold.

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California’s first ACEs summit: Children Can Thrive

Parker Blackman. [Photo by Jason Steinberg/Steinberg Imagery]

Parker Blackman. [Photo by Jason Steinberg/Steinberg Imagery]

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A three-day summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, strengthens California’s efforts to orient policy and practice around preventing and responding to child trauma.

By Parker Blackman

“We know that it makes sense to keep kids in school for $9,000 a year versus individuals in prison for $62,000 a year.”

This statement is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from a leader in education or child welfare, right? What if I told you instead that the person who said this is a leader in the criminal justice system? In

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The town of The Dalles, OR, remakes itself as a trauma-sensitive sanctuary

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Tucked into a curve of the Columbia River, which marks the watery border between Washington and Oregon, lies the small town of The Dalles. Its claims to fame include being a major Indian trading site for 10,000 years, a camping spot for Lewis and Clark in 1805, and the terminus of the Oregon Trail.

Now The Dalles is seeking a different kind of notoriety. This city of 13,000 is the first in the nation to seek certification from the Sanctuary Institute—a model of organizational change that challenges every part of the community to examine and remake itself through a trauma-informed lens.

Dalles (pronounced “dahl,” with a silent “s”) is a French word for “slabs” of rock around and over which the Columbia once roared.  The population of this rural community, 70 miles east of Portland, is mostly white, 30% Hispanic, and less than 10% other ethnicities. “It’s small enough that I’m able to call the chief of police and go out for coffee,” says Trudy Townsend, assistant to the superintendent of the North Wasco County School District 21.

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Most Californians have experienced childhood trauma; early adversity a direct link to adult onset of chronic disease, depression, violence

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Nearly two-thirds of California adults have experienced at least one type of major childhood trauma, such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, or living with a family member who abuses alcohol or is depressed, according to a report released today.

The report – “Hidden Crisis: Findings on Adverse Childhood Experiences in California” (HiddenCrisis_Report_1014) – also reveals the effects of those early adversities: a startling and large increased risk of the adult onset of chronic disease, such as heart disease and cancer, mental illness and violence or being a victim of violence.

Ten types of childhood trauma were measured. They include physical, sexual and verbal abuse, and physical and emotional neglect. Five family dysfunctions were also measured: a family member diagnosed with mental illness, addicted to alcohol or other drug, or who has been incarcerated; witnessing a mother being abused, an losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.

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