New voices bring promise to challenge of childhood adversity

Serena Clayton

Serena Clayton

By Serena Clayton at

At the Center for Youth Wellness policy convening on childhood adversity in San Diego last Thursday, I kept asking myself if we were having a new conversation or an old conversation, but with different people at the table.

The fact that children who experience adverse events (e.g., domestic violence, or a mentally ill or incarcerated parent) have worse health outcomes hardly seems like news. In public health, we know that environmental, economic and social factors lead to health disparities. In education, we know that poverty is connected to lower achievement, and there is a strong correlation between poverty and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

To address ACEs, new “trauma-informed practices” are moving the focus off of “fixing” individuals to understanding their experiences and building resiliency and safe, supportive environments. All of this sounds a lot like youth development, protective factors and strength-based approaches.

There is no doubt that we are seeing some of the same ideas come back in a new package. But something is different now, and it is the very fact that different people are now at the table—juvenile justice advocates, educators and health care providers. What this demonstrates is that the concept of childhood trauma has succeeded in uniting various sectors in a way that I have not seen before.

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Paper Tigers celebrates Education Week with 100 screenings across the U.S.

(l to r) Kelsey, Pam Cantor, David Bornstein _______________

(l to r) Kelsey, Pam Cantor, David Bornstein _________________________

In a kickoff event for Education Week, several hundred people crowded into the fabulous Tishman Auditorium at the New School in New York City on Monday night to watch Paper Tigers, a documentary that follows six students during a school year at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, the first trauma-informed high school in the U.S.

Nearly 100 schools, colleges, universities and communities across the country are screening Paper Tigers this week.

Immediately following the New York screening, Paper Tigers director James Redford was joined in a live streamed panel discussion by Turnaround for Children founder Dr. Pamela Cantor, New York Times columnist and Solutions Journalism Network co-founder David Bornstein, and Dr. Howard Steele, professor of psychology at the New School.

A special guest joined them — Kelsey, one of the students featured in the film. She was a sophomore when the film was made. She’s now a senior, is attending community college and working part-time. She had a 4.0 grade average in her junior year.

The reason she stayed at Lincoln High School, she said, is because “I don’t feel judged there. I feel like I can be myself there. That’s still the biggest part about Lincoln. There’s such a level of acceptance, such a family atmosphere. You have people you can talk to all the time.”

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California child trauma advocates eye policy impact

Anna Sutton, Yolo County Maternal Child Adolescent Health; Nadine Burke Harris, Center for Youth Wellness; Gail Kennedy, ACEs Connection Network

(l to r) Anna Sutton, Yolo County Maternal Child Adolescent Health; Nadine Burke Harris, Center for Youth Wellness; Gail Kennedy, ACEs Connection Network ___________________________________________

By Jeremy Loudenback,

Last week, a coalition of California child trauma advocates gathered in San Diego to advance a platform that seeks create policy change in the state and capitalize on a shifting climate around criminal-justice reform.

The meeting was convened by the San Francisco-based Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), a pediatric clinic that has emerged as an organizing force in the effort to make systems better address early childhood adversity. The Center’s work is grounded in the findings of the landmark 1997 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study that connected early experiences of trauma during childhood and subsequent health issues later in life.

The San Diego gathering comes on the heels of the first summit on ACEs, held last year in San Francisco. After that meeting, an ACEs Policy Working Group met throughout the year with the goal of developing a common policy agenda that will help support the push for an increased focus on child trauma across many different child-serving sectors including health, juvenile justice, child welfare, early childhood and education, as well as within business, nonprofit and philanthropic communities.

As part of that work, CYW in September released the Children Can Thrive: A Vision for California’s Response to Adverse Childhood Experiences report, which described broad recommendations for preventing and responding to child trauma. On Thursday, CYW unveiled the following seven strategies they hope will guide similar efforts across the different sectors over the next three years:

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Trigger Points — finally, a parenting book for moms and dads who survived child abuse

 AtriggerpointsTrigger Points is the first book written, edited, published by survivors of childhood abuse geared towards parents who are survivors.
It includes essays from more than 20 men and women survivor parents with children of all ages, as well as resources, journal prompts and ways to join a survivor parent community.
It’s the heart-brain child of Dawn White Daum and Joyelle Brandt who met in September of 2014 after Dawn wrote about raising a daughter as a survivor in Scary Mommy entitled Raising a Girl as a Survivor.
They had not met or been friends but found each other through words.
Words shared that made them feel less alone. Glorious words.
Dawn and Joyelle had each done, as I have done, as others are doing ALL THE TIME – sought out resources and researcg,
I’ve ached for information and support on topics such as:
  • parenting as a survivor
  • parent triggers
  • break-the-cycle parenting
  • support for parents who had abusive childhoods
And found NOTHING.
O.K., yes, maybe a chapter here and there or some mention or a study. Maybe a mention in a larger book.
But nothing to and for and by other parent survivors that is practical and hopeful.

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult


The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study found that survivors of childhood trauma are up to 5,000 percent more likely to attempt suicide, have eating disorders, or become IV drug users. Dr. Vincent Felitti, the study’s co-founder, details this remarkable and powerful connection in a video produced by Big Think.

Report: Juvenile Justice System must substantively revamp treatment of girls

By Sarah Barr, JJIE.orgGenderInjustice_infographic_web_midquality

Juvenile justice reformers risk leaving girls behind if they fail to consider how traumatic experiences push girls into the system, says a new report.

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California high school health clinic asks students about their childhood trauma as a way to improve their health


Elsie Allen High School student Anabel (l), and Erin Moilanen, school health clinic nurse practitioner (r) __________________________________

When students show up for an appointment at the Elsie Allen Health Center, which is located on the Elsie Allen High School campus in Santa Rosa, CA, one of the first things they do is answer questions about the trauma they’ve experienced during their lives.

That’s because research has shown a direct link between adverse childhood experiences — ACEs – and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) — which has been replicated by 29 states — also show that ACEs create mental and physical health risks that continue to crop up over a person’s lifetime if not adequately addressed.

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