$2.2 Million initiative highlights trauma policy push

By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleOfSocialChange.org


Jennifer Jones

This month, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will kick off a multi-million initiative designed to help service providers translate scientific findings around child trauma, toxic stress and developmental brain science into public policy.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Canada-based Palix Foundation have committed $2.2 million over three years for the Alliance, a powerful membership group of youth service providers, to sub-grant to 15 participating nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada interested in leading child trauma-based reform. All sites will be funded $50,000 for two years, and a developmental evaluation will be conducted within the three-year period.

The “Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities” initiative is one of several recent efforts aimed at increasing the policy impact of trauma-related research.

According to Change in Mind Director Jennifer Jones, the 15 organizations will serve as leaders in their communities and across the public sector on how to apply trauma-related practices. While each organization may have a different set of policy and advocacy goals, they will share successful strategies with each other and participate with an outside organization to evaluate effectiveness. The initiative kicks off this month in Chicago with an organizing conference that will help develop collective goals to accompany the specific policy priorities of each site.

The moment is ripe, Jones said, for nonprofit service providers to take a leading role in encouraging adoption of trauma-informed practices.

Continue reading

In “Childhood Disrupted”, Donna Jackson Nakazawa explains how your biography becomes your biology…and that you really can heal

childhood-disruptedcovIf you want to know why you’ve been married three – or more — times. Or why you just can’t stop smoking. Or why the ability to control your drinking is slipping away from you. Or why you have so many physical problems that doctors just can’t seem to help you with. Or why you feel as if there’s no joy in your life even though you’re

Continue reading

To prevent childhood trauma, pediatricians screen children and their parents…and sometimes, just parents…for childhood trauma


Tabitha Lawson and her two happy children

When parents bring their four-month-olds to a well-baby checkup at the Children’s Clinic in Portland, OR, Drs. Teri Pettersen, R.J. Gillespie and their 15 other partners ask the parents about their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

When parents bring a child who’s bouncing off the walls and having nightmares to the Bayview Child Health Center in San Francisco, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris doesn’t ask: “What’s wrong with this child?” Instead, she asks, “What happened to this child?” and calculates the child’s ACE score.

In rural northern Michigan, a teacher tells a parent that her “problem” child has ADHD and needs drugs. The parent brings the child to see Dr. Tina Marie Hahn, who experienced more childhood trauma than most people. Instead of writing a prescription, Hahn has a heart-to-heart conversation with the parent and the child about what’s happening in their lives that might be leading to the behavior, and figures out the child’s ACE score.

What’s an ACE score? Think of it as a cholesterol score for childhood trauma.

Why is it important? Because childhood trauma can cause the adult onset of chronic disease (including cancer, heart disease and diabetes), mental illness, violence, becoming a victim of violence, divorce, broken bones, obesity, teen and unwanted pregnancies, and work absences.

The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) measured 10 types of childhood adversity: sexual, physical and verbal abuse, and

Continue reading

The brain of a serial killer…is a story about child abuse


There are three interesting aspects of this infographic about the brains of serial killers:

  • The acknowledged link to high levels of childhood trauma.
  • That brain scans of psychopaths are similar to others who exhibit evidence of behaviors besides rage and violence, such as overeating, drinking too much, inappropriate sex and workaholism. Rage, violence and the other behaviors are all  coping skills to deal with childhood adversity.
  • That the experts mentioned in the infographic are coming around to the conclusions from epidemiological research in the CDC’s ACE Study, and from neurobiological research about the effects of toxic stress on children’s brains.

brain2You can find the entire infographic here. There’s one part that’s not accurate  — the concept of a warrior gene. Epigenetics research shows that the social environment turns our genes on and off, so any behavior is likely to be a result of an interplay among many genes and neurodevelopment.

And who put this infographic together? Bestcounselingdegrees.net. Really.

ADHD symptoms? Psychologists, psychiatrists should consider child maltreatment as the cause before prescribing meds

Adhd-facts1While reading a 2007 press release from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I became unusually hopeful for youths diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study performed jointly by the NIMH and the National Institute of Health revealed the brains of youths with ADHD develop normally but at different rates. In the prefrontal cortex, development was delayed three years on average in youths diagnosed with ADHD. This region of the brain is associated with higher-order executive functions and is responsible for coordinating actions with thoughts according to a person’s goals and intentions.

But while development of the prefrontal cortex lags in youths with ADHD, the motor cortex, which controls voluntary body movement, matures faster. These combined changes correlate with behaviors seen with ADHD: fidgety, restless bodies that have difficulty inhibiting behavior and focusing attention. These behaviors impact their ability to do well in reward-based systems that require delaying gratification while working towards long-term goals (that is to say, school).

Continue reading

What happened to “Charlie” started in his mother’s womb

Beginbeforebirth.org was put together by researchers from the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London. It posted the latest research on how a mother’s stress, caused by everything from domestic violence to natural disaster, affects what happens to the fetus developing in her womb.

The organization produced a series of games and videos, including Charlie’s Story, that look at a mother’s stress, how genes can be turned on and off depending on what’s happening in the mother’s social environment, and what the long-term consequences can be.

The site has a good section on epigenetics. You think the DNA you’re born with is your blueprint for life? Not quite. Your genes can be turned on and off, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently by what’s happening in your relationships. Getting a lot of verbal abuse and physical abuse from mom or dad? That’s setting off a flood of toxic stress hormones that are changing your DNA. And if the abuse is severe enough, you can pass the changes on to your children.

Continue reading

David Brooks tells only part of the story; on Salon (and The Fix), making erroneous assumptions about parents

It’s terrific to see the CDC’s ACE Study, neurobiological research on children’s brains, and trauma-informed practices featured on Salon (Is Your Kid an Addict?) and by David Brooks in his column, The Psych Approach. Just terrific. The more information out there, the better.

Brooks uses Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, to discuss the “psychologizing of domestic policy”. What he means by that is moving from “the material and bureaucratic things that correlate to school failure” (e.g. poverty, school class size) to “the

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: