• After ICE detains father, Los Angeles sisters cope with trauma, disruption

    The Avelica family

    By Holden Slattery

    Fatima Avelica was riding to school in her father’s car when a traffic stop by immigration officers in northeast Los Angeles suddenly turned her world upside down.

    In the car, 13-year-old Fatima sobbed as she pointed her cell phone camera at the windshield and shot a video that shows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers handcuffing and detaining her father, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez.

    A citizen of Mexico who has lived in the U.S. for 25 years, Avelica-Gonzalez had an order of deportation since 2014 according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

    “I was feeling scared and sad because I never imagined experiencing something like that in my life and because I’ve never been separated from my dad like that,” Fatima said in a recent interview. “I thought I was never going to get to see my dad again.”

    The Migration Policy Institute estimates that nearly one in five children in Los Angeles County is U.S. born and living in a home with at least one undocumented parent.

    Detentions and deportations of parents and other caretakers can leave lasting impacts on children. According to a brief from the American Psychological Association, parents’ “legal vulnerability, detention and deportation are strongly associated with depression, anxiety, fears of separation, social isolation, self-stigma, aggression, withdrawal and negative academic consequences among children.”

    One of the more severe reactions to this kind of event is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said Marleen Wong, a child trauma expert at the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

    “The stress of seeing your parent detained and the uncertainty of what’s going to happen to him or her — will you be reunited? — that’s pretty stressful,” Wong said. “But does it reach the level of PTSD? For some kids, yes, and for other kids, no.”

    The severity of trauma that a child experiences can depend on the presence of what Wong and other family psychologists call “protective factors.” These include support from family members and from community groups and the ability to see and communicate with the removed parent.

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  • States produce a bumper crop of ACEs bills in 2017—nearly 40 bills in 18 states

    NCSLA scan done in March by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), through StateNet, of bills introduced in 2017 that specifically include adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the text produced a surprising number of bills — close to 40 — in a 18 states. A scan done a year ago produced less than a handful. NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves state legislators and their staffs.

    The shear volume of bills in so many states represents a promising trend—a growing interest by state policymakers in ACEs science. Most of the bills are still pending in state legislatures. A Utah resolution to promote ACEs science in state policy was signed by the state’s governor and a Virginia resolution that mentions ACEs in trauma-informed community networks was passed by the legislature. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill to include ACEs science in that state’s Medicaid Family Home Visiting program.

    The NCSL noted these trends from the search of bills that specifically mention ACEs. The bills:
    —create task forces or study or review committees (whether for ACEs specifically or members/content included on a related topic, like foster care);—appropriate funds for ACEs prevention;
    —require or encourage providers to use an ACE questionnaire or screening tool;
    —support the development of pilot projects or initiatives for ACEs prevention;
    —provide school resource officer (MA) or pre-K teacher (VT) with training related to ACEs.

    ACEs Connection Network staff (with leads from ACN members and other sources) follow and report on bills that include references to trauma-informed policy (with and without a mention of ACEs) and broader bills that would have the effect of mitigating ACEs without a specific reference to trauma-informed approaches or ACEs. A summary of these bills is now being updated and will be available soon, as well as statutes that relate directly to these topics.

    You can find a snapshot of all laws and resolutions in the States ACEs Action group on ACEs Connection, the social network that accompanies ACEs Too High.

  • Anxious parenting: Parenting with ACEs

    When my daughter was younger I was anxious. I didn’t have full-blown anxiety attacks, as some do. I had an almost constant anxiety motoring within me that would ebb and flow.

    Sometimes, it lasted days. Other times, weeks. It always returned. When it did, it was hard to read, concentrate or focus. It was hard to eat or sleep or work.

    It was hard to parent.

    Sometimes it came with dread because I’d feel dreadful about being so anxious.

    How I felt in my body scared me. I wanted to be someone else. Someone who felt different.

    Anxious time moved slowly. An hour felt like a month and a day felt like a year. Watching the clock, I’d try to will it to pass. It was the opposite of being present. I was trying to be absent. Absent of anxiety that was consuming. Anxiety felt like a way of being, not a feeling or symptom.

    Getting through the day was my biggest goal, the high bar I hoped to reach. At those times it took all I had to rise to that challenge. To do that, while not falling flat on my face, as well as in my role as a mother, felt nearly impossible.

    Bad. All of it felt bad. But being unable to enjoy or attend to my daughter the way she deserved was the worst part.

    She was too young to complain. But she felt it.

    I knew that. I always knew that.

    She would get clingy. She would move in closer as though she could  keep the balloon of me from floating out of her reach. Did I feel like an out-of-reach object of security, like a binky dropped from a high chair or a blanket from the bed? It must have scared her to see the shaky shadow version of me. It was scary to me.

    It was as if I was disappearing and being crowded out by anxiety that was sucking up all of the space and air. It felt as if my anxiety was contagious, as if I was a flu that shouldn’t be nearby anyone or anything. Just being me, while anxious, felt like awful, terrible, no-good mothering.

    There was no denying she noticed either. As she aged, she’d  say, “I feel like we were together but not together” or “I need more Mama time.”

    C. White, Trigger Points Anthology, edited by D. White & J. Brandt

    Part of me was  proud of her ability to know and express her feelings and needs.

    Part of me was frustrated.  Her words felt like an insult, a demand and an accusation.

    “I’m doing the best I can,” I wanted to scream.

    “Do you know how much worse I had it at your age?” I’d think.

    Self-hatred, guilt, and shame piled one upon another like pasta, cheese and sauce in a baking pan. They blended, baked and melted in the oven of me, only the dish cooked up was barely edible.

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  • Greater Kansas City first responders, educators, health care workers, sports & faith community embrace learning about childhood trauma, practicing resilience

    In a video on the Resilient KC website, police officer Mikki Cassidy notes that “my regular day is everybody else’s worst day.” Then she describes how mindfulness training has helped her find peace amid the clamor: “This moment, right here, I’m okay.”

    Later in the clip, Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor, recalls being shoved onto a train to Treblinka and, later, losing her mother to the gas chamber. “One of my highest points is when I speak in schools, when students tell me, ‘You changed my life,’” she says.

    And Josiah Hoskins, a youth raised in foster care, talks about the mantra that helped him survive: “Even if all you have is yourself, with a wall behind you and the world coming at you, you can make peace with yourself.”

    The video concludes with four words—“Stories Matter. What’s yours?”—and an invitation for others to share experiences of adversity and healing.

    Awareness on Both Sides of the State Line

    The campaign is just one prong of Kansas City’s multi-sector effort to raise awareness about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and build resilience on both sides of the state line. Resilient KC — a partnership between the pre-existing Trauma Matters Kansas City (TMKC) network and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce — has worked to cultivate “ambassadors” who can bring the ACEs message to colleagues, clients and community members in business, the armed services, education, justice and health care.

    ACEs are adverse childhood experiences that harm children’s developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later; they cause much of the U.S. and the world’s chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of most violence.

    The CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), a groundbreaking public health study, discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of chronic diseases, depression and other mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

    The ACE Study looked at 10 types of childhood trauma: physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; living with a family

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  • April the Giraffe: An unplanned social experiment and what we can learn from it

    Viral videos are not new. Every few weeks, something will be posted in a forum such as YouTube or Facebook; a few friends will share the video with one another, and then suddenly, that video is being watched by millions. The most recent viral video takes this to a new level. April the Giraffe was not just a video, it was a live camera streaming online, allowing viewers to watch a pregnant giraffe and ultimately watch the birth of her calf.

    So, what makes the viral giraffe cam different than other viral videos? The answer is simple: the length of the video. Instead of a clip lasting several minutes, April was streaming live for days, and then weeks. And people were tuning in consistently, day after day, for hours at a time — that was new. April delivered a healthy baby boy calf on Saturday, April 15, 2017. On April 17, Good Morning America estimated that more than 1.2 million viewers watched the birth live on their computers or mobile devices.  Jordan Patch, the owner of Animal Adventure Park, estimates that more than 300 million people viewed April the Giraffe since the park installed the live camera.

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  • San Diego’s stop-and-go progress to becoming a trauma-informed community

    At Teralta Park, Arturo Soriano (l) with his wife, Gabby, holding baby Joshua, and their kids Daniella (between them) and Adrian (kneeling), spend time with Kenneth (arms folded), Claudia Ruiz and her mother, Michelle Massett. Behind them, Coach, wearing red gloves, comes to the park to spar with the youth.


    It’s a warm spring afternoon and Arturo Soriano is in his old stomping grounds—at Teralta Park, a small urban park atop a sunken freeway in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood. As a teenage gang member in the 1980s, Soriano roamed the park and the surrounding streets before spending the better part of two decades in prison. Now 40, he has returned with a different mission.

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