Metropolitan Family Services addresses ACEs across metropolitan Chicago

(l to r) Robert Augustin,  Katharine Bensinger and Maria Andrino

(l to r) Robert Augustin, Katharine Bensinger and Maria Andrino

Katharine Bensinger founded a program called Parenting Fundamentals at an agency called Community Counseling Centers of Chicago nearly two decades ago. The program had been providing parenting education classes to low-income people for almost a decade when Bensinger attended a speech by Dr. Robert Anda, co-principle investigator of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

“I flipped out,” she says. “It was putting a construct to what I already knew, which was that abuse affects children and young adults emotionally and physically. … When I heard about this research, it was a gift, a tool to help people. Because it was research-based, it had credibility.”

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Integrating ACEs increases hope for healing at One Hope United in Illinois

Tammy Ambre (l) and Keri Bechelli of One Hope United

Tammy Ambre (l) and Keri Bechelli of One Hope United

One Hope United attempts to lead those affected by childhood trauma down a Healing Path.

That’s the name of a three-year-old program that has brought a different approach to helping people with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The program operates out of One Hope United’s office in Gurnee, IL, north of Chicago, and three others in the metropolitan area.

“It’s specifically trauma-based treatment, rooted in evidence-based practices,” says Jill Novacek, director of programs for the four Illinois offices of One Hope United. The organization works to ensure safe, loving environments for children by educating and empowering them and their parents—or, if need be, foster parents. The program serves children from

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Chicago’s trauma-informed summer jobs program prevents kids from engaging in violence

President & Deshawn_300DPI

President Obama congratulates One Summer Chicago Plus star graduate DeShawn Shepherd

Between the ages of 4 and 15, Jonathan Booker was in and out of 13 homeless shelters. His mother was often too busy to care for him, his grandmother tried but found she was too old and didn’t have enough money, and he never knew his father, Booker says. He fell into the wrong crowd and sold drugs on the streets of Chicago’s South Side Roseland neighborhood, he says.

“I didn’t have people in my corner,” Booker says. “I didn’t have people I could depend upon.”

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ACEs-informed ‘freckles’ spreading across Midwest

SaintA human services agency

SaintA human services agency ________________________________________

Organizations across the Midwest that are integrating trauma-informed practices based on adverse childhood experiences research are like freckles amassing into a suntan, says Elena Quintana.

“It’s spreading,” says the executive director of the Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University in Chicago, who estimates that about 100 organizations have integrated trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on research in adverse childhood experiences. “You want there to be total coverage within practice and policy. We’re not there yet, but those spots are getting bigger.“

Restraints and seclusion

One of those spots is SaintA in West Allis, WI, that provides foster care, education and mental health services for children and families. The organization serves about 5,000 people daily across a wide array of services, the largest of which is child welfare case management in Milwaukee County, where SaintA serves about 1,400 children daily.

Ann Leinfelder Grove, executive vice president and a 25-year veteran of SaintA, says her organization began moving toward trauma-informed care about eight years ago.

Ann Leinfelder Grove, SaintA executive vice president

Ann Leinfelder Grove, SaintA executive vice president

“We were looking at the question of how to reduce the use of physical restraints within one of our programs,” she says. The State of Wisconsin had encouraged a change in the use of physical intervention and seclusion to manage troubled youth, which SaintA does through its residential treatment program, which serves 40 children at any one time, as well as supervised visitation family services programming.

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Problem-solving courts dig deep to acknowledge, and, sometimes, address trauma

Acourts2

Photo by Tim Evanson, Flickr photos

In a sense all courts solve problems, although traditionally, the approach is punitive – translating a crime into how many months or years a defendant owes society and warehousing him or her in a prison. While not excusing drug abuse, domestic violence, child neglect and other ills, problem-solving courts take a therapeutic solution-oriented approach to reduce recidivism and guide offenders toward productive lives.

Problem-solving courts began about a quarter-century ago and now number more than 3,000 across the United States, housed among the nation’s approximately 16,000 state courts but on separate dockets. Even though initially uninformed by the research around the consequences of adverse childhood experiences and the trauma-informed care movement, proponents say they have always addressed ACEs and trauma without necessarily knowing they were doing so.

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Juvenile jails adopting ACE- and trauma-informed practices

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

Jane Halladay, director of the service systems program at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which developed the Think Trauma curriculum for staff members in juvenile correctional facilities, remembers a young man who was very difficult to handle, especially first thing in the morning.

When he woke up, it was as if he had just emerged from battling demons in his dreams. “He was extremely confrontational, aggressive, ready for a fight,” Halladay says. “In treatment, it came out that the staff woke people up by turning on and off the lights – and it came out that he had once been stabbed in the neck and had come to in the ambulance.

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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.

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Juvenile detention centers: On the other side of “lock ‘em ‘up”, but not quite trauma-informed

tomo

There are three ways to look at how the juvenile justice system is using modern practices to reduce youth crime and violence.

  1. One is what happens on the way to the detention center where a kid is held until trial – i.e., how the system decides which kids must be locked up, and who can live at home or in a group home until their trial date.
  2. The second is inside detention center walls – what happens to kids inside these mostly county-run centers while they’re awaiting trial.
  3. The third is inside the correctional facilities where youth serve out their sentences. These are usually run by states.

There’s a lot of progress in revamping what happens to kids on the way to detention centers – in fact, 300

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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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Trauma-informed judges take gentler approach, administer problem-solving justice to stop cycle of ACEs

Judge Lynn Tepper hugs Taylor, 11, at his final adoption hearing. Before finding his permanent home, he'd been returned by three families since being removed from his biological mother when he was three years old.

Judge Lynn Tepper hugs Taylor, 11, at his final adoption hearing. Before finding his permanent home, he’d been returned by three families. [Photo: Edmund D. Fountain, Tampa Bay Times]

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Three years ago, Judge Lynn Tepper of Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Dade City, FL, learned about the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study The ground-breaking research links childhood abuse and neglect with adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

It was like flipping a switch.

“I suddenly had this trauma-informed lens, as we call it. I see it everywhere,” she says, giving an example of someone in front of her on child abuse charges for whom she might recommend counseling and/or anger management. “I have discovered the reality is that when I start asking a few questions, that parent or partner has experienced ACEs,” she says.

The 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study are: physical, verbal and sexual abuse, and physical and emotional neglect; a family member who abused alcohol or other drugs, who was depressed or mentally ill, or was in prison; witnessing a mother being abused, and loss of a parent through separation or divorce.

Tepper, a veteran of 37 years on the bench, realized that childhood trauma experienced by the people who ended up in her courtroom was much worse than their paperwork showed. “When you dig down deeper, you wonder how these people get up in the morning,” she says. “I remember thinking at one point, ‘Oh boy, did we blow it all these years on these delinquents.’ ”

Most judges in the United States are unfamiliar with the ACE Study and the research on the neurobiology of toxic stress that has emerged over the last 15 years. But that’s beginning to change in courtrooms across the U.S., due to a number of educational programs aimed at producing trauma-informed judges—and courts. As a result, trauma-informed judges have made three big changes:

  • They’ve modified their courts to be safer and less threatening to defendants with histories of childhood trauma and who are often already traumatized.
  • They recognize that trauma is passed from one generation to another, and take a two- or three-generational approach in child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Because, they say, the traditional approach in criminal justice continues the traumatization of children, youth and families, they’re taking a solution-oriented approach.

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