The Adverse Childhood Experiences 2016 Conference, hosted by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) and sponsored by the California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, and Genentech, took place October 19-21 at the Park Central Hotel in downtown San Francisco and began with an exuberant welcome from the CYW’s executive director, Mark Cloutier.
“Let’s have fun,” he shouted, and the 450 participants — teachers, therapists, doctors, lawyers, and other trauma-informed professionals — gave a big shout back.
In the two years since the first California ACEs Summit, when few people even knew about ACEs, public awareness of adverse childhood experiences and their effect on children and adult mental, emotional, and physical health has grown. Thirty-two states now collect ACEs data, and on the digital network ACEsConnection, a social network for people who are implementing practices based on ACEs science, more than 11,000 people find resources, news, and network and share ideas.
Dr. Brigid McCaw of Kaiser Permanente’s Family Violence Prevention Program said that beyond awareness, we now need to build connections, advance our knowledge of the science of ACEs, and generate action. On the action front, KP is partnering with schools to provide a tool to train staff to become ACEs-informed and develop ways to help their students.
Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, founder of CYW and perhaps the major force behind the entire ACEs movement, smiled as she took over the podium. “This moment for me is like a dream come true,” and she thanked everyone building ACEs awareness, which she said is “the most important health crisis of our time.”
She said that we need to move beyond awareness to build an ecosystem of ACEs-informed care, such as the simple, free ACEs screening tool that CYW developed, which has been downloaded by 1,100 clinicians.
But the single most effective intervention, she said, is “a safe, stable relationship with a caring adult,” because children are as responsive to positive experiences as to adverse ones and can develop resilience as a result.
Burke-Harris also noted that her center is leading a $5 million study with Benioff Children’s Hospital to study the
biomarkers of ACEs; last year, the American Association of Pediatrics held a daylong seminar on ACEs at its annual symposium; and our very own ACEsConnection, founded by Jane Stevens, has become “the most powerful network.”
She also cited James Redford’s film, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, and encouraged participants, “We have an opportunity to create a different future for our children.T he right people are in this room right now, so let’s get started.”