Business leaders in the ACEs science and resilience movement: A different kind of bottom line

Vigor Alaska's Ketchikan shipyard at dawn.

Vigor Alaska’s Ketchikan shipyard at dawn.

The owner of the biggest construction firm in Walla Walla, Washington, sat through a seminar that framed adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) science in ways a business person could understand: how childhood trauma could translate into low productivity, high turnover, sinking morale and rising health care costs.

The top cause of on-the-job injury at the construction firm was substance abuse by young male workers. Suddenly, the dots connected. The owner leaned toward Teri Barila, co-founder of the Children’s Resilience Initiative, and said, “Now I know what you’ve been trying to tell us.”

Across the country, the “aha” about ACEs science is happening in board rooms and break rooms as business leaders begin to see the relationship between adversity, trauma, resilience, and the workplace.

ACEs science comprises five parts (see ACEs 101 for more information):

  1. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with an accumulation of childhood adversities — including divorce, racism, living with an alcoholic parent, and physical abuse — have a higher risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism.
  2. How toxic stress caused by ACEs damages the function and structure of kids developing brains
  3. How toxic stress caused by ACEs affects every part of the body, leading to autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, as well as heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, etc.,
  4. How toxic stress caused by ACEs can alter how our DNA functions, and how that can be passed on from generation to generation,
  5. Resilience research — how the brain is plastic and the body wants to heal. This research ranges from looking at how the brain of a teen with a high ACE score can be healed with cognitive behavior therapy, to how schools can integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices that result in an increase in students’ scores, test grades and graduation rates.

At Vigor Alaska, a shipyard in Ketchikan, each day begins with a “stretch and flex,” as nearly 200 employees—from welders to data-entry specialists—take the “big breath break,” a two-minute, deep-breathing respite that they are invited to use anytime they feel stressed.

Broetje Orchards in Eastern Washington, with 6,000 acres of apple and cherry trees and 2,400 workers during high-volume harvest months, operates a community of affordable housing for employees called “Vista Hermosa” (“beautiful view”); it includes year-round staff to offer guidance for substance abuse, domestic violence and parenting issues.

The Health Federation of Philadelphia recently contracted to bring sessions on trauma-informed customer service to frontline employees and managers of the city’s Revenue Department, including coaching in verbal de-escalation and strategies to avoid re-traumatizing customers.

And in Helena, the owner of two McDonald’s franchises who wants to bring trauma-informed approaches to her managers recently invited leaders from Elevate Montana, a statewide ACEs initiative, to conduct a four-hour ACE-and-resilience training.

Todd Garrison, executive director of ChildWise Institute, which manages Elevate Montana,  says his background in corporate finance helps him explain to business people why they

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Bryan Stevenson: To heal our national trauma, we need to face our genocidal past

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Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, won a U.S. Supreme Court case banning mandatory life sentencing without parole for anyone age 17 or younger. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, a state that officially celebrates Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr., day together, the Harvard-trained lawyer has dedicated his life to serving the poor, the incarcerated, and children prosecuted as adults.

Stevenson keynoted the final day of the 2016 Conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences held October 19-21 in San Francisco and hosted by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW). CYW is based in Bayview/Hunter’s Point, a part of San Francisco as far removed from the thriving high-tech scene as is Birmingham.

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Dr. Seuss takes over community heroes panel at ACEs conference in California

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(l to r) Teri Barila, director of the Children’s Resilience Initiative; Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell, assistant professor in Loma Linda University Preventive Medicine and Pediatric Depts. (Photo: Jennifer Hossler)

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Sauntering on stage to the beat of Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone, four “heroes” of the ACEs movement took their seats for a panel on trauma-informed and resilience-building communities on October 21, the last day of the 2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in San Francisco.

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Racing ACEs gathering and reflection: If it’s not racially just, it’s not trauma-informed

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The following memo was written by a group of people who participated in the Racing ACEs gathering. 

It’s 2016. Local and national protests rise against an ongoing stream of state-sanctioned murders. African-American lives are being lost at a frequency and in a manner that decry ethnic cleansing. Sacred Indigenous land is being desecrated for profit. African-American, Native American, Latino American, Asian American, and poor communities are facing dislocation, police violence, and a range of traumas that compose the frayed ends of America’s historically racist national fabric.

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2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in California focuses on action

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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-cloutierinformed professionals — gave a big shout back.

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Parenting’s troubled history: Why changing family patterns is our most important work

apunish2As we learned from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, negative childhood experiences are often kept secret, downplayed, or repressed because of our powerful desire to put such things behind us. Unfortunately, our minds and our brains don’t work that way. Patterns can play out automatically, no matter how hard we try to be original and create our own realities.

Just as it is important to know family medical history (e.g., diabetes or tuberculosis) it is equally important to know about our social inheritance.

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Police and Black Teens: “If I Get Pulled Over Today…”

By JJIE Staff
 At the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, Michael Gandy, now 28, draws from personal experience as a young black teen. He talks to his mentor and “big brother” Austin Scee, 44, about police, mentorship and the community’s responsibility in the nationwide conversation concerning youth and law enforcement.
Scee: So, Mike, I thought given everything that’s been going on in our country, now might be a good time to revisit something that happened to you and to me in 2008 when you drove up to our house. [My wife] and I met you at the end of the driveway. You were driving your mother’s car, which was a beat-up old car with, I think, fairly heavily tinted windows. You had a police car trailing you as you drove up our street. You made an illegal U-turn in a four-way stop to park in front of our house —

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