Anthony Ballard grew up with multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) before those disruptive childhood experiences had a name.
Ballard was raised, along with 11 siblings, in a North Philadelphia housing project by “a beautiful God-fearing mother and a loving father who suffered from alcoholism.” Ballard witnessed relatives who developed addictions or landed in prison; in his early 20s, he, too, abused alcohol.
He got sober. He became a firefighter. And when he learned about ACEs a few years ago from the director of Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services, where he saw his doctor and used the gym, Ballard’s childhood suddenly snapped into focus.
Philadelphia ACE Task Force (PATF) staff members like to call 2016 “The Year of the Work Groups.” These subsets of the Task Force—focusing on community education/ACEs messaging, workforce development, practical interventions and research—became incubators for ideas, programs and partnerships that helped energize the larger ACEs movement in the city and beyond.
Members of the Philadelphia ACE Task Force (PATF) decided it was time to move from talk to action.
After meeting regularly since 2012, the PATF—an increasingly diverse group of practitioners in pediatrics, primary care, juvenile justice, early childhood intervention and anti-violence work—invited each member to write down his or her vision for ACEs work in the city.
From that batch of cards, three priorities emerged:
To educate the wider community about ACEs and their impact.
To develop a better understanding of trauma-informed programs and agencies in the city and to learn what kinds of interventions work best.
To help infuse graduate and professional education programs—in medicine and nursing, social work and counseling, education and law—with teaching on ACEs and resilience.
“When we looked at the goals people had, we realized it was very action- and behavior-oriented,” said Joel Fein, a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), co-director of the Violence Prevention Initiative at CHOP and one of the PATF’s three co-chairs. Each of those goals now has its own work group co-chaired by a longtime and a newer member of the task force. A fourth group focuses on ACEs research.
The Health Federation of Philadelphia serves as a keystone supporting a network of Community Health Centers as well as the broader base of public and private-sector organizations that deliver health and human services to vulnerable populations.