In Sonoma County, invitations to speak about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resilience kept pouring in. There simply weren’t enough qualified trainers to go around.
When Sonoma County ACEs Connection leaders applied for the MARC grant, they proposed using some of the money to develop a speakers’ bureau. Then they decided to expand that vision: Why not a nine-month fellowship for a cohort of 25 “master trainers”—two days of intensive education with Robert Anda and Laura Porter, creators of ACE Interface, along with monthly follow-up seminars led by local and regional experts?
And why not offer that training, at a reasonable price, with food and continuing education credits? Sixty-two people applied to be part of the ACEs & Resiliency Fellowship’s first cohort. Twenty-five (plus three ACEs Connection staff members) members joined in the first cohort, with the understanding that they would then train a second group of 28.
Holly White-Wolfe, an analyst for the Sonoma County Human Services Department, marvels at the changes that have happened in a short amount of time. A few months ago, she and Karen Clemmer, then Coordinator of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health for the County Department of Health Services, were comparing notes on how their respective agencies were building trauma-informed capacity among employees and trying to embed that knowledge in practice.
“A year ago,” Clemmer said at the time, “we would not even be having this conversation.”
“We started out thinking we needed to work on raising awareness,” says White-Wolfe. “We weren’t expecting we’d get the attention of leadership. Here at the County, [awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)] started in the Health Department; then Human Services got involved. Now all these other teams are actualizing it. People are moved by these concepts and want to do something.”
Karen Clemmer’s “aha” about ACEs came at a lunch meeting with a colleague who worked in early childhood intervention and Jane Stevens, creator of social networking sites ACEsConnection and ACEsTooHigh.
Clemmer, Coordinator of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health for Sonoma County’s Department of Health Services, had heard of Vincent Felitti’s work and found it interesting. But that day’s lunch conversation persuaded her to share the research on ACEs and resilience with everyone she knew.
“We each went back and talked to somebody, conveying what we had learned,” she recalled. “It was a giant snowball dance—with each of us sharing what we’re learning and bringing new members into the group. We kept meeting for lunch every month until we got so big we had to formalize.”
Now the Sonoma County ACEs Connection (SCAC) includes 38 members representing 24 different organizations. The group’s goals are to inform the community about ACEs, promote evidence-based strategies and programs to reduce the impact of ACEs, build resilience and change systems to more effectively serve people touched by trauma.
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.