From Film Festival to City Council Chambers: Philadelphia ACE Task Force Charts a Path toward Policy Change on Secondary Traumatic Stress
The path toward policies that would buffer Philadelphia workers from secondary traumatic stress began with a simple ask: Come see a movie.
That movie was a documentary, Portraits of Professional CAREgivers: Their Passion, Their Pain, viewed by an audience of 250 as part of a 2016 film festival hosted by the Philadelphia ACE Task Force (PATF).
The screening launched a three-year effort to put secondary traumatic stress on the radar of Philadelphia’s policy-makers—a journey of relationships and resolutions, work groups and literature reviews, persistence and patience.
In December 2018, the issue landed in City Council’s ornate chambers: a hearing that included testimony from physicians, officers of city agencies, behavioral health experts, a union president and representatives from the police and fire departments.
When Suzanne O’Connor first joined the Philadelphia ACE Task Force (PATF)—a group then composed mostly of pediatricians who wanted to put ACE science into practice—she did more listening than talking.
“I wasn’t a doctor, I wasn’t a clinician, but a teacher trying to integrate trauma-informed care into early childhood education,” she says. “What struck me the most was what educators didn’t know about social services, mental health and even physical health. We didn’t have language for what we were seeing with kids who were particularly challenging.”
ACEs gave O’Connor that language. She became a passionate advocate for trauma training for early childhood and K-12 teachers. Now, as director of education for United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, O’Connor is helping trauma-informed practice to ripple across the region.
On November 13, 2018 MARC’s Clare Reidy co-presented with Howard Pinderhughes from the University of California-San Francisco at the American Public Health Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Expo in San Diego, California. Reidy and Pinderhughes focused on health equity and positive early childhood development, with an emphasis on healing and preventing community trauma.
On the Path to Health Equity: When Foundations and Corporations Support Trauma-Informed, Cross-Sector Networks
Ann Marie Healy used to travel around Pennsylvania talking to community members about “smart” land use planning. Through her work with 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a non-profit devoted to revitalizing cities and towns, “we would meet with people to share what we had learned about how to approach planning in a more strategic manner.” In one small town, residents questioned the relevance of the pitch. “Isn’t what we’ve learned locally just as important as what experts have found works elsewhere?” they asked. The experience taught Healy that expertise and local ingenuity are not mutually exclusive and that language matters.
For Emily Griffey, policy director of Voices for Virginia’s Children, some small print in the bipartisan budget act passed by Congress last February was cause for celebration.
The legislation, known as the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), was the first significant reform of child welfare financing in a generation. And unlike previous federal funding, which helped maintain the foster care system through subsidies for room, board and other services, the new law pays for prevention.
The funds, which come with a 50/50 match of state dollars, will provide reimbursement for up to twelve months of mental health services, substance use treatment and in-home parenting skills training—in short, the family-strengthening ballast that can keep children out of the foster care system in the first place.
“If we invest in prevention, if we make parents the strongest possible parents they can be, they can help buffer any stresses their kids do encounter, and give children the most solid foundation for any trauma they encounter in their lives,” Griffey says. “[The legislation] gives us some resources we don’t always get to unlock for parents.”
What’s more, the FFPSA notes that all services must be trauma-informed.
New research in JAMA Pediatrics adds urgency to integrating the trauma-informed and health equity movements
New Infographic on the Role of Philanthropy in Fostering Collaboration through Cross-Sector Networks
The MARC initiative was recently highlighted in Volume 2 of the Trauma-Informed Philanthropy series created by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the Scattergood Foundation, and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia.
Amy Moseley, community coalitions manager for Children’s Trust of South Carolina, had worked with mothers and babies in maternal-infant health care and with children in foster homes, with victims of sexual assault and individuals with disabilities. She’d noted how poverty and other adversity unspools over the lifespan, how health disparities can persist through generations.
Learning about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) “was seeing the thread between all the areas I had worked in. It made me want to turn my focus to prevention,” she says.
For Moseley’s colleague Aditi Srivastav Bussells, research and community impact manager for Children’s Trust, the ACE study “really reframed public health,” shifting the emphasis from personal risks and behaviors to “things that are often outside of the individual’s control.”
Now the two, with support from Children’s Trust senior leadership and an innovative use of federal child abuse prevention funds, plan to select, support and guide three community coalitions around their state—each with the charge to develop a locally-specific, action-based, cross-sector plan to prevent child maltreatment and boost family well-being.