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Homework: Moving Toward Compassionate, Trauma-Informed Schools

  • Apr 23, 2018
Anndee Hochman

It was the little red trauma-informed schoolhouse.

Katherine Wickersham-Wade, the Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax (Chickaloon Village) clan grandmother who started the Ya Ne Dah Ah School, Alaska’s first Tribally operated school in 1992, might not have used that language. But she did envision a school that would wrap its students in Native ancestral traditions and Ahtna language, instill self-confidence and repair some of the damage inflicted by historical trauma—the disruptions to culture and community caused in part by railroad and road-building, coal mining and colonialism.

In 2005, the school graduated from its small, red-clad structure to a more modern 2,400 square foot building. Though still compact—it serves eighteen students, from toddlers to teenagers—it has become a powerful model of trauma-informed practice.

Community Capacity: Building a Movement from Within

  • Apr 20, 2018
Anndee Hochman

Human services organizations and coalitions often talk about “making room at the table” for non-professionals, local residents and people with lived experience of poverty, addiction, mental illness or trauma.

But those organization leaders rarely spend time at the community’s tables—that is, the block parties and cook-outs, playgrounds and parks, neighborhood association meetings, parent-teacher organizations, Little League games and other grass-roots venues that are essential grounds for change.

For people in Buncombe County, NC, the question was: “How do we shift and learn about movement-making within communities rather than at the level of the agency?” Lisa Eby, communication and community engagement division coordinator for Buncombe County Health and Human Services (backbone for the MARC project), said in a MARC webinar focused on community capacity. “If we’re going to tip our communities toward greater resiliency…often the best way is to start from the inside out.”

For starters, that meant putting “community members” at the top of a list of essential partners, rather than as a postscript following the usual litany of health providers, human service organizations, school systems, law enforcement agencies and policy-makers.

Master Class: Training People to Spread Word about ACEs

  • Apr 16, 2018
Anndee Hochman

When MARC leaders in Montana were training staff from local McDonald’s franchises, one senior manager scoffed at the notion of linking people’s unwelcome behavior to their early childhood experiences. “I think this is just going to give people excuses,” she muttered to the franchise owner after the trainers had left.

But the next day, that same manager defanged an encounter with an irate customer. “I wonder what happened to her,” she found herself thinking.

“She was able to deflect the anger, show compassion to this person and defuse the situation,” says Todd Garrison, executive director of ChildWise Institute, who conducted the training and heard the story later. “We say, ‘It’s not the behavior; it’s the brain.’ These things are sticking, and they’re changing people’s thinking.”

The Elevate Montana movement, launched in fall 2013, aimed to spread ACE awareness across a sprawling, thinly populated state. “We decided to create something we hoped everybody in the state would identify with and hold as their own, in the hope that it would become a social movement,” Garrison says.

That movement would need people as its conduits. So MARC leaders in Montana decided to train 18 people, selected from a group of 64 applicants, to become ACE “master trainers,” using the ACE Interface curriculum developed by Robert Anda and Laura Porter.

Leaders of Sonoma County ACEs Connection (SCAC) also wanted to grow a social movement, expanding awareness of ACEs beyond the “lunch bunch” of practitioners who met periodically to talk about adversity, resilience and the real-world application of those concepts.

A Healthier Bottom Line: Panelists Assert ACEs Science is Good for Business

  • Feb 12, 2018

Somer Gauthier knew the ACE training had worked when one of her general managers told her about an irate customer.

Gauthier, owner of two McDonald’s franchises in Helena, Montana, experienced her own “aha” moment during a community meeting hosted by Elevate Montana. “I had never heard of ACEs,” she told attendees at the 2017 Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) National Summit. “All I could think about was: My employees need this information.”

Gauthier connected with Tina Eblen of ChildWise Institute; six months later, her general managers received ACEs and resiliency training.

Shining a Spotlight: Communities Promote Coverage of ACEs & Resilience

  • Jan 30, 2018

The bad news was that children in Montana were not thriving.

The good news was that the Helena Independent Record was writing about it.

A five-part newspaper series in October 2015 began, “For a myriad of reasons that experts say remain unclear, a state known for its mountains and fly fishing is one of the worst in the nation for youth.”

The articles examined statewide statistics on child health, explained the ACE study, profiled a 24-year-old woman who moved to Montana to escape childhood trauma and quoted Todd Garrison, executive director of ChildWise Institute, backbone of the Elevate Montana network.

All Together Now for Health, for Kids: The Value of Cross-Sector Collaboration

  • Jan 25, 2018

Donald F. Schwarz, vice president for program at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, invited people to stand: Who among the attendees at the 2017 Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) National Summit—more than 170 scholars, educators, social service providers, policy-makers and activists—felt passionate about storm water management?

Few rose from their seats.

Schwarz then connected the dots: communities with poor storm water management—which tend to have lower incomes and higher minority populations—also have homes with more mold, which leads to higher rates of illness and hospitalizations, along with stress-related symptoms…all of which make it harder for a 5th-grader in one of those households to succeed at math.

Now Available! Community Voices: Creating a Just, Healthy and Resilient World

  • Jan 16, 2018

From October 2016 through May 2017, we were privileged to travel to all fourteen MARC communities. During our whirlwind visits, we asked MARC leaders to show us concrete examples of how their networks were building community resilience—no small feat, given the often-intangible nature of our work. They rose to the occasion.

These fourteen stories, captured so beautifully by Anndee Hochman, represent only a handful of the conversations we had and the places we visited. Together, they reveal the breadth, diversity and creativity present in these communities. We hope that, like us, you will be moved and inspired by them and that you’ll glimpse your own community, neighbors and possibilities in these portraits.