Leaders in the ACEs, trauma, and resilience movement from across the country gathered in Philadelphia to explore and advance the power of cross-sector networks.
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.
The money will come from the U.S. Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) program, established in 1996 and distributed as grants to states for community-based efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, strengthen and support families and foster public-private agency collaborations.
To Moseley and Bussells, using CBCAP funds—South Carolina’s share is about $350,000 annually—for community coalitions was a perfect fit. The CBCAP grant program calls for parent leadership and participation, so each community coalition will have an accompanying parent advisory council and will need to meet regularly with community stakeholders.
Each of the three coalitions will receive $50,000 annually, which will fund a facilitator, meeting expenses and project costs, including part-time staff. Each parent advisory council will get $6,000 annually; that money may cover training in advocacy, team-building, governance and parenting skills. This funding also supports a full-time coordinator position who will support the parent and community coalition work in the communities.
Coalition members will use ACE data, KIDS COUNT data and other indicators to zero in on the most urgent needs in their area. Children’s Trust will provide a facilitator, a written action guide and coordination with South Carolina’s statewide Child Well-Being Coalition and its five work groups.
“We’re giving communities the money and asking them to work with a facilitator to figure out how to make this work sustainable,” Moseley says. “It’s about finding the priorities for their community.”
In selecting the three coalitions—one will definitely be in Richland County, centrally located and home to Columbia, the state capital—Moseley and Bussells are seeking areas that have both high need and an already-existing group that includes members from across a range of sectors, including education, social service, government and business.
The funding source and the statewide goal dovetail neatly, Moseley says, because “CBCAP is very supportive of primary prevention; we’ve worked with their technical assistance arm; and they’ve been very involved in the conversation with us.”
Bussells, who also manages the state’s ACE Initiative, says the coalitions will focus on primary prevention—“the hard idea that ACEs shouldn’t be happening in the first place.” That calls for a two-generation approach, because “parents need to be empowered to make good decisions for their kids, and that is difficult if they are dealing with traumas they don’t know are affecting their lives.”
Primary prevention will take different forms in different localities, Moseley says, but may include initiatives in early childhood education, programs addressing food insecurity among community members, ACE training for those who work in home visiting programs or parent education/support groups that are co-located with services for children.
“One of the things we know is really important is access to services,” says Moseley. “In many areas there are already existing programs, but we want to know: Are there barriers? Do people know about the services? We want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for families to get what they need.”
The action guide for South Carolina’s community coalitions is in development and will be based on the state’s prevention framework developed by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. The three groups will start their work in early 2019. “It’s not a huge amount of money,” says Moseley. “But we can do a lot with it. We have flexibility, and we’re giving them flexibility. Success will look different for each community, based on their needs and the goals they set to address them.”
NEW!!! Srivastav, A., Strompolis, M., Moseley, A., & Daniels, K. (2019). The Empower Action Model: A framework for preventing adverse childhood experiences by promoting health, equity, and well-being across the life span. Health Promotion Practice. Full text available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1524839919889355
Learn more about Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Grants at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/cbcap-state-grants
Learn more about South Carolina’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Initiative at https://scchildren.org/research/adverse-childhood-experiences/
Anndee Hochman is a journalist and author whose work appears regularly in The Philadelphia Inquirer, on the website for public radio station WHYY and in other print and online venues. She teaches poetry and creative non-fiction in schools, senior centers, detention facilities and at writers' conferences.