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October 31, 2014
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The families of children involved in Dependency and Neglect (D&N) cases face a long road through an intimidating and confusing legal system. The Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, which helps many of these families by providing volunteer advocates for children, has a relatively new presence in Colorado’s 9th Judicial District. CASA of the Ninth serves Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties by training and supporting volunteer advocates. Its mission is to find a safe, permanent home for every child it serves.

Numerous professionals, including attorneys, guardians ad litem (a person the court appoints to represent the best interests of a child) and social workers, have roles in child welfare cases. But children can get lost in the legal and social service system. High caseloads make it difficult to gather adequate information and can leave children languishing in inappropriate placements. CASA’s voice speaks for the child and provides more complete information to those who make these critical decisions and helps achieve better long-term solutions.


A Seattle family court judge — who was concerned about making drastic, life-changing decisions for children without adequate information — conceived of the volunteer citizen advocate idea in 1977. That idea grew into what is now a network of 950 CASA programs in 49 states.

Barbra Corcoran, who joined CASA of the Ninth as executive director in February, explained that child abuse or neglect is the direct cause of most D&N cases, and the majority involve adults who have substance abuse problems. But the roots run deeper: Adults whose lives are out of control do not set out to abuse or neglect their children; they’re often replaying scenarios they experienced as children.

The 9th District has about 30 active D&N cases at any given time. That may not seem to indicate a sizeable problem; however, most people outside the child welfare system are not aware that the average time for case resolution — from the date the county attorney files a D&N petition to finding a safe, permanent home for the child (not a foster home) — is 18 months. A CASA volunteer stays with a case through its resolution and works with only one family at a time. Corcoran pointed out that advocates have to familiarize themselves with a family’s case history, and that may include hundreds of pages of records. She also said CASA and other advocacy organizations have helped steer the child welfare system to more “front loading,” providing services to help keep families from getting into a D&N situation.

CASA of the Ninth, which now has four advocates serving a total of nine children, seeks to train 10 new volunteers each year and to place an advocate with every D&N child by 2016.


[For more of this story, written by Angelyn Frankenberg, go to]




All of the team’s players and coaches attended the seminar, which was led by Tony Porter, co-founder and co-director of A Call to Men, a leading national violence prevention organization providing training and education for men, boys and communities. Troy Vincent, a former player who is now the NFL’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations, was also in attendance. Vincent’s mother is a survivor of domestic violence.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has mandated that all NFL employees participate in presentations on how to identify and prevent domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

“In our sport, we’ve been challenged, because of the impact of sports in our culture, to take on a higher regard and a higher standard not just for your own life but also no longer being a bystander in light of these issues going on around us,” said David Tyree, the former wide receiver who is now the Giants Director of Player Development. “I think there are very few people, if any, that don’t know somebody directly who has been impacted by one of the three, sexual assault, domestic abuse or child abuse.


[For more of this story, written by Michael Eisen, go to]




Strive for more, work even harder, aim to be the best! We live in a society that regularly sends us such messages. Meanwhile, most of us don’t stop to consider whether our goals are possible, or whether they would even bring us lasting happiness. Even if we were to win a gold medal at the Olympics, our status as reigning champion would only last a few years and would most likely be accompanied by anxiety about losing in the future. On my first day at Yale, one of the deans proclaimed, “You are not only the elite; you are the elite of the elite,” and I still remember the wave of nausea this comment evoked in me. Success, after all, is a precarious position. While we strive to become infallible and to retain our position at the top, we cannot escape suffering.

This suspicion was confirmed as I observed my fellow classmates progress through freshman year. Each of us had previously been at the top of his or her class in high school. But we now found ourselves as one smart student among many, no longer special and no longer standing out. Yet we still continued to sweat, struggle, and strive. We had learned that we had to be the best. Most of us found this experience hard to bear, and it left me wondering whether this maddening competitiveness is the reason why anxiety and depression are exceptionally rampant on Ivy League campuses.


[For more of this story, written by Seppala, go to]




This October was marked both as domestic violence awareness month and breast cancer awareness month. That's ironic, Pittsburgh police Sgt. Eric Kroll told residents gathered Wednesday night for a public safety meeting in Sheraden.

“They have two parallels,” he said. “One, it affects a lot of families. The second is, if something’s not done about it, it’s going to be lethal.”

In 2013, city police responded to 10,622 calls for domestic violence, the sergeant said.

“Every shift, an officer is going on a domestic violence call,” Sgt. Kroll said. “The violence is constant."

One tool the department is planning to introduce against domestic violence in 2015 is a new smartphone app that directly correlates with the existing Lethality Assessment Program, an 11-question survey that officers ask on a call scene to prevent intimate partner homicide.

One question on the survey is: “Does he follow you, spy on you or leave you threatening messages?”

Officers administer the surveys to victims in all domestic violence incidents, even if an arrest is not made, Sgt. Kroll said.


[For more of this story, written by Madasyn Czebiniak, go to]


I wish I could get every pastor, religious leader, teacher, parent and community activist to view the video above. There is so much to digest from what is presented here, that I might have to take a few posts here to articulate its true significance to my work, and its import to those who wish to make faith communities welcoming to those who have had traumatic or adverse childhood experiences.

Previously, I have written about what I view as universal needs created in us by our Maker (see What is fascinating to me is that the information portrayed in this video makes the same exact point I was: we have innate needs for significance and security that are to be met within the context of relationship! To further illustrate my conviction of the connection between spiritual development and nurture and the human need for relationship, I will excerpt just three quotes from the first 6 minutes of the video and give a short response to where I see the Christian gospel has insight, and where ministries might make a difference in the lives of those affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

“Everything that is important about life as a human being you learn in the context of relationships… We are neuro-biologically designed to be in relationship.” –Bruce Perry, MD, PhD

The Christian God is viewed as a Triune being: three in One. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existed prior to Creation in perfected relationship. Creation was not necessary so that God could meet a need for relationship... or, more crudely put, God didn't design us because God desired companionship or a plaything. The creation of the first human beings, according to the Genesis account, makes clear that relationship between humankind and God is possible because we have God's image within us (Genesis 1:27). This expression of God's nature within human beings makes us unique. We are, as Dr. Bruce Perry asserts, "neuro-biologically designed to be in relationship."

“We need somebody we can trust, that we can hold on to, that walks with us hand and hand through the whole deal.” –Daniel J. Seigel, MD

God not only designed for this need to be met in the maternal relationship through human biology, but spiritually designed so that human beings best function when in relationship to the Creator. The message that Jesus left with his followers before he ascended into heaven was, "Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). The connection between Jesus and his followers was something Jesus stressed throughout his ministry, suggesting that "apart from me [Jesus], you can do nothing" (John 15:5). The significance of connection to God precedes Jesus' incarnation, as a popular passage from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, asserts "He gives strength to the weary... those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:29-31).

“What our bodies want for best development is relationship. Every neuron in our brain develops most optimally through a loving relationship.” –Marti Glenn, PhD.

The video quickly gets into the affects that pre-natal stress can have on the brain development of the child in utero. The brain stem is that part of our nervous system that regulates the "fight or flight" impulse. When this part of our brains are disregulated, we respond to external stimuli in ways that are not merited by our actual circumstance. Babies can be born hyper-reactive to their environment, or can learn very soon after birth that the world is a frightening place. Attachment and healthy relationship is a prescription God made for his Creation, it is not an invention of modern psychology or neuro-biology.  In Psalm 139, a beautiful work of King David, he writes: "You [God] created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb... my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place" (Psalm 139:13-15).

God is concerned for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of each human being. Communities of faith have a lot to provide in terms of the loving relationships that can support children and families that are working through the issues that early childhood stress or trauma produce. Ultimately, the offer of a grace-filled and loving relationship with God can go a long ways towards reestablishing a healthy view of relationships and attachment. Where do you see connections between the human need for attachment and bonding and the ministry of your church? What do you sense the gospel has to say to those living on the "other side" of childhood trauma or neglect? How can you be part of taking a message of hope and healing that goes beyond a medical approach to the neuro-biology of adverse childhood experiences?

[note: this was originally posted to my site]

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