Title Image: Center for Youth Wellness Staff
For the second year in a row, on May 22, 2018 the “4CA” Campaign to Counter Childhood Adversity organized approximately 75 people into small teams of 3-6 people to visit the offices of 81 legislators. Many had attended the 2017 inaugural event, while several were participating for the first time. This now annual event is organized by the 4CA steering group, led by Center for Youth Wellness, Children Now!, and ACEs Connection Network.
The event began with a morning training session on best practices in conducting a successful legislator visit, as well as updating participants on 12 child adversity bills currently moving through the legislature.
Trainers Sara Marques of the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) and Kelly Hardy of Children Now! provided insights, materials, and even role plays to prepare participants for the afternoon visits.
Moira Kenney of the First Five Association of California gave opening remarks entitled, "The Impact of Trauma, the Opportunity for Resilience", grounding participants in the educational focus of the day. The training session also included inspirational messages from Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, and Vanessa Hernandez from California Youth Connection.
Ted Lempert, President of Children Now! introduced Assemblymember Arambula. Arambula spoke about his work championing children's issues in the legislature, stating that "We must do this work so that we don't create and perpetuate generations of trauma". He thanked and encouraged participants for their commitment to this work.
Vanessa Hernandez of California Youth Connection spoke about her own experience in foster care, and her current experiences working with foster youth. Hernandez invited participants to broaden their narrative about trauma informed care, to include a focus on healing, as well as the strengths of trauma survivors. She shared that when she explains the impact of trauma to young people, they voice that they don't want to be thought of only in terms of the traumas they have experienced. In her work, young people have started to use the phrase, "I have ACEs, but I'm still an ACE".
She urged participants to talk about healing, talk about compassion, and talk about love when they educate about, and design for, a trauma-sensitive system.
After a break for lunch, participants headed to the Capitol to visit and educate legislators.
During quick checkins at the end of the day, participants shared that they found a range of ACEs knowledge among legislative staff or legislators. Some were familiar with ACEs and trauma to varying degrees; and many were completely uninformed. All were appreciative of the additional educational information provided in the information packets, as well as the community profiles about their local districts, highlighting trauma informed efforts already underway.
Inspired by the successful visits, 4CA participants ended the day feeling energized and ready to continue connecting with government leaders at the local level.