ACEs Champion Danette Glass says COVID-19 increases the need for trauma-informed communities

 

Danette McLaurin Glass, a multi-award-winning youth development advocate for public and community-based agencies, says things will get worse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After the crisis, we are going to see an escalation of reported trauma exposure because right now young people in homes are not able to communicate the maltreatment they are experiencing,” she says. “Lack of accountability has left some young people vulnerable to being abused while school districts are in this virtual or digital learning setting." 

The coronavirus crisis affects the mental health of parents, who are also traumatized, Glass emphasizes: “And if they do not know how to manage or control their emotions in a positive manner, sometimes their children become the target of their frustration.”

Glass’s mission has always been to protect and foster the practice of nurturing children. That’s because she herself experienced at least five types of adverse childhood experiences, as measured in the original CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). If the scale could account for childhood adversity such as structural racism and community violence that’s more likely to occur in communities of color, her burden of ACEs is higher.

Adverse childhood experiences is a term that stems from the landmark ACE Study of 17,000 adults that found a relationship between 10 types of childhood traumas, such as any type of abuse or neglect, and adult-onset of chronic health conditions. Many other types of ACEs — including racism, bullying, a father being abused, and community violence — have been added to subsequent ACE surveys. (ACEs Science 101Got Your ACE/Resilience Score?

The ACE surveys — the epidemiology of childhood adversity — are one of five parts of ACEs science, which also includes how toxic stress from ACEs affects children’s brains, the short- and long-term health effects of toxic stress, how toxic stress is passed on from generation to generation, and research on resilience, which includes how individuals, organizations, systems and communities can integrate ACEs science to solve our most intractable problems. Research has shown how interventions — such as parent education, family therapy, building resilience, providing children and families with basic needs — can offset the impact of toxic stress from ACEs.

Glass, a social justice advocate, grew up as the only child of professional, middle-class parents in Charlotte, NC, and moved to Atlanta in 1990. Her mother was an elementary and middle school principal and her father a procurement officer for government services. She is descended from a long line of people engaged in civic service, including philanthropic activities. That’s why she considered it natural to help others. Not only was her mother an educator, she also served on several local and national boards devoted to improving the well-being of others. Her father provided funds for agencies serving Charlotte’s vulnerable communities. He also provided opportunities for dozens of young boys to obtain employment while in high school and attend college.

ACEs knows no socio-economic barriers and trauma does not make a distinction. Even in this idyllic setting, there was still a dark side to her childhood. Her family life was frequently volatile, and Glass often had to call the police. She also experienced an extremely unfortunate experience, which she described as definitely a childhood adversity, when she was a seven-year-old child.  

These experiences helped strengthen Glass’ concern for the welfare of children as she processed the events that had scarred her emotionally as a child.

“As a result of trying to figure out how (the traumatic acts) happened and how to process that, you have feelings that are difficult to process as a child,” she says. “I’ve been concerned about that healing process for young people and their families. I became a peacemaker because many times there was no peace in my household.”

After studying anthropology at Duke University, Glass received a scholarship to attend Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Following a successful hotel investment and management career, Glass stepped out on faith in 1999 and started a nonprofit, CHEM LABS of America, Inc., for young people like herself who were high achievers in difficult circumstances.

For 15 years, Glass directed CHEM LABS, which offered trauma-responsive youth development services to up to 5,000 youth each year, with funding from foundations and government. The award-winning organization served thousands of youth and families in metro Atlanta by developing programs including STEM education, gang prevention, violence prevention, and homeless youth services. In 2014, CHEM LABS downsized to serve smaller and more targeted populations of less than 50 youth a year. The lab is still operating in Charlotte, NC, and Glass, now a consultant to the organization, provides guidance and also facilitates a few modules. Because of the pandemic, she says they are establishing a virtual experience for the high school and college lab techs this summer.

“As a child,” she explains, “I remember sometimes being misunderstood and judged when I was actually crying out. I had a chance to have a face-to-face meeting with myself and to understand the reason why I responded the way I did. The best way to help me was not a punitive situation but a more compassionate situation.”

That’s the approach stressed by those working in trauma and the ACEs community to develop positive responses to situations that otherwise automatically trigger reactions to childhood trauma. 

Glass heard about the ACE Study in 2017 while working on a SAMHSA-funded project for adjudicated youth. She realized the level of trauma exposure for young people was at an all-time high. The heightened level of family trauma and community trauma burdened her tremendously. With this in mind, Glass wanted to know if the traumatic events occurring with youth in Georgia and North Carolina was the same in other southeastern states. 

So, Glass enlisted the help of her mother. Together they held focus groups and one-on-one meetings throughout several states, with participants from Georgia to Hawaii. They listened to the experiences and needs of those communities. As a result of these interactions, Glass established the Center for Family and Community Wellness, Inc. (The Well) in Alpharetta, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, with teams in multiple cities throughout the South, including greater Washington, D.C. These teams are trained on ACEs science and best trauma-informed/responsive practices with an emphasis on taking a compassionate rather than a punitive approach.

For the past three years, the Well has conducted ACEs awareness and trauma prevention trainings for agencies, staff, and communities. They present documentaries, such as Resilience and Paper Tigers. And this has had an effect. For example, Atlanta is one of the top sex-trafficking centers in the U.S. where kids as young as 12 were penalized as criminals. After the Well and other organizations consulted with the district attorney and the juvenile court chief judge, “Policies were changed, laws were changed, and the courts started treating the victims for trauma rather than punishing them,” says Glass.

The public health organizer and childhood trauma pioneer is working on a different ACEs scale to bring in the perspectives of black communities in America.

“There are some other traumatic factors that are not on that (CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACEs) scale. Less than two percent of the respondents were people of color. We have developed some models and programs around what we have considered ACEs in the black community.”

Glass says this scale, which will include a total of 15 factors, some of which are not unique to communities of color, will be available to the public in the future. In the meantime, given the added lack of protection for children and families in this current COVID-19 environment, she is leveraging social media, phone calls, Zoom, and email to continue her mission to nurture children and train communities throughout the country to care for them.

 

 

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Congratulations, Danette, on this terrific story!  
Thank you Sylvia, for writing it.

I am so grateful for ACEs Connection for being a place where important stories such as this are told. 

Danette, you know I love working with you and am proud of the dozen PEACEXPEACE ACEs Connection communities we have going or in process; with some in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and others on the way in other states.  

It is an honor to work with you and the teams you have empowered; the community managers you have groomed; the volunteers so eager to follow you because of your passion and creativity; your courage, love, and leadership.

God bless you and your family; your work and all of us for whom you are working. We are all the better for your energy and commitment, your vision and drive to see people have better lives; greater opportunities. I know this time of COVID 19, and of people finally realizing racism as a public health crisis, is a challenge and an opportunity. I also know that if anyone can meet these challenges and make the injustices more clear, and illuminate ways forward toward health and justice, it is you.

You are a leader/change maker who truly understands and is motivated by the “why.” 

Love,

Carey 

Carey Sipp

SE Regional Community Facilitator

ACEs Connection 

csipp@acesconnection.com 

Special thanks to Carey Sipp, Sylvia Paull and Jane Stevens for believing my passion and purpose would inspire others.

I am indeed honored to be considered an ACEs Champion for ACES Connection...BUT MOST HONORED to provide hope and healing to young people and those who care for them.  May your work continue to be a beacon and treasure for all who seek understanding of the ACEs movement and ways to resolve complex traumatic experiences.

Great love and good cheer to all of you who are called to serve in this capacity.

@Becky Haas posted:

Thank you for your passion for lifting up others and for sharing your own story.  You are truly a conduit for change!  Excited and honored to partner with you as you work to reduce the effects of trauma.  ❤️

Thanks Becky for this kind acknowledgement!  We are called to serve and empowered to provide healing and hope for traumatized families and communities ...I am completely honored to serve with you!

Danette,

Living in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, we're reeling in the lived experience of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop last week. George and his partner were residents of the school district I work for. I am very concerned about the trauma that is being visited on our community children as a result of them watching the graphic footage of his murder on television and other media platforms.

How would you advise my Family Services Collaborative to respond in outreach to the children in our community, given that several of us are certified ACEs trainers? And, our entire Collaborative Board is keenly interested in promoting a trauma-aware community with racial equity as its focus. How might we best start in our first steps in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder?

Thank you.

Debbie Wells

 

Greetings, Debbie, 

We are deeply sorrowful for the challenges experienced in Minnesota and across the country.  Our hearts ache and tears stream with what your community is experiencing. We also moan, groan and weep for our nation. You are all indeed in our thoughts and prayers, as we pray for our nation. 

There is not a quick fix nor a 1, 2, 3 solution for this type of trauma.  The barbaric nature of the trauma inflicted as a result of Mr. Floyd's appalling death will take time to heal.

I would like to speak with you about a few strategies you can use in the healing process.  I sent you a private message with my phone number earlier today.  The fact that you care so deeply and passionately about the children in your community is a FIRST STEP and that's significant. Understanding the impact and prevalence of complex trauma will provide the necessary foundation towards seeing, serving and empowering ALL community members to live with compassion and not hatred.  The true test is can we go the distance...racism in America is centuries old. 

I am honored that you would consider me as a resource and look forward to speaking with you soon. 

We are called to serve and empowered to heal...

With great expectation for a favorable change,

Danette

Danette,

Living in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, we're reeling in the lived experience of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop last week. George and his partner were residents of the school district I work for. I am very concerned about the trauma that is being visited on our community children as a result of them watching the graphic footage of his murder on television and other media platforms.

How would you advise my Family Services Collaborative to respond in outreach to the children in our community, given that several of us are certified ACEs trainers? And, our entire Collaborative Board is keenly interested in promoting a trauma-aware community with racial equity as its focus. How might we best start in our first steps in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder?

Thank you.

Debbie Wells

 

Thank you to Carey Sipp, Sylvia Paull and Jane Stevens for believing my passion and purpose would inspire others. Honored to be considered an ACEs Champion for ACES Connection...BUT MOST HONORED to provide hope and healing to young people and those who care for them.  Great love and good cheer to all of you who are called to serve in this capacity. ❤❤❤

Congratulations, Danette, on this terrific story!  
Thank you Sylvia, for writing it.

I am so grateful for ACEs Connection for being a place where important stories such as this are told. 

Danette, you know I love working with you and am proud of the dozen PEACEXPEACE ACEs Connection communities we have going or in process; with some in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and others on the way in other states.  

It is an honor to work with you and the teams you have empowered; the community managers you have groomed; the volunteers so eager to follow you because of your passion and creativity; your courage, love, and leadership.

God bless you and your family; your work and all of us for whom you are working. We are all the better for your energy and commitment, your vision and drive to see people have better lives; greater opportunities. I know this time of COVID 19, and of people finally realizing racism as a public health crisis, is a challenge and an opportunity. I also know that if anyone can meet these challenges and make the injustices more clear, and illuminate ways forward toward health and justice, it is you.

You are a leader/change maker who truly understands and is motivated by the “why.” 

Love,

Carey 

Carey Sipp

SE Regional Community Facilitator

ACEs Connection 

csipp@acesconnection.com 

Last edited by Carey S. Sipp (ACEs Connection Staff)
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