Lakeside, Arizona resident Mike had originally heard about the book through the ACEs Connection Daily Digest. He was curious and realized that a community forum was taking place in Santa Fe during his family’s visit to New Mexico’s capital. Slipping away for a few hours to attend the forum, he learned about the tragic death of an eight-year-old named Anna and how it became a catalyst for radically rethinking and reinventing child abuse prevention. There in Santa Fe he heard the authors of the book Anna, Age Eight: The Data-Driven Prevention of Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment, speak about a new strategic framework to address abuse and neglect and all forms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The discussion and book would strongly influence Mike’s views on creating safe childhoods and those of his colleagues and community.
A Wave of Childhood Adversity Never Seen by Child Welfare
Mike, who worked in the field of higher education and community organizing, was familiar with the topic of child maltreatment. He was not familiar with the authors’ data-driven and cross-sector prevention and treatment strategy that asked all community sectors to take responsibility for addressing epidemic rates of childhood trauma. Instead of holding only child welfare responsible for preventing childhood adversity and maltreatment, the book laid out a blueprint for cities and counties to follow--one that pointed to ten vital services that needed to be accessible to all families if communities were to prevent more stories like Annas’--a child in and out of the system until she was returned to her mother, and was murdered. The authors also stressed that large segments of the child population endured ACEs that flew under the radar of child protective services. What was urgently needed was a strategy that could ensure the safety of 100% of children and support 100% of parents.
Assessing Readiness and a Sense of Urgency in Arizona
Mike returned to his colleagues, Kate and Allison, in northeastern Arizona to share what he had learned. It was during this first meeting with his colleagues that the trio would commit to reaching out to leaders in what the book Anna, Age Eight described as the ten “surviving services” and “thriving services”: behavioral health, medical care, housing, food, transportation, early childhood learning programs, schools, mentorship and job training to assess if they were ready to take on a groundbreaking initiative called 100% Community. Clearly, the blueprint laid out in Anna, Age Eight was not tinkering around the edges of prevention.
Trauma Informed vs Trauma Free: An Important Distinction
The trio felt their local communities were ready to take a bold step toward creating a trauma-free region because the phrase “trauma-informed” was already being used across Arizona, including by the governor and the first lady. “Trauma-informed” is a vital first step to take in order to ensure safe childhoods. It means that agency personnel have awareness of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. This means schools, nonprofits and health care workforce members are trained to be sensitive to the needs of children and their parents who have endured trauma. But trauma-informed should not be confused with the presence of resources needed to be trauma-free. What the book Anna, Age Eight, and the initiative based on the book, was asking for was a commitment on the part of the region to actually strengthen ten vital family services that have been shown to prevent abuse, neglect and trauma from happening in the first place.
This new way of working cross-sector would go upstream---to create family friendly communities where 100% of residents can access behavioral health care and the nine other key services. The authors stressed that there was a significant distinction between a trauma-informed community and one that has the resources to become trauma-free.
Putting out the call: Mobilizing Ten Sectors
Less than one year after Mike was introduced to Anna, Age Eight, co-author Dominic Cappello came to Northland Pioneer College in Snowflake, AZ to present a keynote speech on preventing trauma at the First Things First Navajo/Apache Early Childhood Conference. He stayed on an extra day to facilitate a forum for community leaders on turning data---the numbers that indicate as many as one-third to two-thirds of some classrooms have students with three or more adverse childhood experiences that include various forms of abuse and neglect--into action. One hundred thirty-five local leaders and stakeholders attended and were presented with a welcome by Navajo County Superior Court Judge Robert Higgins, an overview of trauma by Dr. Jill Stamm from Arizona’s Children Association, and a strategic plan for setting up Arizona’s first 10 @ 100% Community Initiative. Participants found themselves working in ten action groups--identifying challenges, opportunities, ideas for solutions and key stakeholders to partner with. The entire forum was streamed online, with 600 viewers tuning in. Forum attendees, from doctors to teachers to mayors, also downloaded the book Anna, Age Eight and started sending it to their colleagues and elected officials. Even before the event ended, the spark of a movement to end childhood trauma had gone viral.
The overwhelming reaction from the attendees was the region did have the capacity to take on such a forward thinking initiative. An advisory group formed, along with a plan to implement a survey that would reveal the degree to which parents and youth have access to key services. With gaps in services identified, the ten action teams began brainstorming solutions---working in alignment with, and not duplicating, current work. Cappello concluded the forum with, “The countdown to 100%---the commitment to ensure vital services for the communities’ vulnerable families and to create a trauma-free county, had clearly begun in Snowflake.”
Committing to 100% of our kids and families
Northeastern Arizona is committing to a bold endeavor, and seeks to reach out across the state for input. Local, county and state legislative leaders will be engaged to inform the work--capacity-building that all counties may wish to engage in. We are learning valuable lessons from our neighboring state, New Mexico, where state lawmakers funded the development of The Anna, Age Eight Institute to provide technical assistance to all 33 of their counties, with the goal of ending childhood trauma. Cappello, who will soon be the co-director of the Institute, shared, “Arizona and New Mexico are in a good position to share strategies that work and lift up all the families of the southwest.”
Here in Arizona, we are ready to commit to creating communities where cases like eight-year- old Anna’s are never repeated. You are invited to join in this vital game-changing work where 100% of our kids are safe and get a chance to succeed. We won’t leave even 1% behind.
To learn more: contact Kate Dobler firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may download free of charge the book Anna, Age Eight here: www.AnnaAgeEight.org