Plans to integrate practices and policies based on the science of adverse childhood experiences in North Carolina’s 4,000-person,100-county statewide judiciary were announced today.
Jon David, district attorney for North Carolina’s 15th District, District Court Judge Quintin McGee of the same district, and Amelia Thorn, of Duke University’s Bolch Judicial Institute, revealed plans to work with North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby and Administrative Office of the Courts Director Andrew Heath to develop an ACEs science and trauma-informed curricula across all departments of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). This includes district attorneys, judges, clerks, sheriffs and magistrates.
Working with Thorn to help develop the courses will be a superior court judge, a district court judge, a sheriff, a police chief, the clerk of the Superior Court, deans from North Carolina law schools, and community members, including at least one ACEs science subject matter expert. This group is tentatively named the Resilience Commission for (the) Justice System.
“The first thing to acknowledge is that ACEs exist in our communities and that we need to be proactive about trying to fight and counter those ACEs,” said McGee. “We have the power. It is an obligation and is something we are leading here in southeast North Carolina and will be leading statewide, and nationwide, because it has the potential to not only to change things for young people in our region, but to help young people across the nation.”
“Armed with knowledge that we have children who come from difficult circumstances, who we know are not bad kids, but they are good kids with bad problems, and good kids making bad decisions, it is a moral imperative that we study what ACE scores actually are, and their impact on children, and then that we put those buffering systems in place to consciously change the arc of their future and improve these outcomes for these children,” said David.
In his parts of the presentation McGee leaned heavily on ACEs science, going through the “Three Realms of ACEs” infographic created by ACEs Connection.
“Some of those times you would see the defendants had adverse childhood experiences manifested and contribute to the situations. As a judge I want to focus on what we can do for these children before they hear, ‘You have the right to remain silent',” he said.
More than 30 leaders from ACEs Connection communities throughout the Southeast attended the call and learned more about four programs McGee and David support in Brunswick County, including Handle With Care, a trauma-informed program where schools and law enforcement work together. If a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, that child’s information is forwarded to the school before the school bell rings the next day. The school implements individual, class and whole school trauma-sensitive curricula so that traumatized children are “Handled With Care". If a child needs more intervention, on-site trauma-focused mental healthcare is available at the school.
Additional details of the Southeast Region leaders’ call will be posted soon. Those details will include reports from eight of the 11 states in the region, as well as updates from Dan Press of the Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice. Press provided details of federal COVID funding and a new initiative to involve “first spouses” in a project to raise awareness about ACEs science and its value in creating resilient individuals, families and communities.