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California Essentials for Childhood Initiative (CA)

The California Essentials for Childhood Initiative uses a public health and collective impact approach to align and enhance collaborative efforts to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children, youth and families through systems, policy and social norms change.

Podcast: Alison Cebulla Discusses Paid Parental Leave, Toxic Stress, and ACEs on Hometown Radio Show


Click here to listen here to the audio recording.

This summer I joined Hometown Radio Show host Dave Congalton to discuss a series of public health issues. I'm Alison and I'm a Master of Public Health student at Boston University. I spent the summer interning for ACEs Connection.

In this episode, which was broadcast live from San Luis Obispo, CA on July 30, 2019 at 5pm, and was #3 in the series of 4 episodes, we discussed the absence of federal level paid parental leave policy in the United States and the policies in other countries in the world. I share some of what I've learned about ACEs science, child trauma, and child development, from my time as a Master of Public Health student and my time working for ACEs Connection.

The goal of this series is to start conversations about important public health topics and to encourage people to think critically about issues in a way that is holistic: the environmental, socio-economic, racial, and policy factors that influence health. I don't claim to be an expert but rather, a public health and social justice advocate.

Some excerpts from our conversation:

Alison: [The first five years] are really when your brain is forming the most in terms of how it is wired, how it functions, how you get to experience the rest of your life. Those first 5 years are very important. 

Dave: I want to connect Adverse Childhood Experiences to the idea of paid family leave because you were saying right before the break that it's essential that parents spend as much time as they can with children under the age of 5. 

Alison: Yeah, that's true. There's a lot that happens in a child's brain that important for who you get to be for your whole life. That's why ACEs science is so important. When we have a caregiver at home, it could be a mom, or a dad, or an adopted parent, or a grandparent, who is present and interacts it's important for newborns, infants, and toddlers to have someone around who interacts in a certain way so that you have "secure attachment".

Dave: Of the 41 nations, the United States ranks last for paid parental leave. Now, this is on the federal level?

Alison: Yes. We're the only developed nation that doesn't offer, or enforce that employers offer paid parental leave. Some employers offer it anyway and some states, like California, was the first state to have paid parental leave as a requirement for employers. But on a federal level, we don't have a policy as of yet. 

Dave: So make the link here. You want paid leave because you want parents around their children more?

Alison: I feel worried about children growing up without their parents feeling secure in being able to take time off. Even in California, this paid parental leave is only for people who have an employer. We don't have enough programs that support new parents in the US and [I'm worried about] the effect that that's going to have on our society as a whole. 

Dave: Well, what are you concerned about?

Alison: Deaths of despair are at their all-time high in the United States. We're seeing a mental health epidemic...To me, the link is there: children who experienced a lack of nurturance and a society that seems to be succumbing to a lot of mental health issues. 

Especially for families who are at the [socio-economic] bottom, who are having to work three jobs...even in San Luis Obispo County. I personally know people here who are raising children and have to work several jobs each. 

Dave: Why hasn't the United States figured out this thing that other countries are doing?

Alison: It doesn't make sense logically. We would want to raise our children in the most nurturing environment to build a strong society. 

Dave: But you've lived's different there...

Alison: I lived in Belgium and the Netherlands....and I didn't see the kind of poverty that I see in America. 

Dave: Is child trauma on the rise in the US?

Alison: ...I have been looking at state-level data [BRFFS ACEs module survey] for my job [at ACEs Connection] and this is where people are self-reporting their ACEs scores in a survey. I look at this data and I think, "Are people reporting everything?" I look at this data and I think, "well, this doesn't match other data that I've looked at". It's pretty early on in this conversation to be getting the most accurate data so that's a tough question to answer. 

Dave: I often think about, with the rise of the opioid epidemic [Note--Dave and I discuss the opioid epidemic in episode #4]...Why are we taking opioids? What are we trying to nullify? What are we trying to forget? I'm not a scientist, but to me, there would be some connection in my mind. 

Other things we discuss:
+ Student mental health
+ The stigma around discussing mental health
+ Attachment theory
+ Socio-economic disparities
+ Women's access to reproductive education and birth control and how that impacts a society

We field many calls by community members of different backgrounds and with differing viewpoints which adds diverse perspectives to our discussion. 

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