Last week, Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence partnered with American Children’s Home to host a free screening of the documentary Broken Places open to everyone in the community.
Broken Places revisits three different families that were filmed 15-30 years ago to see how the toxic stress and trauma that they experienced has affected them over the years. It turns out that some people are very damaged by toxic stress and trauma, while others are able to thrive, and the film explores this phenomenon. The documentary discusses how we can effectively prevent and treat toxic stress, and break the cycle of adversity and disease.
Following the film, a group of five panelists with various areas of expertise were available to answer questions. The panelists included: a Permanency Planning Social Worker with Davidson County Department of Social Services, a School Counselor with Central Davidson Middle School, the Vice President of American Children’s Home, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Turning Point Family Services, and a cottage parent at American Children’s Home.
Audience members were very receptive to the film and asked the panelists engaging questions, including if they believe some children are in fact more susceptible to toxic stress (the film used a metaphor of “orchids” that need a great deal of nurturing and “dandelions” that can thrive in harsh environments), and if it is fair to “blame” genetics on things that have happened to us. The panelists acknowledged that while some of us may be genetically predisposed to certain things, it does not have to determine our fate. With the proper support networks in place, we can all help children become more resilient.
The panelists also pointed to the importance of partnerships in establishing relationships with loving, caring adults for all children, something we know to be a key protective factor for trauma and toxic stress. Physical health providers, mental health providers, teachers, police, child welfare workers, etc. were all in the audience, and the panelists praised them for attending community events like the screening in an effort to better their community. Audience members and panelists alike left the screening and panel discussion hopeful that together, they can make a positive impact on the children and families in their community.