What’s the best way to improve the well-being of young children and their families in Oklahoma?
The OK25by25 Early Childhood Coalition has focused its efforts on two major programs: Resilience and Family Positive Workplace. Both of these programs support the goal of improving the well-being of children, pre-birth to 5, and their families.
The goal of OK25by25, a 10-year initiative managed by the Potts Family Foundation (PFF), is to move Oklahoma to the Top 25 states, by 2025, in selected early childhood metrics.
“The rapid pace of brain growth and development through age 5 makes it a critical time period of opportunity and vulnerability,” said Craig Knutson, Potts Family Foundation president and CEO. “Both the Resilience and the Family Positive Workplace programs address the core objectives of our early childhood initiative.”
What is Resilience?
Researchers have found a very strong link between the toxic stress generated by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and long-term negative health effects. The most serious finding is that adverse childhood experiences can lead to life-threatening diseases like obesity, heart and lung disease, diabetes, substance abuse and mental illnesses, and ultimately to premature death up to 20 years early.
Through the study of epigenetics, it is now known that toxic stress can pass from one generation to another through genetic modifications. A new study from Northwestern University links poverty to the same DNA alteration process seen in toxic stress indicating that poverty-like trauma leaves a mark on our genes.
The science of Resilience informs us that providing safe, supportive and stable family relationships and environments can buffer the effects of trauma. Due to the plasticity of the brain, Resilience can actually help repair past structural problems and improve coping skills. PACEs (Protective and Compensatory Experiences) are recognized resilience responses to ACEs.
“The high prevalence of unresolved trauma among the school-age population is a public health epidemic that threatens children’s academic and social mastery,” said Susan Craig, Ph.D., educator and presenter at last year’s Raising Resilient Oklahomans! summit. “To be effective, school improvement must be seen through a trauma-sensitive lens.”
A documentary film being shown statewide by the Potts Family Foundation provides a vehicle for sharing information about the importance of raising resilient children. “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” has been shown in 123 individual screenings to nearly 7,800 viewers.
“Every film screening is followed by a reactor panel to help the audience process the powerful information and think about next steps,” Knutson said. “We really focus on educating people about the ‘science of hope’ — the protective factors or PACEs.”
Educating the public is important because untreated trauma can have costly lifelong effects. The Sycamore Institute estimates the annual economic impact of ACEs in Tennessee at $5.2 billion. By providing resources, sponsoring presenters and building networks, OK25by25 seeks to help communities become more resilient.
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