“I know from personal experience that trauma can be life-changing, but I didn’t know that talking about trauma could change my life. And the lives of others,” said Theresa Caldwell, member of the Southside (TICN) Trauma-Informed Community Network, which is supported by the Crater Health District under the leadership of Dr. Alton Hart and Brian Little. The Network works to foster healthy communities through disease prevention and control, health promotion, environmental protection, and emergency preparedness and response. Crater Health District serves the cities and counties of Dinwiddie, Emporia, Greensville, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George, Surry and Sussex. Caldwell added, “I now look at everything through a resilience building lens and feel like I wound up in Petersburg to do what a dear friend would call my “God job,” helping to spread the word about the impact of trauma on lifelong health and wellness and how that knowledge can help us build individual and community resilience.
Chloe Edwards with Voices for Virginia’s Children works with the Southside TICN through the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed VA to provide technical assistance and policy analysis. The Campaign Advocacy Day took place on January 21, 2020, a day that followed the historical Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Following the legislative advocacy component of the day, Edwards shared a poem titled, “Daughter of a Dream,” which touches on her personal experiences in overcoming the many components of historical and cultural trauma. Her biological father shared his own journey of resilience in overcoming addiction, “Now I have 8 beautiful children, but at some point in my life I was just a sperm donor; maybe some of you know something about that.”
With an ACES score of 8, Chloe is no stranger to adversity. Her Aunt, Ronda Smith Porter added, “Children don’t forget.” Chloe remembers running away from home her freshman year of high school to escape the abuse of her mother; a police officer forced her to come back home. The officer said, “I used to be like you. I got a lot of whoopings growing up. Then I learned to be quiet.” At the age of 12 her mother told her she would grow up to be in jail like her father, a stripper, a whore, and a prostitute; however, today, Chloe serves as a voice for VA’s children. They will not be silenced.
It only takes one permanent, trusting adult to change the trajectory of a child’s life. “For me, it was my Aunt Ronda, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, the grandparents I was placed with at the age of 14, a teacher- also known as Momma Mason, a mentor, Ericca Facetti, and more. I often preach that I am Richmond raised, because a community of adults raised me,” Chloe said. At the age of 21, Chloe reunited with her court appointed special advocate at her own Henrico CASA swearing-in, “I had an opportunity to heal and developed resilience. After seeing my former CASA, I decided I should accept the torch.” Chloe’s mother was also there to support her and is proud of who she has become.
You can find many trusted adults, including CASAs, at a community network meeting. Currently, the Family and Children’s Trust Fund is the only public/private entity funding TICNs. Their framework for building and maintaining a network describes the communal process, “Everyone has a role to play. Every sector must be involved to develop new and innovative ways to serve your community.” FACT has enough funding for 6 networks, but there are currently over 20.
Even with the countless volunteer hours Theresa Caldwell has devoted to the work of the Southside TICN, the network can only do so much without more funding. She added, “I dream of a day when there is more funding for train-the-trainer programs that effectively share trauma and resilience-building information, research on best practices in VA, and programs where community members are significant partners.” Fortunately, there are opportunities for more funding, and you can act now!