(L to R) Teri Barila from Children's Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA along with Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell from San Bernardino County, CA ACEs Task Force share their ACEs journey in their communities
Representatives from several MARC communities were among the 450 people who attended the 2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in San Francisco, CA on October 19th and 20th. This is the third CA ACEs conference sponsored by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), and it was also the largest, with more of a national scope this time around. Participants traveled from all over the country to attend this year’s event, with a focus on moving from “Awareness to Action”, and included representatives from education, early childhood, juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health, pediatrics, and a host of other professionals involved in the ACEs movement.
Several MARC communities were represented, including San Diego and Sonoma Counties (CA), Montana, and Walla Walla, WA. I had the chance to meet Todd Garrison and Tina Eblin from ChildWise in Montana. I also met a group of women from Ptarmigan Pediatrics in Wasilla, Alaska, and we were able to talk about some of the work happening in Alaska as a result of MARC as well as the ACEs Connection group.
The first day – Oct. 20 -- kicked off with a bang, as Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, CEO of CYW provided an overview of the current state of the movement. A dynamic speaker and motivator, Burke Harris knows how to fire up a crowd. She made it clear how much the movement is spreading, with a map showing 32 states across the country that are collecting ACEs data, many of which are also collecting research and implementing ACEs initiatives. And she made it clear that our network you are all a part of, ACEs Connection Network, is one of the greatest tools for spreading the word about the movement.
Several breakout sessions took place on Thursday afternoon, with topics ranging from practices and interventions in early, middle and adolescent childhood; the determinants of ACEs and toxic stress; trauma-informed systems and workforce development; and how communities and ACEs initiatives are leveraging the tools and resources of ACEs Connection Network.
Along with my team, I was a part of the two ACEs Connection Network breakout sessions. In addition to reviewing how geographic and interest based groups can be used, this was also a time to highlight how ACEs Connection Network can be used to support state and national initiatives, like Elevate Montana and the MARC Project. Using the MARC map, several participants from Illinois, Montana, California, and Alaska, wanted to know more about what was happening in their respective states. This session gave us an opportunity to highlight the great work happening across the country in the 14 MARC communities.
Day two kicked off with a panel of inspirational women who are creating community and system change in the aftermath of their own personal adversity. Emotional as it was, these women reminded us all of the power of relationships, compassion, and perseverance. One woman on the panel, Sarah Pauter, is from San Diego, one of the MARC communities. Pauter is the founder and CEO of Phenomenal Families. She shared her inspiring story of her journey through the foster care system, and provided examples of how caring adults helped her persevere to finish college. She’s taking her program statewide to help other youth, and reminded us that WE ARE the caring adults that our children need to thrive.
Friday also provided an opportunity for us to learn from one another with a Project Showcase, featuring over 30 programs and tools from across the state disseminating research, ideas, practices, and programs that are currently addressing childhood adversity. The Project Showcase provided another opportunity to connect with people and organizations from across the country, many of which came from MARC cities and states. I met a young man from Billings, MT, who is an MSW student, and was looking for ways to access resources and information in the state. He was unaware of Elevate Montana, and after a fruitful conversation, he left with information how to use the ACEs Connection group. I also connected with Carla Denner from First 5 in Sonoma County. She had just participated in the two-day ACE Interface training, and we talked about the launch of the new ACES and Resiliency Fellowship.
Our very own Jane Stevens facilitated the final panel on Friday afternoon, featuring real life heroes of the ACEs movement, including Teri Barila of Walla Walla, WA; Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell of San Bernardino, CA; and DeAngelo Mack, of Sacramento, CA. In “Dr. Seuss story time fashion”, they told the story of a girl named Patience who learned about ACEs science, and her journey to renaming her town Resilienceburg. Each shared their own journey as they struggled to implement new practices based on ACEs science.
Barila, co-founder and CEO of the Children’s Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, explained how things got moving in her community, starting with a conference with Dr. Robert Anda, co-principle investigator of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study. He told everyone in the audience to “go home and make something happen.” A year later, Barila invited Anda back and hosted a conference in her own community, which sparked education and awareness across sectors throughout the community, and has since resulted in national attention for how the community is responding to ACEs and building resilience.
The conference concluded with another powerful speaker, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. A lawyer who has spent his entire career serving poor children of color involved in the criminal justice system, Stevenson received a standing ovation before he even said a word! He shared some mind-boggling statistics about incarceration and the state of minority children and adults in America. One that stood out most for me: The number of people incarcerated in the United States has risen from 300,000 in 1972 to 2.3 MILLION people today. Stevenson urged us to work together to “change the narrative” of race and equality in our country.
Burke Harris reminded us all, "It's ok to dream big. We can accomplish really big things when we come together."
This “coming together” is the power of MARC, and I feel fortunate to witness many of us coming together to share our stories.