This is a question I ask myself every day. I have a few theories. First, people are dealing with untreated trauma. Second, we are distracted by a hundred messages an hour asking for our attention via our mobiles and tablets. Third, our national media is filled with clutter that keeps us from focusing on local challenges we actually can solve if we focus. Fourth, the public and lawmakers think that childhood trauma prevention is the task of child welfare–which is not the case. Child Welfare is funded primarily to react to problems after they occur. There is very little data-driven, cross-sector and citywide ACEs prevention work being coordinated by child protective services.
On good days, I do find hope in the people who have been inspired by Anna, Age Eight and reached out to start local data-driven ACEs prevention projects. We have two pilot sites, one in Owensboro, KY and the other in Las Cruces, NM. While there are many factors that lead to a numbed and distracted public, there are local champions who are breaking through the clutter to act and commit to data-driven work that has the promise of creating a seamless system of care and safety for families.
You are asking a timely question, as there is much interest in the idea of a Child Welfare 2.0. To be clear, the idea presented in Anna, Age Eight envisions a very different type of child welfare system, one that focuses as much on preventing maltreatment as it does on intervening in families after maltreatment occurs. We also advocate for a data-driven and cross-sector system that collaborates with city and county leadership to create a local system of care and safety for families.
Continue reading Q: When you write about creating a new version of child welfare called Child Welfare 2.0, with a strong focus on using data and prioritizing prevention, how do you see that becoming a reality? Would it be best to create it outside the government system?
We write in chapter 5 of Anna, Age Eight about the challenges that our current child welfare system faces. It is very complicated. When you have a government agency, politics will always be a part of the process, leading to solutions or creating more problems. It depends on elected officials and those serving them in the various government agencies.
Continue reading Q: When child welfare makes a mistake–missing “red flags” in a case, is it political or lack of money?
We write in Anna, Age Eight about the benefits of having a school-based wellness center with a robust behavioral health care staff. This is because a fourth of the student population (and their parents) have endured (or will endure) three or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which means living in households where adults misuse substances, are threatening or violent, have untreated mental health challenges, are abusive and neglectful, are dissolving marriages or are incarcerated.
Continue reading Q: Every school needs a psychologist, a nurse and a vice-principal. Where will we get the money?
When it comes to the complex arena of preventing childhood trauma and maltreatment, there are many systems to work with and influence. I would start with asking city and county elected leadership two simple questions:
Continue reading Q: For making change, who do I contact? Who are the decision-makers?
Understanding a problem starts with good questions. As you know, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) Survey has been used across the country, and to nobody’s surprise, we find significant parts of the population likely suffering some sort of trauma after enduring three or more adverse childhood experiences.
Continue reading Q: What are the questions we should be asking about childhood adversity and trauma?
In our book Anna, Age Eight, we ask readers to be courageous and reflect on a challenging reality.
“Far away from you, on the other side of town, or the other side of the tracks, children live out perfectly miserable lives. If you’re a social worker, of course, this is what you face every day. If, on the other hand, you are like the rest of the American public, you take notice once in a while, perhaps engaging in a bit of head shaking. But for the most part, these boys and girls are out of sight and out of mind.”
Continue reading Q: Why might our work preventing childhood trauma require courage?
Your question is excellent and the answer depends on who you ask and where you live. While every elected official on every level of government would say that our kids are a priority, the city, county and state budgets and missions may not quite reflect that. Yet.
Continue reading Q: Which level of government is responsible for keeping our kids safe and families strong?
As you know from reading the blog, childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at epidemic levels, a major public health crisis that is invisible to most. To wake people up we need major disruptions to business as usual. In Anna, Age Eight we share our vision.
Continue reading Q: How do we know if we are successful with our work in preventing trauma?
Mobilizing and getting to results take a long time and depends on many factors. There are questions to consider: Who is leading the cause? What’s the sense of urgency? Who is for the steps forward and who will block it?
Continue reading Q: How long does it take to mobilize people around childhood trauma prevention?
I’ve always thought of “innovation” and “disruption” as being two sides of the same coin.
Continue reading Q: What’s the difference between innovation and disruption?
We envision a well-informed and vigilant public and a government response to the epidemic of trauma and maltreatment. We ultimately want to see public health and local governments investing in the prevention of childhood trauma the same way they invest in schools and police departments.
Continue reading Q: What is the ultimate goal of the book Anna, Age Eight and your work in preventing childhood trauma?
This falls under the category of “disruption vs. distraction.” What we call “news” might be talking heads reading scripts written by people invested in the status quo. Yes, you will get fatalities and sex scandals but not the root causes of the latest drug crisis, emotional trauma and child maltreatment.
Continue reading Q: I’m all for innovation to improve dysfunctional government in order to fix things but if the magnitude of childhood trauma was really as big as you say, why wouldn’t we hear about it on the news? And I sure don’t.