Q: Why is it so difficult to engage the public in the prevention of childhood trauma?

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.

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?

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?

Q: When child welfare makes a mistake–missing “red flags” in a case, is it political or lack of money?

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?

Q: Every school needs a psychologist, a nurse and a vice-principal. Where will we get the 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?

Q: What are the questions we should be asking about childhood adversity and trauma?

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?

Q: Why might our work preventing childhood trauma require courage?

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?

Q: Which level of government is responsible for keeping our kids safe and families strong?

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?

Q: What is the ultimate goal of the book Anna, Age Eight and your work in preventing childhood trauma? 

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? 

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.

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.

Q: Our agency’s mission is supposed to be addressing lack of access to vital services. We spend millions a year but it’s not clear how that impacts anyone in any significant way. Our executive director wants to spend money on an animated cartoon featuring a superhero who spreads hope. “Hope” is apparently our agency’s strategy. Not sounding very data-driven, right? What can I do?

I feel your frustration. You face what many who work in government or non-profits face—decisions based on hunches, what’s been done before or a director’s opinion.

Continue reading Q: Our agency’s mission is supposed to be addressing lack of access to vital services. We spend millions a year but it’s not clear how that impacts anyone in any significant way. Our executive director wants to spend money on an animated cartoon featuring a superhero who spreads hope. “Hope” is apparently our agency’s strategy. Not sounding very data-driven, right? What can I do?

Q: I hear “research-based” and “data-driven” and don’t know what to believe about the work agencies do. Some agencies say that student workshops are all we need to solve all kinds of health and safety problems, but how do we know what really works when it comes to keeping kids and families safe from harm?

Excellent question. I am often confused to see what passes for “research-based.” It appears that non-profits and for-profits can use any term that sells their products or services. The “fact-checker police” don’t exist yet (though there is software in the works).

Continue reading Q: I hear “research-based” and “data-driven” and don’t know what to believe about the work agencies do. Some agencies say that student workshops are all we need to solve all kinds of health and safety problems, but how do we know what really works when it comes to keeping kids and families safe from harm?