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By Dominic Cappello, Founder of Resilience Leaders

Before the “ask” that one expects on a donation page, we want to share our current work.

Do you remember when weekly news stories of our children being traumatized, abused and killed became the new normal?

If our children had a voice and vote, I believe they would all ask for the right to grow up in safe homes with healthy parents, and be able to learn in high-functioning schools. Our never-ending cycle of child tragedies begs the bigger question, which we pose in our book Anna, Age Eight: who are the real monsters here? Is it the parents who inflict these horrors on their children, or the members of society who continue allowing this to happen?

Benign neglect became our national, state and city policy on children. Most school boards are in a state of denial that a quarter of their students go home to a world of adverse childhood experiences, but they still hope the math homework gets done on time. Over the last two decades, while we played with our fancy new technologies on the net, we failed to notice that childhood became a high risk occupation.

That may be about to change. It depends on you.

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I believe we are at a moment where a social moonshot, in the form of a national network of citywide ACEs prevention programs, could become a reality. There are leaders at every level of government taking notice of the financial and emotional costs of ACEs and earnestly asking, “What should we do?”

I have had conversations with state and city leadership where we discuss budgets and I ask, “Which should be a priority, funding our parks or the safety of our children?” When I was told by a mayor that a city was not designed to prevent ACEs I countered with, “Then I guess it’s time to rethink how cities work.”

The good news is that universities are collaborating with non-profit agencies to bring ACEs prevention a whole new level. In Owensboro, Kentucky, and Las Cruces, New Mexico, collaborative, data-driven and technology-infused ACEs prevention programs have launched. These models, sponsored by the non-profit Safety+Success Communities in partnership with Eastern New Mexico University-Program of Social Work, are demonstrating how to engage the public and private sector in making every child a priority. Our plan is to refine a model that allows every state to create its own system of data-driven ACEs prevention.

Not only is awareness of ACEs increasing, but program participants are also working to build trauma-informed behavioral health care centers in every school to serve students and their family members. Work also includes ensuring that all families have stable shelter, food, medical care and access to early childhood learning programs and youth mentors. Creating resourced communities is becoming an integral part of cross-sector ACEs prevention.

We are poised to end the epidemic of childhood trauma by disrupting a system that has told our children to suffer in silence. Quite frankly, we can no longer tolerate a societal norm that blindly accepts the suffering and even death of children on a weekly basis. The status quo is neither sustainable nor ethical.

Today, there are only a few hundred programs in the nation that identify themselves as offering “ACEs prevention.” This is a promising beginning to the development of not only a national movement on ACEs prevention, but also a commitment to the basic rights of children to be safe, healthy and educated to succeed.

Our work is urgently needed, and the following guidelines for ACEs prevention work will produce much-needed results:

  1. Use data to assess the magnitude of family trauma and related challenges
  2. Assess parents and youth to measure their access to 10 vital services shown to strengthen families (Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment provides the Resilient Community Experience Survey to do this)
  3. Use research to identify evidence-based policies and programs shown to strengthen families
  4. Use the data-driven framework of continuous quality improvement to guide all local work, ensuring a result-focused process of assessing, planning, acting and evaluating
  5. Build a relationship with local child welfare leadership to work in alignment
  6. Dialogue with city and county government leadership to ensure the funding of ACEs prevention
  7. Work with experts in behavioral health care to help school boards create school policy on ACEs prevention, screening, assessment and treatment
  8. Use technology to strengthen strategic communication and messaging on ACEs, including sharing your program’s vision, goals and activities
  9. Train local agency leadership in improving the quality of their family services shown to strengthen families and reduce ACEs
  10. Evaluate all activities and share progress toward measurable and meaningful goals

The public is hungry for leadership on ending our costly national nightmare of trauma. We have the blueprint to end ACEs. We have the power to elevate childhood so that every young person grows up in a safe, healthy and resilient family.

Our pilot ACEs prevention program’s goals are far-reaching, to say the least. Both programs seek, ultimately, to become institutionalized within city governments as The City Department of Family and Community Resilience—and for them to be viewed as integral as the departments of fire, police and parks.

For now, we will track the program’s progress over the next five years to learn how best to mobilize stakeholders, educate agency leadership, create alignment among city, county and school elected officials, implement evidence-based programs and policies shown to increase the safety of children and families, and create sustainability. We will evaluate measurable and meaningful progress toward lower rates of ACEs and higher rates of childhood health and family resilience.

Currently, our work is made possible through the donation of time and expertise by our board members and advisors. Our web-based course, housed in a learning management system, provides a structure for implementing local data-driven ACEs prevention and educating professionals and advocates. It is also a repository for lessons on the data-driven process that can guide the strengthening of agency services, along with links to research, data and models for best practices.

We are gratified by the requests for technical assistance from across the country--all focused on implementing ACEs prevention that is sustainable and measurable. All we need are the resources to meet this urgent need.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how your donation can strengthen our mission and urgently needed system of safety.

PS We have made our book Anna, Age Eight free-of-charge and we hope you will share it with you colleagues, elected officials, school boards and staff, neighbors, friends and family.

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Dominic can be reached at Dom@safetyandsuccess.org in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Resilience Leaders is a program of Safety+Success Communities implemented in partnership with Eastern New Mexico University-Program of Social Work. Safety+Success Communities is a New Mexico-based 501(c)(3) socially-engaged strategic planning collective with one mission: ensuring that every community has the vital resources for children, youth and families to survive and thrive.


THANK YOU.