Sonoma County Office of Education

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SCOE joins county effort to address childhood trauma

11/15/2016 -

ACES groupNearly one in five kids in Sonoma County have suffered two or more traumatic experiences, and that can severely affect their ability to learn, as well as their physical and mental health.

A new county initiative strives to take groundbreaking research on this matter and use it to better help local children. The fellowship is unique to Sonoma County. It is being launched at a time when community members and service providers are increasingly seeking out information about how to prevent and heal from adverse childhood experiences, commonly known as ACEs.

The initiative is based on the findings of a major U.S. Centers for Disease Control study that found that events like a parent's death, or physical or emotional abuse, can have a lasting impact on the child's physical and mental health. Preventing childhood adversity is being recognized as one of the best ways to improve wellbeing. Recent research confirms that adversity during early childhood development increases the risk of physical, mental, and behavioral problems later in life. Negative impacts include a wide range of health and social issues, including depression, addiction, obesity, and homelessness.

The new initiative in Sonoma County seeks to take that research and give new tools to those on the frontlines — teachers, counselors, coaches and nurses — to better help kids who have suffered these experiences.Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) is proud to be a partner in this collaborative effort, which includes Sonoma County Human Services, First Five Sonoma County, Hanna Boys Center, Child Parent Institute, and Sonoma County ACEs Connection. SCOE's Work-Based Learning Coordinator, Jessica Progulske, is one of 25 inaugural fellows to be trained by the leading experts in this field and in turn train many others in Sonoma County.

Sixty people applied for the county’s first ACEs and Resiliency Fellowship and 25, including Ms. Progulske, were selected to participate in an intensive nine-month training, which will mostly take place at SCOE. The training was kicked off by Dr. Robert Anda, who authored the CDC study, as well as Laura Porter, the co-founder of ACE Interface, LLC. Participants are trained to recognize toxic stress and what that can do to kids. They are also discussing ways to repair harm done by trauma, in an approach called “trauma-informed care.”

The question is changing from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” says Holly White-Wolfe with the county's Human Services Department.

Once the inaugural 25 fellows complete the program, they will go on to become trainers themselves. Each was asked to commit to doing four community trainings, where they walk interested parties through the health risks and social problems associated with ACEs, and the resources available to alleviate that toxic stress.

"We have learned that what is predictable is preventable," said Ms. Progulske, referencing the idea that the outcomes of negative childhood experiences can now be predicted - and prevented through proper treatment. "Now that we know this, let's identify youths who have had trauma and find ways to prevent these outcomes."