Learning More about ACEs and Fostering Positive Childhood Experiences with Becky Haas: Part 3 of 3

Continued from part 2 of 3

Becky Haas Interview with API for AP Month 2020:

Parenting with PEACE, Part 3 of 3

You’re a parent and this is a community of parents that we’re talking to, and people who serve parents. We’re providing individual help as well as getting communities together, working in coalitions, working in small groups. Mostly, it’s individual parents, day to day, navigating life with their children. What would you want them to know about ACEs? What kinds of messages are you sharing with parents? 

That’s a fabulous question. I’m the mother of two sons who are married and grown now. When I was preparing to have our first child, I remember thinking to myself, I have a wonderful mother. I feel I had a good childhood and all, but I remember thinking as I carried that child, of all the things I’ve ever done in life, any jobs or volunteerism, it came with training. Being a mother did not come with any training. I felt it was the most important thing I was entering into in life. I applaud the work of the Attachment Parenting International community in the fact that you all are having conversations around things that many more families need to understand. What we see now with ACEs is how the fulcrum is slanted in a negative way because that attachment was not there.

In 2010, the Tennessee census revealed…that 11% of Tennessee grandparents had custody of children 18 years and younger.

The other thing that we’re seeing is that there can be a hybrid attachment, that it can be community members or foster parents, but that attachment has to happen for a child to grow up. I didn’t know about attachment until my boys were grown and married, but I have two grandchildren that are four and two. I’ll tell you, I never read a book to them without thinking about ‘serve and return.’ If they fall down, I am there lickety-split, which I would have been anyway. But now I know that the way they’re learning self-regulation it starts first with external regulation. Then they’re going to learn co-regulation then it’s going to be self-regulation. Now, with my two-year-old grandson, it’s all that. “Nammy” is what they call me. The four-year-old, if she’s watching a movie with me, she knows where the comforters are. She’ll say, “Nammy, I’m cold.” I’ll say, “Well, go get a blanket,” and she’ll go get it. And then there’ll be a time where she won’t even ask, she’ll just run, go get the blanket. I didn’t know what all that was until I learned about ACEs.

That’s so encouraging for parents, and grandparents too. Even though you didn’t know about it before, you take the information you get along the way and you start to apply it. 

I didn’t realize how much grandparent care and custodial care there was until I worked at ETSU in car seat safety. In 2010, the Tennessee census revealed (a new number on the census I understand) that 11% of Tennessee grandparents had custody of children 18 years and younger. We’ve been super slow on getting support for the grandparents now that they are raising grandchildren, or those aunts or uncles. It also impacts the community because of instead of retiring, now you’re starting over raising grandchildren because their mom and their dad are in the drug culture.

A child needs in their life two or three adults; they need more than just the parent.

There is no guidebook, as you mentioned, but with the Principles API has, we talk about preparing for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting – growing in your knowledge.  We share with parents about feeding our children with love and respect, about healthy eating. We help parents understand about responding with sensitivity, which is the hallmark of attachment, as well as providing consistent and loving care. We discuss how it’s important to practice serve and return, and not to have ever-changing childcare figures because that primary early secure attachment is so critical. We guide parents about sleep because sleep can be challenging for parents and for children, especially with separations. We address positive discipline: what’s really effective, including learning to parent with creativity, patience, responsiveness, and curiosity.

We help parents foster good relationships and not chip away at that attachment relationship as children grow because you’re teaching them to problem solve, not using a heavy hand to ‘handle’ them. Then we talk about balance and the family, parenting together and in community, as well as self care. All of this to foster positive childhood experiences, which is not just referring to a good day out at the park or going to Dollywood, although those are nice. It’s really more about creating stability, predictability, connections, support, play, memories, and traditions that are vital to strong, secure, and stable environment for a child to grow and optimally develop.

When I get a chance to talk to parents, some of my work in training school districts, I’ve had a parent night and I’ll have maybe 30 minutes. Always, my go-to is protective factors, that parents understand that a child needs to have a healthy relationship with a teacher or an uncle or a coach. A child needs in their life two or three adults; they need more than just the parent. I know our boys were growing up, my husband and I, we could see that they were headed in a wrong direction and they might not take it from us. But if the coach in the weight room said something to one of my seniors… I did a training in a school district and the coach came up to me and he said, ‘I’m going to be as humble as I can about this, but maybe I’m partially responsible for one of your children never trying drugs, because I told him to meet me in the weight room.’ I remember when that happened. So parents need to understand that children need to have these protective factors. To me, that’s the top part of the funnel, being involved in Girl Scouts or whatever, where you have these other adult caring voices, nurturing voices, that are able to help in that child’s life.

It’s a very micro kind of level of change, but sometimes when you’re parenting young kids, that’s as much as you can do. It’s individual, it takes time, and it’s deep work. We are each other’s and our children’s protective factors.

Sometimes our protective factors change. If a child was to lose a parent to divorce, or heaven forbid to death, navigating things ahead will be difficult. I never had any grandparents around with me, because my family is from Miami, and we just were not involved with our grandparents. So I taught a senior Sunday school class at my church for 15 years. I adopted about 50 grandparents that were in this group. The one man that I mentioned that was orphaned as a young child – on the worst single day of my life, I could not get to his house fast enough to see him and his wife. I honestly didn’t know how my life would go on the next day, but I knew if I could get there, they would help me make sense of it. And they did. So, I’m a champion for protective factors.

That’s what our support groups are about. The people with whom I’ve spent time in support groups have taken my kids for the weekend because I had a work commitment, and I felt full confidence that I didn’t have to worry. They have also been an influence, saying here’s an opportunity your children might be interested in because they know and love my children. At API, we talk a lot about building your support network because those people in your support system become those caring adults in your children’s life too, along with the ballet teacher and the theater director in my kids’ lives. 

And then you’re someone else’s protective factor too. I do try to bring that out. When you think about who could you call on in the middle of the night who’s that close and how are you giving back? Would anyone name you in their protective factors?

…in a world where kindness seems a lost art and where there’s violence, I hope maybe some of this conversation will shift people and just say we will not enter into hatred. We will hold to our ground to be someone who is going to spread kindness.

Absolutely. I love that. For a lot of our leaders that’s why they come to API. They see themselves in this serving, giving role and want to help. It’s a very micro kind of level of change, but sometimes when you’re parenting young kids, that’s as much as you can do. It’s individual, it takes time, and it’s deep work. We are each other’s and our children’s protective factors.

My boys would bring kids over and we would be sitting downstairs playing a Donkey Kong or just engaged in something. Next time they’re over and they’re going to stay for supper. One of them began to tell me how long it’d been since he’d had a family meal because this family was broken by alcoholism. By building these little conversations over a video game where nobody’s got their guard up, then you have that trust.

Recently on social media, a young man who was in college with one of our sons had some challenges and the family from another state reached out and I got involved. This young man was just married over the weekend and I sent a lot of messages of cheers on social media. I haven’t seen him in 10 years but at that time there was a need. Those people don’t just walk right out of my heart. I guess I feel in a world where kindness seems a lost art and where there’s violence, I hope maybe some of this conversation will shift people and just say we will not enter into hatred. We will hold to our ground to be someone who is going to spread kindness.

When I was doing the whole police journey, my husband said to me, one day you should write a book – because he’s lived with me 36 years now. So I did write a book, Your City’s Waiting On You. It’s really a little bit of a Bible study, but chapter seven is all about ACEs. It’s about treating your city with kindness, but there’s chapters in the back, all about nonprofits and foster care and schools. I saw that evolve, not in a religious way, you know, but Jesus said in the kingdom is a servant. If you just get involved and serve, you’re going to build relationships. In another scripture it says I came to seek and to save the lost. I think a lot of times in church, we totally focus on the saving, but what about the seeking part, who’s going out? A cosmetologist, after reading the book, she got it for her mom and they decided to launch a ministry called Bridges to Beauty. They’re going downtown where women are, and they’re doing their cosmetology services for free…

Stories of kindness in practice. Of course. Thank you, Becky, for choosing to do something once you knew.

Parts 1, 2, and 3

Learning More about ACEs and Fostering Positive Childhood Experiences with Becky Haas: Part 2 of 3

Continued from part 1 of 3

Becky Haas Interview with API for AP Month 2020:

Parenting with PEACE, Part 2 of 3

In our work, Becky, we have parenting leaders and educators in local communities. We’re also training, and we’re helping them deal with preconceived ideas about parenting, preparing them to facilitate group meetings – to love, accept, welcome, and help caregivers with their parenting. We support those whose stress is affecting their coping and creativity as parents. We wrap this in the API Principles that are very foundational and grounded in research. We’re doing a lot of your infusing the community with empathy, understanding, and warm handholding.

As ACEs awareness is integral to understanding resilience, what childhood environments are more likely to predispose people to grow up without developing a high level of resilience?

The Milken Institute of The George Washington University School of Public Health’s Dr. Wendy Ellis and some of her team developed a graphic called the Pair of ACEs. With that graphic, they show that poor soil creates poor fruit on the tree. The soil illustrates the challenges like lack of affordable housing, food scarcity, and lack of employment. A tree growing in this soil is then likely to grow the fruit of domestic violence, drug addictions, or an incarcerated parent.

Graphic of tree titled The Pair of ACEs demonstrating adverse community environments at the roots and adverse childhood experiences in the branches
The Pair of ACEs. Source: George Washington University

Referring again to the funnel of hope, some schools locally, for instance, have hired a social worker through a nonprofit called Community in Schools. That social worker gets referrals from the teachers or the principal for families that might be struggling with housing or medical needs. I was surprised to learn when I worked at the police department, our city schools reported every year they had 300 to 400 kids classified as homeless. That didn’t mean many of them lived under a bridge or slept in a car, but it meant when they left the classroom every day, the teachers did not know where they could be found. They had no permanent address. But as we understand trauma-informed care, providing a social worker in the school can help address needs that students and their families are facing outside of school.

Statistically, it takes seven acts of violence before someone will reach out to an advocate. That means there is a lot of unreported violence children are witnessing in their homes.

We can see that ACEs occur from the wealthiest parts of town to the most difficult parts. Domestic violence is not socioeconomic; there is no barrier there. In 2015, in my zip code, we averaged nine calls a day that were coded domestic violence. Statistically, it takes seven acts of violence before someone will reach out to an advocate. That means there is a lot of unreported violence children are witnessing in their homes. This is what gave me the idea to train police. Police are likely called to the home and they can provide a small intervention to children who are present to help reduce the trauma.  When police are trained in trauma-informed policing, they step in and they say to the child, “You did the right thing. If you feel unsafe, you call us.” Training also directs the role of police in communities as a guardian instead of a force.

ACEs inventories identify people at high risk, but you also talk about “universal precautions,” keeping a trauma-informed lens based in the 70% statistic of those around us.

Since 2014, as an ACEs educator, I have always presented the national statistics on violence. There are 65% of women in substance abuse treatment who report histories of trauma, 75% of men treated for drugs have a history of trauma, 92% of homeless women have histories of trauma. In 2013, the American Journal of Public Health said homeless individuals have the highest ACEs scores of any population. When I give an ACEs education presentation, we talk about the ACEs test itself, but I’ve never even recommended a group to screen for ACEs. Not that I would be opposed to it, but I feel that if you screen, then you just need to make sure you have services to connect someone once you see what the score reveals. I strongly recommend the universal precautions method because those numbers I’ve cited pretty much tell us that of all the staff we hire, as well as all the consumers we serve, for instance, almost 70% are trauma survivors in some form or fashion.

What if 70% of the people you serve are trauma survivors – then how welcoming are you?

Some have had much more trauma and no healthy support, even among our staff. I do a training where professionals that were in my training, email me, or send me a chat in the chat box of their own story of some abuse and neglect that they’ve overcome. So, I did some work. Back two summers ago, I spoke at the Senator Tommy Burke’s Victims Academy, which is a statewide victim advocate academy that’s held every summer. They asked me to speak about why we need to have trauma informed multidisciplinary teams as best practice. The reasoning that I gave was if you knew that 70% of your services were going to go to people who were hearing impaired, how would you prepare? You would have videos with closed captioning. You would have people who knew sign language. What if 70% of those you serve, were going to face mobility challenges? Federal guidelines say we need to have handicap ramps and handicap accessibility and restrooms. What if 70% of the people you serve are trauma survivors – then how welcoming are you?  How can we ensure our services are not re-traumatizing consumers? That, to me, is when you accept a universal precautions approach.

There are several trauma-informed descriptors – aware, sensitive, responsive. Can you talk about what those are at the individual and societal levels? 

Often, I’m asked to conduct training on the Missouri Model. In the national work I do it’s pretty much recognized as a best practice. It has a paradigm that starts with trauma-aware, then it goes to trauma-sensitive and trauma-responsive, then to trauma-informed. Sitting through a two- or three-hour training does not make someone trauma-informed. This is a journey. If you compare this to tobacco use, we have seen it go over several decades from a popular fad in culture to now being banned from most public properties. How to transform the culture of an organization is addressed by the Missouri Model; in a three-hour workshop, I can help leadership create an action plan for how to change the culture of an organization to become trauma-informed.

I feel like this field found you, shifting culture toward empathy and understanding that is deep and sustainable; you have a gift for helping people understand trauma and how to be sensitive. Like many, I felt very inspired after I was trained by you. When you train, you tell a lot of stories and your approach with these stories is very engaging. You collect stories. Can you share why and how your service and story collecting started?

My parents—I’m one of five children—they were very community based. They would have the college kids who sold the encyclopedias in summertime start living in our house and having dinner. As a matter of fact, one year they told us that their supervisor said, “Don’t go down to that neighborhood, because you’ll want to quit. This little family is going to take you in.” I’ve spent nights in a chicken coop with Vista workers up in Princeville, Tennessee. That’s my childhood. That’s how I grew up. I think some of that made this resonate with me, and I’m always very fascinated by people’s stories.

When I heard about ACEs, it was the first time I felt I could help people with faith, encouragement, prayer, and compassion.

Collecting stories goes back to my days in ministry. I’ve often pondered how did I get picked to do this? Certainly, faith is integral in my life. When I worked in ministry, I would be sitting up in ICU holding the hand of a 70-year-old gentleman whose wife had congestive heart failure and they’ve called the family. The family lives around the world, and I’m sitting there with them that night, while he’s hearing these conversations with medical people about the hours that his wife has left to live. I see those tears falling down his cheeks, and it’s a sacred place to be there with someone.

I’ve wondered, do I like have this sign over my head – if you’re in the worst day of your life, call Becky. I’ve never forgotten a story of human suffering and human resilience. Before I knew about ACEs, it stuck to me like lint on a pair of black slacks. I felt people were such heroes. One of my dearest friends, who’s in his nineties now, when he was a little boy his father went to the doctor and never came home. His father died of tuberculosis. His mother went away sick, and he was so worried as a little boy; lo and behold, she also died of tuberculosis. He told me that he and his two sisters went to live with an aunt and an uncle. Every Sunday after church they’d get dressed up for church. They would sit in the parlor, and they noticed an unusual number of people would come by. One day it dawned on him that the aunt and uncle were trying them out to see if someone might adopt them. I’m hearing all these stories, and I don’t always know what to do with them. When I heard about ACEs, it was the first time I felt I could help people with faith, encouragement, prayer, and compassion.

With ACEs, how could we protect a child?

ACEs gave me a meaningful way, on a big scale, to raise awareness to the courage of people around us. How the smallest of kindnesses brought some comfort: sitting in intensive care or going to visit someone whose young person is suddenly in jail. ACEs has given me a way to really raise awareness of how much kindness means to people when they’re in suffering. I don’t know if I found ACEs, or ACEs found me.

We know that higher ACEs scores are associated with so many things, alcoholism, depression, health issues, employee absenteeism, job performance, and more. It’s significant on the individual level, of course, but what do you see that it does to a community? 

I didn’t realize until working for police the trickledown effect of the drug epidemic. Now that we know about ACEs, it’s almost like which came first, the chicken or the egg. The drugs are not ACEs, and trauma is not an excuse for drugs and crime – but now it offers us an explanation. We know that when bad things happen to people, they have to cope. You and I have found healthy coping mechanisms where some people turn to risky behaviors at an early age: tobacco, underage drinking, drug use, cutting, and eating disorders. I saw the impact that addiction had on the community. When I was overseeing the prison program what we were doing about this was being replicating across the state.

Instead of kicking them out, we hold them more tightly, you know, and what was that going to look like over time.

As we learned about it, a restaurant owner would call me and say I appreciate the work you’re doing. I have a child that’s been in and out of rehab. The next time you all have a gathering, I want to cater that event and do it for free. I was amazed at how many people were touched in the community. Then I saw the numbers. I sat in city commission meetings, hearing local government leaders in a local county. The sheriff told me that in 2010, it cost about $650,000 to run the jail for a year. And then in 2018 or 2019, it jumped to $2.9 million! I saw government leaders talking about how to fund our hospitals, how to dedicate more floors to deal with the volume of babies being born addicted.

That was another reason I championed this message, because it provided this upstream approach, instead of trying to deal with everything through more jails. In 2014, a study done by the Pew Charitable Trust compared Tennessee to New Jersey. Tennessee is the fifth highest state for using incarceration to monitor drug crimes, while New Jersey is 45th. Yet our drug rates and drug crimes continue to grow at the same rate. The summary of that report was incarceration is not reducing drug crimes. I didn’t know anything about this. I sat in city commission meetings and heard mayors talk about this. I heard police chiefs talk about it, how costly, at $80 a day in Tennessee, to incarcerate someone for one night. You have to assume all the healthcare, you have to assume the dental, the clothing, the laundry. That’s the reason that the county jail, if you have one person incarcerated that has HIV or Hep C, the medical treatments for that are amazingly expensive.

I saw what the drug epidemic was doing to the community and how costly it was affecting us all with taxes to staff and build. But yet, I didn’t see anyone saying conclusively, that if we keep going this way, we’re going to eventually end it. With ACEs, how could we protect a child? When I did work in healthcare, we had 50 school districts in our healthcare footprint. What if we had 50 trauma-sensitive school districts, how many more kids would, over 10 years, 15 years, affect the health of a region? If a lot of that was mitigated in a school setting, teachers who were trained in college to deal with “willful” behavior all of a sudden were trained now to know it as survival behavior. Instead of kicking them out, we hold them more tightly, you know, and what was that going to look like over time.

It definitely impacts the community.

Continue to Part 3 of 3

Learning More about ACEs and Fostering Positive Childhood Experiences with Becky Haas: Part 1 of 3

“From overcrowded prisons, hospitals delivering staggering rates of babies whose mothers are addicted, to finding foster care shortfall solutions and public-school systems where I first heard phrases like, cradle to prison and school to prison pipeline.  As a mother and grandmother, I wondered who are the children that are born with a predisposition heading them into prison?

~ BeckyHaas.com

Becky Haas Interview with API for AP Month 2020:

Parenting with PEACE, Part 1 of 3

Trigger warning: this post contains brief mention of child abuse events in the fifth paragraph of Part 1.

API is pleased to interview Becky Haas as part of AP Month this year. Becky is an international presenter of trauma-informed care and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study, as well as a pioneer in successfully developing trauma-informed communities. Her seasoned presentation experience includes trips to Delaware presenting to state leadership at the invitation of their First Lady, as well as the training of multiple juvenile justice systems in both Virginia and Tennessee. She developed Trauma-Informed Policing training – now certified in two states for officer in-service credit – and has delivered it to the Oklahoma City Police Department, as well as precincts within Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. She has worked in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP) to make Trauma-Informed Policing Training available to officers statewide. Becky is a highly sought-out trainer for educators, often working directly with school superintendents. Together, they impact entire school districts on their journey to creating trauma-sensitive schools.

When I heard about trauma-informed care, I was shocked at the brave people walking around among us, that so many people are trauma survivors.

Becky has served as the Trauma-Informed Administrator for a regional healthcare system, providing training development and delivery to healthcare staff in multiple hospitals, and she was instrumental in raising awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a social determinant to poor health and addiction within rural Appalachia. Becky serves as a consultant to the East Tennessee State University/Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute and helped to pioneer the Northeast Tennessee ACEs Connection. Becky is married to Jonathan, and their greatest joys in life are their two sons and their growing families.

Becky, ACEs – adverse childhood experiences – have brought people together from many different fields, and I would like to hear about your background and what brought you to this work.

I’m actually trained in ministry, and for 24 years I worked in the church that I still attend. I was involved with recruiting volunteers, education programs, pastoral care, and visitation. I also taught law enforcement in 33 counties of Tennessee about car seat safety for six years through a grant-funded program at East Tennessee State University.

My prayer had been that whatever kind of work I could do, that it would just be something that made a difference for people. In 2012, that landed me working for the Johnson City Police Department, where I directed an $800,000 crime reduction grant to reduce drug related and violent crime. I had no criminal justice background, but I had to bring together a community coalition to address four strategies around that grant. It ended up being 19 programs that 35 agencies did together, and we won two national awards. We won the most prestigious criminal justice award of the year in 2014, Outstanding Criminal Justice Program of the Year for the Southern region. Maybe it helped coming into this role that I had no criminal justice background, as I wasn’t focused on “the way things are always done;” instead I brought a fresh approach to looking at all the causal factors of crime and how community partners could address them. During this time, I learned the value of the collective impact of bringing all voices to the table. We had public housing, city government, libraries, and corrections – that really made an impression on me. Here, I learned about ACEs in my journey at the police department.

Between hearing the two of them 30 days apart, I felt like I’d heard the cure for cancer.

One of the pillars of the grant was to create an intervention to reduce recidivism. I’ve lived in the community since the seventies, but I had not spent much time with the prison population or the judges who worked with the first judicial district felony offenders. They wanted to create the perimeter that the program would be for high-risk, high-need felony offenders with addictions. So, working with this population for years, I hear about ACEs in the second year of that, and I hear their stories of being raped by a parent, being raped by a relative, being held in a closet, I just wondered: why was ACEs not a part of the toolkit? Why was this education not widely known? When I heard about trauma-informed care, I was shocked at the brave people walking around among us, that so many people are trauma survivors.

And now ACEs and trauma-informed care are a part of many programs, largely because of your work. ACEs is being addressed in schools, hospitals, foster care, businesses, and of course law enforcement. What other audiences have you been working with and advising?

Before I told anyone what I was learning at the police department, I’d gone to two national conferences, and at one, Dr. [Vincent] Felitti spoke (Principal researcher of the ACEs study). Then I went to another, a probation conference in Florida where I heard Dr. Joan Gillece, who at the time was the Director of the National Center for Trauma Informed Care Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Between hearing the two of them 30 days apart, I felt like I’d heard the cure for cancer.

“What if I came back and didn’t tell my town?,” it struck me, as I almost felt now that I’d be held responsible if I didn’t. My first step was creating a huge binder, putting 35 tabs in it representing all the agencies who were helping me do crime prevention – the library, healthcare, housing authority, faith community, judges, etc. I then researched mostly using the global online learning collaborative, ACEs Connection, to see if there were meaningful applications for using a trauma lens in all those settings. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to find. I thought maybe it would apply to a few – but at the end, I could not close the notebook! When I found a program that was making a difference and having good outcomes, I printed it off, put it in the notebook. After a few months of research, every single tab — juvenile justice, schools — every single tab had an application for using a trauma-informed lens. So that convinced me that there was a need to bring this approach into every kind of service. Then I went over to East Tennessee State University (ETSU), and presented my findings to some department chairs to see who might help me educate the community. In 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had published a concept paper that recommended reducing the effects of childhood trauma in a public health approach by way of community education of the cross sectors of professionals.

From that meeting at ETSU, Dr. Andi Clements emerged to help me. We never asked anyone if we could train them, but one by one, the group of partners I already had around the table every month for my policing program began to want training. In less than three years, we trained over 4,000 professionals while it wasn’t even in our job description nor did we have any funding to do it. I would get in the office at 6:00 in the morning to keep my 19 police programs running so that no one would ever feel that I took away from my job to do that.

In 2017, we wrote the National Center for Trauma Informed Care to ask if we could host a webinar in 2018 of all the cities that have been doing this kind of work. We wanted to learn from them. In response they said, “We don’t know of a city that has trained such a diverse group of professionals about trauma informed care in one community.” That was the first time we knew something special had happened in Johnson City. So, in 2018 we were asked to host a forum and tell our story. Attending the forum were two governors’ wives, people from 20 states, and leaders from SAMHSA. After hearing our story, they told us we had created a model that other cities should follow for how to create a trauma-informed community.

There’s a responsibility by the people who hear about it to do something with it.

In 2019 Dr. Clements and I wrote a toolkit, funded by the Tennessee Building Strong Brains Grant, on Building a Trauma Informed System of Care for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. In the summer, we received notification that an article on the toolkit we had submitted to Johns Hopkins was accepted to be published in their journal, Community Progress in Community Health, Research, Education, and Action in December. The toolkit has also been recommended in Growing Resilient Communities 2.1, through the global online collaborative ACEs Connection. It provides step-by-step information on how to advocate, educate, and collaborate to create a trauma-informed community.

The message you’re bringing communities, that you recognize as effective, is to advocate, collaborate, and educate. Can you describe how you want communities to advocate, educate and collaborate?

You take these three actions to raise awareness about the ACEs Study and how to build resilient communities. The SAMHSA course, which we’ve used to train thousands, describes a trauma-informed organization or community as those who:

  1. Realize the widespread impact of trauma and understand the potential paths of recovery.
  2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved in the system.
  3. Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.
  4. and seeks actively to Resist Re-traumatization. ~SAMHSA

There’s a responsibility by the people who hear about it to do something with it. In the SAMHSA training, there are six pillars: Safety, Trustworthiness & Transparency, Peer support, Collaboration & Mutuality, Empowerment & Choice, and Cultural, Historical & Gender issues. Dr. Clements and I framed it up as an inventory instead of just facts: Is your program safe? Do people feel safe there? Do they feel you’re trustworthy?

Now the work I’m doing is to bring this message to groups on a national level. Most recently, I’ve trained all the childcare leadership in the state of Mississippi and in Tennessee. I’m working with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police to create a professionally recorded video training of my Trauma-Informed Policing training that will be made available to all members of law enforcement statewide.

I turned the pyramid upside down to explain the concept of resilience and hope. At the upper level, we infuse the community with empathy and understanding.

My hope is that by telling people what trauma is, and about its universal prevalence, we can create an environment that helps trauma survivors heal.

In understanding ACEs, the top of the coin is trauma and childhood household dysfunction, but on the bottom of the coin is resiliency. We’ve learned that resiliency can happen in the community. Resiliency can happen through a Boys and Girls Club, for example.

As communities learn about ACEs, I feel by using a trauma-informed lens to provide services, we could mitigate the effects of trauma, maybe by 50%. In the ACEs pyramid that came out of the original ACEs study, the base is childhood adversity, all the way to the top which is early death. In the training I deliver, I turn the pyramid upside down to explain the concept of resilience and hope. At the upper level, we infuse the community with empathy and understanding. The shop clerk who is very rude? Don’t take it personally. They may just have been served divorce papers, or failed a class at the university that they were barely affording anyway.

Then the middle layer is much more social work, much more navigating because many tasks we need to do in life are hard. But if your life is overwhelmed with trauma, you’re likely not going to do those things, because it’s too hard. It’s too complicated. The middle part of the model is more what I call “warm hand holding.” The bottom part is clinical interventions which are important, but not always essential.

I’ve heard story after story of people who healed, were helped, and were set on a good path by interacting with the upper and middle levels of the funnel. One recent story that I heard on the CBS news earlier this year, before COVID, is a favorite for illustrating the upper level. It’s about a bus driver in Utah, who loved driving the school bus. In this particular school year, she had a little girl getting on her bus, 11 years old, who she just struck up a friendship with. One thing she noticed about the little girl was how she always had her hair braided. A few months into the school year, one day, the little girl not on the bus.  This expanded into a whole week missing. The next week on Monday, the bus driver was relieved to see the little girl back on the bus, but she noticed her hair was messed up and not braided. The driver reasoned to herself the little girl must have overslept. However, the next day the little girl got on the bus but again for several days her hair was not braided. Finally, the fourth day, the bus driver said to the little girl, “I sure miss those braids.” And the little girl said to her, “Last week, my mommy died and my daddy doesn’t know how to braid hair.” This touched the bus driver so much that after she dropped the children off at school, she went to Walmart to buy a clean hairbrush and a bag of bows. Every day after that, she began to brush and braid the little girl’s hair before she got off the bus and went into school. The teachers noticed that this single act brought that child in with a smile again, adding a little bit of a spark to her step.

It was so remarkable. They said something to the principal, who said something to the superintendent, and that story was on their local news. It made the national CBS news. That’s the top of the funnel of hope. In similar fashion, after training we now have librarians who realize youth coming in have not had anything to eat so they keep a snack drawer along with hygiene products. A local high school started a program called, “Suds for Buds” after students were trained about ACEs. They realized some of their classmates did not have access to these products at home so now they can clean up at school.

Can you see how this message is helping communities work the top and the middle part of the funnel to reduce the effects of adverse childhood experiences? There is a wonderful pilot program locally that is working to improve workforce sustainability by providing a navigator to the human resource departments of a couple of very large companies. As part of the employee benefits, they can access the navigator to find resources for things like paying their rent or purchasing a new set of tires without any blaming or shaming.  This enables employees to stay on the job instead of struggling and quitting – actions which only contribute to a domino effect of complications.

Continue to Part 2 of 3

Remote Work Tips for Parents:  Get work done from home. Even with young children.

Not home alone? Many workplaces are responding to the recent COVID-19 virus by cancelling events and requiring employees to work remotely. This usually means working from home and, for many parents, this coincides with daycares and schools sending children home for distance learning, or breaks lasting days or weeks. 

Parents accustomed to a much higher degree of separation of childcare and work may be suddenly faced with multiple challenges at once. Even the most tech-enabled parents may have to learn to work productively and full time in the home environment. Pop-up home offices might require scaling- up to include partners in similar situations and the care and distance learning needs of any young children who are also suddenly telecommuting. Those who are not well must also navigate an evolving healthcare situation.

API has always been a remote workplace predominantly staffed by parents with young children at home. Though every family will have different needs and resources, we can share some of the tips we’ve used over the years. What are some of your best tips? What have you learned? Share your tips and stories!

First Order Tactics

  • Childcare. Form a cooperative with neighbors, family, friends and organize care and work. These arrangements can provide the most chunks of focused time. 
  • Engage a mother’s helper or other sitter to come for a few hours and help with childcare or chores. 
  • Personal productivity tools can be helpful. Productivity has been a booming industry in recent years so you probably have your own tools in place. Import and adapt these to the home office, but recognize that you’ll most likely need to try new things too. The Eisenhower matrix and 7 Habits for Highly Effective People are time-tested and broad enough to help you focus on what’s most important and in the right order. We’ve definitely given up notions of perfecting either. 
  • Think of time in chunks. Ninety minute chunks are optimal according to the basic rest-activity cycle (BRAC) that runs in 90 minute cycles.

Daily Tactics: doubling up as employee, office manager + CEO of Homefront Inc. (take that Elon Musk)

  • Get up earlier than others. Stretch, exercise, make and drink your coffee, get a bite to eat and have some quiet planning time before the kids are up and things start popping. 
  • Get to sleep earlier. First, it’s healthy, second, it sets a good example for the children. Third, if getting up earlier helps you get a good start to the day, you’ll need to go to bed earlier to get enough rest to get up early. And sleep is healthy. 
  • Plan some daily outdoor play time with the kids. And join them. These are great work breaks for everyone, especially since much of your time will be online and in possibly stationary. You might find that outdoor time inspires new bursts of creative and energetic work. Consider “walking meetings” if possible. Exercise is brain food and vitamin D is a recommended daily vitamin. 
  • Plan your lunches. If your children are old enough, get them to help with menu planning and even making lunch and snacks. This is helpful work they can be proud of. 
  • That to do list? Pick three items, maybe. Focus on the most urgent and important. See also the Eisenhower matrix. Recognizing that your standards will need to flex a bit is critical. Limiting office distractions is one thing, learning to focus at home with responsibility for young children is another. Attention shifting decreases productivity, but identifying the challenges gives you the ability to tap into your creativity to navigate new situations on terms that actually work for you. 
  • Parallel map your activities with the kids. Teachers and caregivers would ordinarily do this for the kids, but now you’re the one who has to mind their daily structure as well as your own. Finding a way to synchronize your time isn’t always possible, but it’s a good place to start. Schedule your most urgent things and match that with the activities that are likely to keep kids happily occupied during these most intensive work chunks. 
  • Plan breaks in your day as natural check-in points or activity transitions. Work in breaks to go outside, go for walks, let them feed you lunch as if in a restaurant, let them treat you to a spa that they’ve created after work. “Pay them back” with storytime or other favorite activities. 
  • Have supplies on hand and in accessible places. Don’t have supplies? Improvise with what you DO have. Let your children guide you to things that might be interesting that you never thought of. You still have to set the parameters and make sure it’s safe, but don’t be afraid to rely on or take inspiration from their natural creativity. (You can even reverse engineer creative projects by making up fun things to do with the items you already have on hand.) There are tons of inspiring and easy resources and ideas online. 
  • Accept that mess will happen and relax your standards. Make it a goal that the kids (slowly) learn and make progress to incorporate putting things away as a part of their work and play – “done” is when it’s put away and the space returned to original use (except for longer-term projects). Use imaginative and humorous (silly) ways to notice and appreciate every small thing they do in this regard to encourage more of it. “The Queen of the Realm of Playdoh grants a wand tap in appreciation for Max collecting every tiny bit back into its proper rainbow house leaving not a drop for the gobbler to gobble. Ann  receives a wand wave for collecting all of the Realm’s tea cups so the gobber will move on without a tea cup to steal.” 
  • Set up activities that are age-appropriate and the kids can manage and help each other with. Can activities be no-cook food? What if they spend the morning making lunch and snacks and helping with dinner prep? (helpfulness and pride of project). Cleaning can be fun with swiffers, brooms, dusting cloths. 
  • Set up for imaginative play. Sheets, cushions, forts can be imaginative play and can be sets for grand theaters and performances of song, dance and drama. New stories and tales. Homemade books. Ask them to create, rehearse and perform a show for the family on Friday night.  Record it and send it to friends and family. Encourage friends to do and share too.

Other resources

How Working Parents Can Prepare for Coronavirus Closures

How to Talk to Your Kids about Coronavirus

What are the Rules for Playdates During the Cornoavirus

How to work from home with kids around

Pregnant and Worried about Coronavirus? Experts Weigh In

Thank you, Art Yuen, for putting this together for families! What tips do you have for families? Please share in the comments.

Children coping with disaster and helping them heal

Our children come to us for insight and understanding about the world, but as their parents, even we struggle to make sense of the devastation of natural disasters and the overwhelming heartbreak they cause. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes and more test our ability to comprehend, much less communicate comfort and safety to hurt and affected children, or even to those wondering little minds not personally affected.

Attachment Parenting International was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, and is home to board members, council members, and group leaders. Our hearts go out to all those affected by the tornado and in gratitude for the amazing efforts of community to come together and serve each other. The tornado shock and devastation from last night is challenging to process, especially for children.

We grieve for the lives, homes, and livelihoods lost and families broken apart or hurt in each one of these inexplicable tragedies. We share in offering our deepest sympathies. We see firsthand that families are already greatly challenged by the daily responsibilities of life, so we know this extra pain may feel like too much to bear. We also celebrate the selfless giving and countless efforts to provide assistance and comfort to the victims of these disasters.

As an education and support organization, API joins with other organizations in reaching out to support our hurting communities. API is focused on informing and supporting parents and professionals regarding secure attachment in our children. We know that for our children to grow healthy and strong emotionally, they need to feel security in their relationships in peaceful times as well as in disasters. As parents, it is our role to provide that sense of security through our presence and responsiveness to them and their needs. Parents and professionals who have traveled this road of trauma from disaster have invaluable experience to offer that will help us be sensitively responsive even in the most difficult of times, ensuring that we do not need to endure them alone.

API shares with parents and professionals two excellent, informative resources it has identified by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Early Trauma Treatment Network, Child Trauma Research Project of the University of California-San Francisco, and the Infant Mental Health Association of Aotearoa, New Zealand (IMHAANZ), created in response to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand:

After a Disaster: Helping Young Children Heal

Young Children, Trauma and Sleep

The Association of Infant Mental Health in Tennessee shares these resources to help the children in your life suffering from trauma of tornadoes and other kinds of trauma.

Free book resource for small children


How to help Nashville

 API encourages parents to seek the support of a local AP parenting group and find valuable support, information, and resources for the parenting journey. AP leaders volunteer their time to ensure parents have much-needed support and encouragement, in the rewarding and delightful times of parenting, as well as the most difficult ones.

Guest post: Attachment Parenting Tips by Judy Arnall

A new book just release from API Resource Advisory Council Member, Judy Arnall, with proceeds supporting Attachment Parenting Canada!

No parenting theory. No opinions. No judgment…

Just Solutions!

Attachment Parenting Tips is an easy-to-use reference book of ideas to solve every common parenting problem that arises while raising children from 0 – 13 years of age and beyond. Each tip is respectful, gentle, and non-punitive. Written by a certified parent educator and mother of five grown attachment-parented children, this book is bursting with over 3,000 practical tips tested by real parents. Every topic in parenting is covered, from feeding and sleep, to bullying and homework, and the strategies can be put to use immediately. However I love Practical Parents in Training that has many tips on new parenting techniques

“A much needed reference book with no theory – just plenty of neuro-biologically informed, kind and effective strategies for the everyday challenges parents face.” Lysa Parker, MS, Co-founder, Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart.

Get helpful strategies on…

  • The Baby years: sleeping, breastfeeding, and crying.
  • The Toddler years: tantrums, the world of No!, toilet training, picky-eating, hitting and sleep challenges.
  • The Preschool years: power struggles, not listening, lying, angry meltdowns, and sibling jealousy.
  • The School-aged years: homework, friends, peers, stealing, school, attitude, chores, discipline, allowances, relationships and screen-time.
  • The Teen years: the one tool that works for all teen issues.
  • General AP Tips: More tools for babies to teens.

Every challenge includes a brain and child development tip for that age and issue!

All proceeds go to support Attachment Parenting Canada Association

Learn more

Guest post: Kid Care Approved: Trusted Media Reviews

Peggy O’Mara (Peggyomara.com) shared with API about Kid Care Approved, Inc. Learn more about Pamela Chamber’s effort on behalf of parents, and note that they are looking for book reviewers and book contest judges!
My first children’s book was written from my heart, soul, and mind. I wanted to help children and had such a feeling of accomplishment when I imagined all the lives that might be changed because of my book. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I saw negative reviews of the book on Amazon. My heart was crushed and I was devastated when I saw those negative reviews.


Those labor pains of negative reviews gave birth to my new company, Kid Care Approved, Inc. In 2010, about 10 years into my counseling profession, we were on the edge of a crisis. The stepfamily was poised to become the most prevalent family in America and these new stepfamilies were divorcing at a rate of over 70%.

The children between the ages of 3 – 10 years of age that walked into my counseling office shared their struggles with me about their new stepfamilies. My award-winning children’sbook, My Mommy’s Getting Married, was a translation of those children’s voices that poured their hearts out to me. I wanted to help these children and their parents with this book.

My Mommy’s Getting Married is based on research and tells the story of the two most important things parents can do to help their children adjust to a new stepparent:

  1. Spend one-on-one time with their own biological children.
  2. Have repeated loyalty bind talks over and over with their children.

A loyalty bind is when the child feels as if he/she is betraying the biological parent if they care for the new stepparent. The biological parent needs to have loyalty talks continually with his/her child. These talks can help loosen the loyalty binds and help the child begin to care about his/her new family members.

Those negative reviews on Amazon were inaccurate. They said that children at these ages—between four and eight—weren’t thinking about the things that I wrote about in this book. The research proved otherwise. It showed that children were thinking about these things and they were acting out because they didn’t have a voice. The children’s voices in my office were sharing these struggles with me and my children’s book, My Mommy’s Getting Married, is a summary of the pain these children were feeling in their new stepfamilies.


Because of these inaccurate reviews, an epiphany came to me and I said, “I need a “Psychologist’s Seal of Approval.”  With that thought in mind, I’ve embarked on my mission to turn Kid Care Approved, Inc. into a trusted platform for parents, a place to find top research-backed books and tools.

Kid Care Approved is changing the way parents and teachers choose media. We are a review aggregator, similar to Rotten Tomatoes, that reviews and curates children’s books and tools. We grant a Kid Care Seal of Approval to the best books and tools with scientific research to back them up.

Honoring and respecting our great research institutions, we are bringing the most up-to-date research to anyone who interacts with children: authors, media creators, publishers, filmmakers, teachers, psychologists, and parents, just like you. We are helping parents and educators to guide and not punish and to find quality materials that offer sensitive and effective ways to educate their children.

Starting this new project was both scary and exciting. Parents are bombarded with tons of daily advice. I had a lot of concerns:

  • How will we differentiate ourselves from other sites that are out there?
  • How will we find parents to connect with?
  • Will parents find our platform valuable?

While Kid Care Approved is just at the beginning of our journey, I am absolutely blown away by the outpouring of support we’ve receivedOur social media is reaching thousands of parents each month and website traffic and subscribers are growing at incredible rates. Unfiltered conversations that we have in our private Facebook group once again validate the need for curating high-quality, research-backed media for parents.


Kid Care Approved also supports parents by packaging top research tools into small “digestible” bitesThere is no shortage of research out there, but it is frequently overwhelming and impossible to act on. We regularly release downloadable research-backed tools. These tools tackle different issues parents face daily from sleep to food supplements to stress and self-care. A couple of our powerful and most sought-after tools are:

  • Parenting Style Assessment:A two-page questionnaire that helps parents evaluate their own style and its impact on their child’s well-being and development.
  • ADHD Assessment Questionnaire: Research shows that ADD and ADHD symptoms can be a byproduct of not getting enough sleep. This tool helps uncover the lack of sleep that is frequently mistaken for ADHD.

We are a team of experimental psychologists, clinical psychologists, and psychology students engaged in child development research at top universities across the country. Our team includes respected educators such as Dr. Yarrow Dunham at Yale University, Dr. Nicole McNeil at the University of Notre Dame, and Dr. Christa Lynch at Arizona State University, among others. We carefully vet all of our reviewers to ensure we have an experts-only team.

We review books and tools that offer the best-researched methods for parents in educating their children. Our books aren’t afraid to tackle tough topics like anxiety, depression, grief, and lossThese books can help children develop resiliency and gain an understanding of their emotions. We want them to know their feelings are mentionable and manageable. The books also offer parents realistic expectations for their children’s behavior. Here are excerpts from two of our reviews.


You Should You Should! 
Written and illustrated by Ginny Tilby
32 pages
Ages 3 to 6

This book is about finding and developing the self, so it is fine that the emphasis is on how individuals shouldn’t just conform to other people’s expectations and rules. But given that young children are still learning about norms in social interactions, conforming to norms is also important for children’s adjustment in the social world (Rakoczy & Schmidt, 2013), perhaps it’ll be good to help them differentiate when it is good to conform and when they should be themselves. Reviewed by PhD Candidate in Development Psychology at Yale University. Please read full review here.

Tessie Tames Her Tongue: A Book about Learning When to Talk and When to Listen
Written by Melissa Martin
Illustrated by Charles Lehman
36 pages
Ages 5 to 9
Free Spirit Publishing

The characters in Tessie Tames her Tongue promote acceptance and normalizing of diversity as well as help teach children cultural competence.  A large body of research on children’s literature has noted the positive influence of racially diverse characters on children’s understanding of diversity and acceptance.” Reviewed by Eleanor Lyman, University of Notre Dame. Please read full review here.

Through KCA, we want to help create champions in children to achieve self-efficacy, build character, tackle puberty, and find a positive outlook in order to achieve their goals. That’s why I started Kid Care Approved. So, help us to help you by using research to help children thrive! I invite you to check out one of our tools and be a part of the conversations about parenting with families just like yours via our private Facebook group.

Pamela Chambers is an author, entrepreneur, counselor and founder of Kid Care Approved.  Pamela received her  Master’s Degree in Education at Northern Arizona University with an emphasis in counseling.  She worked as a high school counselor, did contract work with many children’s welfare and behavioral health not-for-profit agencies in Arizona and went on to the field of Forensic Psychology. Currently she enjoys a private counseling and coaching practice in Scottsdale Arizona. Pamela is an award winning author with her children’s book, My Mommy’s Getting Married. She is the mother of five children and has four grandchildren. Pamela has lived in Scottsdale, Arizona for 25 years.