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Building the Movement Session 3: Justice System & Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care

Building the Movement Session Three 

Justice System and Youth Transitioning out of Foster Care

Host Organizations: CTIPP, PACEs Connection, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

Moderator: Jesse Kohler, Exeuctive Director, CTIPP (Welcome of panelists: 16:09)

Speakers: Dr. Diana (Denni) Fishbein, President, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (Introduction; Review of Agenda for the Day: 11:25); Ingrid Cochran, CEO PACEs Connection (3:05)

Share Your Story Speakers: 1:48:18: William Mazur, Acadia Healthcare (formerly Deputy Chief, Atlantic City, NJ); 3:30:16: Amber Goodrich, Youth Villages, New Hampshire 


Panel 1: Justice Systems

17:59: Led by Becky Haas, international advocate, and trainer on using a trauma informed approach, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study and Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) study

  • 31:35: Chief Christopher Leusner, Middle Township, NJ

  • 50:22: Benjamin David, District Attorney, State of North Carolina

  • 1:17:52: Sheriff Walt McNeil, Leon County Sheriff’s Office

  • 1:32:18: Dr. Stephanie Covington, Clinician, Author, Organizational Consultant, and Lecturer in Addiction, Trauma, and Recovery

Panel 2: Welfare and Transition Age Youth

2:03:35: Moderator: Karen Johnson, Director, Change in Mind Institute, Social Current

  • 2:07:13: Keri Richmond, Manager of Child Welfare Policy, American Academy of Pediatrics, Executive Director, FosterStrong

2:17:49 to 3:30:14: Panel Facilitator: Rashaun Bennett, Director of Operations, National Youth Employment Coalition 

  • Raushan leads an interactive panel discussion with the four following panelists:

  • Sixto Canel, Founder and CEO, Think of Us, Washington D.C.

  • Michele Grimes, Director of Counseling and STRIVE, Youth Guidance, Chicago, IL

  • Tim Grove, Senior Consultant, Wellpoint Care Network (SaintA), Milwaukee, WI

  • Jas Snell, Jim Casey Initiative Young Fellow

Highlights from Session 3

3:05: Ingrid Cochran

3:05: I want to talk about how I was introduced to ACEs in the first place to give some insight into how I entered this movement…I used to work with the juvenile justice and I was what we would call a correctional officer, but for children aged 12 to 18. 

4:05: During this time, I really connected with the children who were in my care. Those children were in a facility where they either committed three felonies, rape, or murder, and one of the things that I noticed while I was there, was that they were overwhelmingly African American children. 

4:27: This was of interest to me, and it pushed me into academics, where I still reside. I’m still an adjunct professor of psychology for Tennessee State University. 

4:55: I was really looking towards African Americans parents as the problem when I thought about issues of our criminal justice system and juvenile justice system and being overwhelmingly, or disproportionately African American and Hispanic. 

5:13: So, this is where I learned about ACEs where I really was focused on historical trauma as I began to study African American parenting practices in grad school at Vanderbilt University here in Nashville, Tennessee. This is where I came across the concept of historical trauma and this led me to the concept of ACEs and the ACEs study. 

5:34: This really opened my eyes in two different ways. First, that the ramifications of trauma, especially in childhood, and across generations, is really having an impact on us as a society. It also opened my eyes to the understanding that race was traumatic, the concept of race and then along with racism, institutional and otherwise. 

6:02: This had really distorted parenting practices, our individual perceptions of ourselves, our core memories around our racial identity, and things of this nature…I moved into spending all of my time, and my volunteer time, really focused on how adversity in childhood is connected to health outcomes and social outcomes in adulthood.  

6:43: Since being an employee of PACEs Connection for the last three years, I have really brought in our understanding of race and equity and how these issues connect with the PACEs movement. We have started a race and equity group internally, that helps us with our internal practices as well as our external practices. 

7:05: We’ve also started the historical trauma series, which is something that has still been very interesting for our followers. As we move forward, I’m very excited to align all of the different movements that we have in this country and globally with the overall understanding that we need to broaden our understanding of trauma. We need to get beyond just our individual ACEs and think what it looks like to have adverse community experiences, atrocious cultural experiences, so that we can have a better view of how trauma impacts not just us, but our societies and our neighborhoods. 

7:54: This is more relevant than any other time because we are currently in the collective trauma of COVID-19. So we are beginning to see how trauma can impact us on a macro level. This will help us in many ways to understand the implications of trauma, but then also to be able to communicate to a larger audience around the impact of trauma and what that really look like for our society. 

8:23: So that is the focus over the next year to three years. First, broadening our understanding of trauma to take a deep dive into collective trauma and historical trauma. How climate change and environmental issues are impacting us as well. To bring in people who are not already a part of our movement…your average every day person does not know about ACEs, does not know about PCEs, so what does it look like to bring them in the fold. That’s going to have a lot to do with language, being inclusive, as opposed to exclusive in the way that we work, being multisector, cross-pollinating.

16:08: Jesse Kohler, CTIPP 

16:15: The reason for this whole workshop series, the building the national movement to prevent trauma and foster resilience workshop series, is to help you all take action. As you listen today, consider ways that you can reach out to your chief of police, a sheriff, a district attorney or your own prisons. As well as in the second session, ways that you can reach out to different in the welfare sector or others who support youth transitioning out of systems. And for previous sessions, we need folks to reach out to their educational leaders and as well as develop community coalitions. 

17:59: Becky Haas 

18:38: As Jesse said, we really want to look at all of these workshops as a call to action. 

18:54: I co-authored a toolkit in 2019 talking about how to build a community coalition and often times I find that people have a hard time reaching out to the justice system, or may feel intimidated about reaching out to your police chief or your sheriff, or your DA. So we have great leaders here today that are going to give you tips. 

19:40: I was working for the Johnson City police department as a civilian. I was hired in under a planning grant and then I wrote and we were awarded a $800,000 office of criminal justice program grant called Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project. There were about six of these grants across the state of Tennessee. 

20:01: The way that it worked, I as the director, we had done a five-year look back at the areas in our city that had the highest related drug-related and violence crime, we did a five-year data look back, and we narrowed it down to two neighborhoods. As the director, I was to bring together community stakeholders to find prevention, law enforcement, a program to reduce recidivism, and things that were proactive that we could do as a community. 

20:35: I don’t play a musical instrument, but I imagine the joy that a band leader has when they get a band like what I had come on board in our community. We did everything from increasing street lights to working with downtown merchants. 

20:53: I was so pleased to work with our local NAACP after the Ferguson shooting. Ralph Davis reached out to our chief about how could we as police be proactive to understand our culture and embrace the rich diversity in our community. So, we started a program called Community Roundtable, which in 2015 we launched our first ever unity march for Martin Luther King’s birthday. 

21:22: We also launched a first probation program of its kind in Tennessee working with corrections, mental health, the first judicial district. It was for felony offenders with addiction. And as we navigated through this we ended up with 19 programs, that 35 agencies did together and we were awarded one of five prestigious awards in 2014 from the National Criminal Justice Association, and we were even cited by the US Department of Justice. 

22:00: What was amazing was seeing our community come together around the conversations of enhancing public safety. And as a result, our program to reduce recidivism, we launched a Day Reporting Center, which has been a successful model in Georgia.

22:37: This program in Tennessee in 2012 when I started, recidivism was at 48 to 50%, and when you graduate from this program, it cuts it to 21%. I had the real joy in 2016 at the end of my grant, working with TDOC who acquired this program and in 2021, our Governor Bill Lee announced a $4.7 million funding extension to TDOC to expand this program.

23:35: What I learned was that root causes of crime include household dysfunction and lack of nurturing support for children and youth. I learned examples of community trauma were lack of housing, food scarcity, unemployment, poverty, racism, and equitable access to services. 

24:02: I would do ride alongs with the officers and see the calls of domestic violence. In 2015, every 12-hour shift in our very small rural community, we averaged 11 calls coded domestic violence. I learned that police work is often like social work. Yet, they have very little training to prepare them for this part of their job. 

24:27: I also learned that judges, police, and probation professionals want to see those in the justice system succeed, and there are often barriers and challenges. We had to get a new bus stop added when we added the Day Reporting Center. I don’t know about your town, but we don’t get bus stops added very often…so I took the director of community corrections, my sentencing judge, and the chief of police and we went to see the director of transportation in our town to see if we could add a bus stop that would deliver individuals to our program because the nearest bus stop was a mile away and many of these individuals coming out of prison didn’t have a license. 

25:27: I saw over and over how many justice professionals want to see those in the justice system succeed. 

25:45: Then, I learned about ACEs and trauma-informed care…I saw that it was a missing piece of the puzzle. I set out to train my town in 2014, SAMSHA had a concept paper…that said you needed to address trauma and reduce the effects of childhood adversity through a public health approach. 

25:07: I began to write trainings as my background is training development content. I partnered with Dr. Andrea Clements…in three years we had trained over 4000 professionals in our community, and we wrote SAMSHA and we said that we would like to host a webinar and find all the other towns that have been doing this. 

27:05: I want to get ready to segue to our wonderful panelists by why justice professionals need to understand trauma, is because being trauma-informed can improve criminal justice outcomes. We see that most individuals involved in the justice system are trauma survivors. ACEs science can help them understand, it’s not what’s wrong with you, but what happened to you. Justice professionals are present in traumatic circumstances, and you are the intervention. We can do our job in enforcement, and enforce accountability, but we can also learn how to show support. 

27:50: Though your role is not one of a therapist, your responses can be therapeutic. 

29:40: I was pleased to submit an article that was published this last October in the International Association of Chief’s of Police magazine, talking about increasing empathy through policing. 

31:35: Christopher Leusner, Chief of Police, Middle Township, NJ

31:45: I am the past President of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, and during my tenure as Chief of Police, I made it my number one priority to raise awareness of ACEs in the law enforcement community and promote trauma-responsive police practices to be able to reduce the dose of trauma, reduce trauma when police officers are in the field and on the front line when a lot of these situations are happening, how we can partner with schools, and then build resiliency and promote healing in our communities through getting our kids more connected to community and trusted adults. 

32:28: So, when I talk about trauma-responsive policing, I always start with the definition of community problem-oriented policing. 

33:08: If you look at the definition (of community problem-oriented policing), it says, partner with the community to get at the root cause or the underlying cause. So the things I did as a new chief were connect people with mental health services, connect people with substance abuse services, housing services, try to have those partnerships with the community to really get at what I thought was the root cause. 

33:31: And then in 2016, I was involved in a grant in public health, I didn’t realize what I was getting into at the time, but the hospital put together this team. We got $200,000. It was the superintendent of schools, myself as the Chief of Police, CEO of the largest provider of mental health services in the county, and the Vice President of the hospital. 

33:55: I went in in 2016 focused on the opioid epidemic because that’s something that was really impacting my community and my state. Once we started to talk about the issues that we dealing with, we came across the ACEs study and I was blown away. I said to myself, how has no one talked to me about the ACEs study? This is the root cause in many cases. We need to go upstream. 

34:22: In our group, we started to work together to build a resilient community, a trauma-informed community and start to spend those dollars and see that money to start to see practices. What is predictable, is preventable. 

34:50: This is a true partnership with the community. I tell chiefs all the time, they’ll say I can’t take on another program, I can’t take on this, I can’t take on that, there are so many people in our community and when we get outside of your silos, people who are really willing to work with us, on putting these practices into place. 

35:10: Training. I met Dr. Lori Desautels from Butler University, she runs the Applied Neuroscience Educational Unit at Butler University in Indianapolis, I met her co-author, Michael McKnight, and I started to see that there are things that we can do in law enforcement. 

35:31: So, we put together a training program for all of my officers, and I delivered the training as a police officer, or as the police chief of all of the police officers. Every officer saw the video, Resilience, the Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope…we also showed this film which I think is important, from the California Attorney’s General Office with Dr. Bruce Perry about domestic violence. 

35:59: I had to have a strong foundation for our officers to understand the impacts of adverse childhood experiences, and toxic stress on the mind and body of kids. This was my goal, to change the officer’s mindset from not what’s wrong with this kid, but what happened to this kid? If I can get officers to have that shift, you see the situation completely differently and you see so many more opportunities. 

36:25: Chief Leusner reviews content from the training course for officers. 

37:00: This is the important part, and this where I put a lot of my focus, because as a police officer you want to solve problems, well how are you going to fix this? The importance of a connection and it only takes one relationship to make a huge difference in a child’s life. 

37:13: So, we started to put this in place. And this is where I really saw a lot of connection from my officers…Becky was on the call with the Deputy Police Commissioner from Philly a couple of years ago, where he said, we can’t ask our officers to be trauma-informed with the community unless we give them the skills to be trauma-informed with themselves. 

37:41: As a police officer, you see terrible, terrible things. I don’t know any other way to say it, it just lives inside of you. And we need to do a better job in our profession, in NJ we have a program, the resiliency program, modeled off of the military and the FBI national academy associates, to help officers deal with and cope with the trauma they see. 

38:08: I said to my officers, we all know people in our profession, I had an officer commit suicide, that struggle with the things that they see day in and day out, now think about a child who doesn’t have the support system of a department, or trusted adults, or other people that they can count on, the brain and body is not fully developed, think about how we struggle with what we see, now think about that child. I will tell you, I saw a significant shift in our officers. 

38:45: We did that training, the next thing I did was put in place a trauma responsive police policy. Took information from the National Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Yale Childhood Development Center, such things, when reasonably possible avoid making arrests in front of children, avoid interviewing witnesses in front of children, don’t use children when there is a language barrier, reinforcing safety after an incident, get down at eye level and talk with the child, questions you can ask about video games or different ideas, we do trauma bags now, comfort bags where we can give the child a stuffed animal or other stuff that we pass out to the community. Tactical breathing. How to regulate a child on a call.

39:33: Follow up visits. If you can communicate safety, even a brief five minutes with our SROs in schools, how important that is. SWAT operations. I was a SWAT commander. Nobody ever talked to me about the impacts of a SWAT operation. Nobody ever talked about that, how are we going to handle that, what’s going to be our plan if children are present? 

39:57: Death notifications. How do we make death notifications when children are involved. There is a great tool kit at the International Association of Chiefs of Police that provides information for departments to be able to put those programs together, or that policy.

40:29: Next, we instituted a Handle with Care program. This program was started in West Virginia, which is a mechanism for us to notify the school if a child was present at a traumatic event...that notice has to get there before the bell rings the following day, so when the child comes through the doors, the teacher knows that something may of happened. No other information, just handle with care. 

41:38: In 2020, Attorney General Grewal issued a Handle with Care directive for the entire state. Middle Township was the second police department in the state. 

42:17: We trained all 40,000 police officers on the impacts of toxic stress and ACEs, and also included in that training a block to connect it to our officer resiliency program where Dr. Kate Tumelty Felice did a section on officers being trauma-informed with themselves and giving them some tools. 

43:14: Runaways. We completely revamped runaways. Dig a little deeper, is there something going on? If you look at calls for service where children runaway, lots of time there is something going on that is not being addressed. How can we get at the underlying cause and make sure that we’re getting support to these kids the best that we can. 

43:33: The last part that I’ll go through quickly, is building connections with kids when there is not a problem, crisis, or emergency. Chief Leusner reviews ways in which the police interact with kids in the community through in-school programs, youth camps, and other means of connection. 

46:02: This is my favorite stat. One of our partners, I’ve said they want to be in the community, they want to be helping you, 7% of campers said pre-camp they did not have a trusted adult before the camp, but now they do. That is changing lives. That is absolutely changing lives when you look at the research around ACEs. 

46:25: I didn’t see this coming, but the impact on the officers. When I put this together, it was all about ACEs, how are we going to reduce trauma, how are we going to build resiliency. To take officers out of that cycle, week in and week out of just dealing with negativity and get them interacting with your kids when there is not a problem, crisis, or emergency, it’s just as healthy for them. 

50:22: Benjamin David, District Attorney, Wilmington, North Carolina

50:40: I’ve joined forces with a lot of other people in our community, many other justice officials, including some who are on this call, but also people outside of the justice system to really look at the science of hope and this biology of stress that I believe we can utilize this science, not only to solve cases and prove them beyond a reasonable doubt like we do with DNA and fingerprints and ballistics and the like, but we can actually use the science of ACEs to prevent cases. As the Chief said, if we can predict, we can prevent it. 

53:45: Just as Chris mentioned, there’s a real need to focus on employee wellness in law enforcement, we deal with that same toxic stress on the front lines of prosecution. It’s not OK that there is stress in our jobs and stigma associated with coming forward to say I need help. We need to end that culture that says that. 

54:07: I don’t like to live in a country where the rate of officers killing themselves is higher than killed in the line of duty each year, and 40% of them commit suicide within the first year of retirement. 

54:35: We know that we’re 5% of the earth’s population in America, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. No one agrees with mass incarceration. More than 3 million people are incarcerated in our country, it’s bigger than 37 of our states. 

55:00: Yes we want murders, rapists, armed robbers there, but not people who are mentally ill, not folks who are drug addicted, and certainly not our children. Then what we have to come up with is different strategies for fighting crime that are maybe not traditional. 

55:25: Let’s start with what we can all agree on. Many people who join law enforcement and become prosecutors do so to help out a little girl like this (DA David shows a slide from his presentation of a small child cowering in a corner with her ears covered to describe toxic stress). 

56:00: The pressing question that I don’t think we’ve asked enough as justice officials through the years that we’re starting to now, is what becomes of this little girl? 

56:10: DA Ben David shows a slide from his presentation to discuss a young girl he met when he was a prosecutor in Wilmington, NC and highlights her arrests from 1999 to 2019. 

56:48: Wherever you are in America, my guess is that there are many people struggling with the grips of addition who are serving out life sentences maybe two weeks at a time. They are in that revolving door that is in and out of the justice system. And why is that? Despite all of our best efforts with drug treatment courts and other innovative approaches that we have championed here in this district, why? 

57:15: And we know the answer. The true gateway drug to heroin is not pot, it’s not even pills, although 80% of all heroin addicts do start with pills, and 75% of them start with someone else’s pills, so it’s very important to stop pills from being out on the street. The true gateway drug as we all know, is childhood trauma. It’s people who are medicating their pain and are seeking outside sources to deal with it. 

57:45: I want you to consider that over 100,000 people died this past year from drug overdoses, usually from opioids and fentanyl. That’s more than car wrecks, it’s more than gun shots, it’s now the leading cause of death for 18-to-45-year old’s in our country. 

58:00: I believe we can fight the heroin and opioid epidemic by understanding the ACEs. First thing we need to do in law enforcement is what we say we don’t do anymore, which is we don’t blame victims. She’s not a prostitute, she’s being prostituted. He’s not a drug addict, he’s a young man struggling with addiction. 

58:30: We need to change the nouns to the verbs in order to get to where we really are which is not what’s wrong with you, but of course, what happened to you. When we understand that childhood trauma, we can look at it through a different lens as justice officials when we’re intaking these cases. 

58:47: Like many places in America, we now do what’s called crime mapping. That’s where we look at statistics, crime reports, hospital reports, shot spotter data, literally triangulating the sound of gunfire to specific locations in our community to know where the crime is occurring. 

59:13: We drew a big zone around it, and we called it the youth enrichment zone. We patterned it after the national best practice which I highly commend to all of you, which is the Harlem’s Children Zone in New York. We knew we wanted to bring a lot of resources…to get to the root causes of what we were seeing in so much gang violence that was eating up these neighborhoods. 

59:38: What we decided to do was send social workers in to work with them. This was a decade plus ago. Under the roofs of these children to find out where they were coming from and what their challenges were like. 

59:50: And here’s what we found. Not surprisingly, when kids lack structure at home, they find it in each other. That’s called a gang in many places. When we peeled back the onion a little bit more, here’s what we found in just the one school that was taking on all of these children for just an 8th grade class. There were 84 homes, 256 children, just four dads. Now that’s not unique. In fact if I think you were go to many hot spots in this country, you’re going to find similar challenges. And of course, it almost overlays exactly with the high poverty that we’re seeing and these ACEs that we’re all familiar with. 

1:01:32: When I think about the kids in our youth enrichment zone and all of the things that we’re trying to do to get to a place of safety instead of a place of danger, I think of the roots, I think of the adverse community environments that they’re in, and realize that we have a real structural inequality that everyone is talking about in America, and that police and prosecutors particularly in these last couple of years have focused on like never before. 

1:01:58: So, what do we do about all of this? First, we need to recognize again that it’s about justice involvement and the higher the ACE score we know the greater the risk of substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, and the list goes on. 

1:02:14: So if we know that, if we can predict that, we can prevent it. What I really want to stress to all of you is something that I have come to see in my 23 years of being a prosecutor, I’ve seen now, not just the same individual grow up, but sometimes the whole family units come through the system. And it’s absolutely true that today’s victim, is tomorrow’s defendant. 

1:02:46: And what all of us should be asking who are familiar with this science, how do we build a resilient community? 

1:03:50: I created this starfish model and worked with a lot of local people to say let’s have five arms of outreach, these five groups that really give structure and belonging, particularly for our children, to make them more resilient, in other words, to build their bounce back potential, so we’re not going to see the justice involved with these diseases of despair. 

1:04:13: What we’re centering it all around is public health. Because again this is about the social determinants of health being the same as the root causes of crime. So let’s go around the starfish and look at each of these arms of outreach very quickly. 

1:04:30: The first is, government plays a real role. Here’s the law enforcement leaders to reduce crime and incarceration. Remember when I told you about mass incarceration? Here we are five years ago right before we met with President Obama, this is at the national press club in Washington D.C. and these are officers mostly from very large police agencies…what we said is, we can reduce crime and incarceration and we can reinvest the money that we are saving in incarceration back into our communities. 

1:05:11: I was fortunate at the time to be the President of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. We passed what’s called Justice Reinvestment where we changed the structuring sentencing charts for what goes to prison and for how long. We made it mandatory to get probation for drug possession offenses. We reduced habitual felon sentencing, got rid of mandatory minimums in some cases, and we raised the juvenile age from 16 to 18. 

1:05:40: In just 8 short years, while our state has continued to explode in population, we closed 11 prisons. We’ve reduced the prison population by 10%, that’s 4000 beds. We’ve saved $500 million in the process. That’s allowed us to reinvest this into drug intervention efforts, into re-entry programs, that really matter for the lives of former offenders and for people who need interventions, and also prevention programs. 

1:06:15: Next we realized the interrelationship between schools and courts, they’re inversely related. If you’re in school, you’re not in court, but if you drop out, 2 out of 3 people in jails and prisons in America are high school dropouts. 

1:06:46: By increasing graduation rates over a three-year period in the youth enrichment zone by over 25%, we reduced violent crime by over 28%. We know and this is a whole other talk and I would encourage Judge Corpening to be a speaker for all of you one day, but we have reduced that school to prison pipeline…by insisting that school discipline be handled at school and not be turned into juvenile petitions. 

1:07:25: Next, I turned to the business community and we had over 200 business leaders come forward and here was my pitch, just one job for a person who is justice involved. We’ll background check them for you, we’ll drug test them if required, we’re going to be transparent exactly who is before you, we’re going to give you a 40 hour job interview before they get in there as someone who has earned the right to have a second chance. 

1:08:20: We also championed a law that’s the most expansive expungement in the country. The North Carolina Second Chances Act because even one nonviolent felony on someone’s record reduces their future earnings potential by 40%. When you’re talking about building resilient communities, this is not the government that’s going to do it, it’s families. And we have to make sure that the people raising the children have opportunities. 

1:08:45: So really that’s the key. You have to make the whole family succeed and not just think about the children in isolation from them. If you want to learn more about this program, go to the website,

1:09:32: All of the downtown houses of faith got together and said this former place of incarceration is going to be a place of transformation. We’re going to put in what is now 20 different nonprofits working directly with anti-poverty efforts with resilience, we’re going to have our drug treatment court in there I mentioned, Step Up Ministries is in there. We’re going to have mental health counseling for our veterans. We’re going to have domestic violence training. We’re going to have anti-human trafficking efforts under that roof. A place of synergy. In other words, where there was conflict, there is now collaboration. If you want to learn more about that effort through the faith-based community, visit the website

1:10:14: We really wanted to get all of our nonprofits together. We have over a 1000 in Wilmington for a population that serves about 250,000. That’s a lot. We said, they are going in a lot of different directions and agency specific work. They do wonderful things, but let’s not get tied up in agendas. We’re here for our children. Let’s move the needle and let’s see which ones are. What if we all start stroking in the same direction with data driven alignment…finally, we put all of those into just one effort and that was the collective impact around this resilience movement and we called it

1:11:17: Where we pointed all our efforts was at our hospital, our largest employer because the ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure...we’re really working with the hospitals now to say, how do we become more resilient and how can we all work together to prevent crime. 

1:11:53: One thing we’ve done is we’ve created this taskforce, and I’m so proud that there are so many members of our New Hanover Resiliency Task Force on this call today. There are several hundred members of our community who are now speaking the same language because of this great group and the wonderful work that they’re doing. 

1:12:37: DA Ben David discusses the state-level Chief Justice’s Task Force on ACEs-Informed Courts initiative. 

1:13:25: The first thing we’re focusing on is education and training. We’re working with Duke University and they’ve quite literally written the book on a lot of the trauma-informed care that’s going on out there. 

1:14:06: We’re also working on program development…we look for national best practices and unabashedly we try to steal them. What we’re really focusing in on now is the baby court model in Florida and we’re really big on treatment courts and recovery courts for mental illness, for veterans’ treatment. We don’t call it post-traumatic stress disorder, there’s nothing wrong with you if you have post traumatic stress if you’ve experienced what many of them have experienced, what we’re talking about now is how to navigate from it. We’re also putting local people in our jails and our prisons to say if you’re about to get out, let’s get you right to treatment. 

1:15:10: Circling back to wellness, we do need to end the stigma. It’s not us against them, police are guardians, they’re not warriors, too often they’re only made famous when they involve a use of force case or a viral video. Every year I try to have what I call Service above Self awards, where we talk about the wonderful community-based policing that has been going on. 

1:16:02: I’ll end by saying I have a website that spells out a lot of this. I’ve done an 18-minute Ted talk on building a more resilient North Carolina that’s on here. I’ve also written a book about the starfish model. Website –

1:17:52: Sheriff Walt McNeil, Leon County Sheriff’s Office

1:18:11: These issues of resiliency and building environments where we work on trying to prevent trauma are key to our successes as law enforcement organizations and as communities. 

1:18:31: Getting away from the fundamental old regime in terms of how we police communities, seeing the police as this group of folks who are only in this silo, I think that we all now understand how important it is to see trauma and resiliency from the entire community perspective, and that is to build relationships and build understanding with that in the context of communities that allow us to be extremely focused on the issues that are communities are facing all across this country. 

1:19:13: What we’ve done here in Leon County specifically as it relates to this is, as I took over as Sheriff, we wanted to talk specifically about this notion policing and communities being so separate and not seeing issues in the same light. We embarked upon what we call an all in approach in our community, building on the notion that Sir Robert Peel said so many years ago that the Police are the citizens, and the citizens are the police. 

1:19:47: In that regard, what we said was we had a crime rate that had reached something like 20% increase a rate over a five-year period. What I said to the citizens in Leon County here in Florida is that law enforcement cannot drive this crime rate down without the assistance and involvement of our citizens, particularly realizing that many of those underserved communities, African American communities specifically, are victimized by some social issues that are going unaddressed. 

1:20:42: Having served as the Secretary of the Department of Corrections here in the state of Florida, I knew that one of those inroads into our communities that creates this trauma particularly deals with families, families of persons who were formerly incarcerated, and those children. We talked about the fact that one, we need to do something on the front end while persons are incarcerated and coming back into our communities, and secondly, how do we then rebuild those families. 

1:21:12: Those are crucial components and it’s very difficult for our society and communities to focus on that regard. We took this on as a significant challenge in our community and we built a re-entry portal in our detention facility, and we built the capacity for social service organizations to come to our location. We have a business office where they have rooms and where they can come and talk to inmates as they come back into our community, talk about the various jobs that are available, and then connect those inmates not only with those jobs but also with families. 

1:21:56: One of the things that we do that I think is perhaps different, instead of having children visit our inmates while they are incarcerated, we talk about trauma, we talk about resilience, obviously from my perspective, you traumatize a kid a second time if you bring he or her to a prison or to a jail, and put them in that environment to interact with their loved one…we’ve partnered with our libraries here in Leon County and we’ve setup remote video visitations at the libraries with the children and the loved one. The loved one is obviously still incarcerated, but has the opportunity through the video visitation to have those contacts with their children. 

1:22:55: In terms of trauma, particularly as it relates in my case to deputies, as our deputies are engaged particularly in our schools, one of the things that we know and the Chief talked about…is that a child who is in a house where her mom is being battered, the husband is being battered, whomever it is, in those circumstances those children are there and they see what’s going on, the next day they come to school and they act out. What usually happens is those kids are expelled from school or go on and continue to have problems or issues. What we’ve done is to make sure that our deputies when they make those contacts that we train the to look at trauma, to understand the trauma that the kid is involved in, we’re talking about resiliency, but we then try to pass that information about the child along to the school, and to the counselors at the school. 

1:24:12: The other aspect of our entire effort that we call “All In” platform, is we have taken some additional steps with respect to trying to build resiliency and capacity in our community. One of the things that we understood immediately after I became Sheriff was that we needed a concerted effort to deal with children’s issues in our community. I think you all talked about the fact that we have disparate social service organizations, we have groups that provide services that are sometimes not coordinated. 

1:24:53: What we decided to do, and not just with my leadership, but with the leadership of the entire city of Tallahassee and County of Leon was to focus on trying to build what we called a children’s services counsel. We’ve got these in the state of Florida, across the state, but we didn’t have one in Leon County. We talked to our citizens about the prospects of creating a penny sales tax where those dollars specifically would go to trying to address adverse childhood experiences of the youth of our community. 

1:26:11: One of the things we realized during the six years that I’ve been sheriff, we’ve driven crime down about 5 to 7% each year. Mostly focused on relationships we have with social services organizations and their abilities to go into these at-risk communities, particularly, we have a zip code, 32304, which is the poorest zip code in the state of Florida. We pour resources into those areas…we did five years of research working with Florida State University to look at the number of murders that took place in our communities. 

1:27:00: One of the common denominators of murders that take place in a community, we called it the anatomy of a homicide, from our research we came away with these nuggets; first, we found that about 90% of the kids who are involved in murders, either the victim or the perpetrator, had been expelled from school. Secondly, we found that the same number or there about, were either placed in an alternative school, or had had 20 or more contacts with the school in an adverse situation long before they were expelled or placed in an alternative school.

1:27:43: From that data, we are now in the process of working with both our county and city governments to setup what we are calling a Counsel on the Status of Men and Boys. The idea here being that we understand from the research that we did that we have to do something specifically in three areas. One, the number of children who come to school with some real struggles as it relates to third grade reading levels. The second thing is the number of kids who are expelled from schools. Lastly, the number of kids who are placed in alternative schools. 

1:28:28: We know that those three populations account for more than 50% of the persons involved in violent crime in our communities. Given that reality, what we’ve done is establish this Counsel on the Status of Men and Boys where we will now sit down and specifically look at the number of our children in our community, some 2000 or so, who have those adverse childhood experiences, and now as an entire community we will work towards making sure that we bring those social service organizations, we work with Florida State University, we have a five-step what I call dosing plan where we actually sit down with these families and talk about what those problems are and bring the clinicians in and work with those families on an ongoing basis. 

1:29:20: We believe…that this is replicable across the country and is something that we will be looking to bring back to you all at some point when we have more data and information about where we are. 

1:30:34: We need to continue to work with our police officers, our deputies, in trying to make sure that we have resilience within our ranks. That we have a focus on not only the adverse childhood experiences that are children are experiencing, but also adverse day-to-day experiences that our police officers are engaged in so that we continue to drive down not only crime, but create an environment where our deputies and our police officers can function more effectively in the environments that they’re placed in. 

1:32:18: Dr. Stephanie Covington, Center for Gender & Justice 

1:32:23: When I think about trauma work, I think about three levels; trauma-informed services include things we need to know, trauma-responsive is what we need to do and we’ve certainly been hearing about that on multiple levels, trauma-specific if what we need to provide…I’m going to talk about these levels through the lens of jails, prisons, or custodial settings. 

1:32:50: There are some things unique to the justice system. We see people who are justice-involved who have the highest rates of abuse and trauma. We know that childhood abuse is linked to adolescent and adult criminal behavior, but then the experience itself of the criminal justice system because of the structures, the policies, and the procedures, traumatize, or retraumatize people. 

1:33:24: Dr. Covington shares a slide outlining the process of trauma. If we look at the process of trauma, which is the same for people in or out of the justice system, until we get to the fourth part which says psychological and physical distress. And this is where there are current stressors, the current stressor could be being arrested, being incarcerated, or having a trigger or an activator that reminds you of the trauma. 

1:33:50: When a trauma survivor is activated by a sight, a sound, a smell, they’re pushed back in time, and they’re flooded by feelings that belong to the traumatic event. The criminal justice system has triggers built into it. The restraints, the handcuffs, the isolation, the pat and cavity searches, loud noises, yelling, threats, all of the things that happen in the system, in a system that was designed for victimizers, but actually people were victims before they were ever victimizers. 

1:43:30: And we can see a scenario here of what could happen in a carceral setting. You have a person who experiences trauma, the brain and body become overwhelmed, the nervous system is unable to return to equilibrium, and the trauma goes untreated, which is true for most justice-involved people. So, the person stays in a stress response mode. Cues then trigger and activate the trauma response…and the person reacts to the trauma cues from a state of fear. 

1:35:14: We can see what kind of responses, and these are things we have certainly learned that have been reinforced from the ACE study, we have retreat responses that are the mental health responses, and yet we have mental health services in the justice system that are not provided through the lens of trauma. Substance use disorder, we’ve criminalized addiction. And yet the treatment that we often provide in the justice system is not integrated treatment with trauma. The deliberate self-harm that is particularly challenging in a justice system setting. Suicide attempts. And then we have the harmful behavior to others…again, programming often provided has nothing to do with trauma. 

1:36:05:  Dr. Covington shows a slide from her presentation and discusses results from a study.  That’s where my work comes in. I develop programs to deal with those various issues. And again, we’ve talked about the ACE study. This was done a number of years ago. Women in prison. Not a surprise. Most of them had a score of 4 or more, and they were the women that were having physical and mental health problems. But a score of 7 or more yes answers, indicated a 980% greater risk of having mental health problems. 

1:36:38: We know that our prisons have become the mental health system for people who are marginalized in our society. And yet we’re not talking about trauma. 

1:36:52: Dr. Covington shows a slide from her presentation that outlines the relationship between gender and abuse. It’s really important as talk about trauma that we consider gender…what we know is that there are gender differences in trauma. 

1:38:20: When we look at youth, we talk about a school to prison pipeline. Actually, that’s about boys. Girls, it’s a sexual assault to prison pipeline. This is why risk and response to trauma has a gender difference to it and so our response we have to take gender into consideration. 

1:38:41: The gender issues are becoming more complex in custodial settings. This is because we’re starting to acknowledge the transgender and nonbinary population…in a binary system that doesn’t work for everybody. 

1:39:09: Staff and the people we see need to know exactly the same information. Understanding the process of trauma, including gender differences, learning about common reactions, and developing coping skills. 

1:39:52: Trauma-responsive was the second piece I mentioned, and we heard about the District Attorney and the Police becoming trauma-responsive. They’re taking what they know and they’re putting it into action. And this is the piece that often gets missed in a lot of jurisdictions. It means you really have to review your policy and practices through the lens of trauma with the expectation that behavior…of all staff will reflect your new policies and practices. 

1:40:28: Moving from trauma-informed to trauma-responsive usually needs a very structured and guided process because we’re really talking about organizational change. We’re talking about the culture and environment. 

1:41:20: There are trauma-focused interventions which we actually use with people involved in the justice system. Dr. Covington shares information about integrated programming, including Helping Women Recover and Helping Men Recover. 

1:42:12: Dr. Covington reviews results from a Randomized Controlled Trial Study about helping women recover and beyond trauma. 

1:43:28: Dr. Covington reviews results from a Beyond Violence Randomized Study that shows reduced rates of recidivism. 

1:44:45: We probably now have over 4000 women who have been in this program (Healing Trauma). We have a 1000 in the research, decrease in mental health, increase in social connection and emotional regulation. 

1:45:00: For the men, we probably have about 6000 participants by now. Over a 1000 in research…decrease in mental health symptoms, anger, and aggression, and increase in social connection and emotional regulation. 

1:46:03: From our panel, you really understand that when the criminal justice system becomes trauma-informed and trauma-responsive, organizations and facilities become safer. Staff in those receiving services feel safer, staff jobs become easier, and all programming becomes more effective. 

1:46:25: I think it’s essential that we realize the centrality of trauma and gender throughout the justice system. When we’re talking about policing, courts, community corrections, and the carceral settings, that these are really important considerations if in fact we want to have a positive impact in helping people make transformative change in their lives. 

1:47:05: Jesse Kohler, CTIPP

1:48:18: Share Your Story – Bill Mazur 

1:48:35: As Jesse mentioned, I’m a former career law enforcement official. Spent 25 years in the profession, did it my whole entire adult life. I’m a second-generation police officer, too. My father spent 40 years in law enforcement, as well as one of my brothers. The rest of my family was in some form of public service. 

1:49:04: Having spent 25 years in law enforcement, having a front row seat to trauma, that’s where my level of expertise comes from. I’m not a clinician or a doctor nor do I purport to be, but I have a very good understanding from real life experiences of how trauma impacts you, repetitive exposures to trauma, the physiological impact, and then of course how it drives behavior. 

1:49:39: When I left law enforcement, I went to work in the behavioral health care field and what I do is I work on a national team of about 60 folks who triage all types of behavioral health care issues and connect people to resources for substance use and mental health issues. 

1:50:00: I happen to have a sub-specialty in first responder families. So that’s what I do, I work on a team that just does specifically first responders so I have this niche experience that I want to share with you today. 

1:50:30. Bill shares a slide from his presentation that highlights key statistics according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice. 

1:50:32: A few questions that come up and of course an extension of this conversation is, how does trauma, substance use, mental health issues, possibly post-traumatic stress, how does that all thread into the first responder world? 

1:50:49: Let’s take a look first statistically, how many police officers actually full-time exist in the United States. Depending on where you look, it’s about 850,000, full-time, sworn, and that covers local, state, county, federal. 

1:51:12: What the statistics say, and this is from the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics, and a survey done through a well-known law enforcement publication, it showed that 20% to 25% of working police officers are struggling with a chemical dependency. So that math translates into about 200,000 police officers struggling with an addiction. Usually that addiction is alcohol or some other type of substance use. 

1:51:52: I would say is that it is probably a conservative estimate, and I say this not just through my personal experience in the job but working nationally in triaging dozens of these cases per week. You see that is the most accepted socially, of course, the most socially accepted form of coping skill, albeit a maladaptive coping skill, an unhealthy coping skill, it is the most socially accepted and reinforced through the eyes of the subculture that exists in the first responder world. 

1:56:26: Why is it? I would say it is a way to deal with trauma. It’s a way to numb those traumatic experiences or those lasting impacts you’re having from those traumatic events. We’re seeing it nationwide. 

1:52:42: The outlook is very similar for these subcategories of first responders. Fire Service, EMT, dispatchers. Roughly what these statistics say is that there is another 2 million of these folks walking around and if you apply those same statistical analysis numbers you’ll see that there is well over a half of million first responders struggling with a substance use issue. 

1:53:08: Now, here’s what we see in our behavioral healthcare world, and I think that the doctors and clinicians will agree with me when I say this, that substance use largely, substance use addiction, process addiction, these are generally symptomatic. What does that mean? Well, there’s typically trauma beneath that and the substance use, or process addiction is a coping skill for the undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues. 

1:53:40: Bill discusses recent national survey results of first responders published by the University of Phoenix. 

1:53:50: I think these are probably conservative numbers based on what I see here. 85% of first responders have a significant traumatic event, a big “T”, a big trauma. A big T is, we’re talking about not just the usual bad thing that happens, we’re talking about people losing their lives either through an active shooter situation, severe abuse through victims, vicarious trauma, watching an officer get shot, we’re talking about big traumatic events, responding to fatal accidents. 85% of first responders have experienced this either as a singular event or a repetitive traumatic event. 

1:54:34: Now the next two are really the ones that have us gravely concerned for this demographic. The next one is 55% of these folks believe that if they report this or go to a supervisor, their supervisor will look at them differently, perhaps see them as weak. Whether it’s real, whether it is reality-based is irrelevant. It’s what they are feeling at that moment. 

1:54:59: The next one, 69% of those folks said that mental health services, although they know that they exist, they are seldom or never utilized. The last statistic you see there is a general statistic from SAMSHA and that is 1 in 5 families will experience a mental health crisis…that was pre-COVID. I would venture to say that there is at least a 100% in that, maybe 2 out of 5 families, maybe more, based on what we’ve been through a society, as nation with COVID. 

1:56:09: The conclusion to these statistics is that shame and stigma holds people back from seeking help. That’s it. Plain and simple. And that’s really what we’re trying to change here. We’re trying to change what we call, the operational vernacular…the language that we use. Not just in society but in the subculture of first responder demographics. 

1:56:35: We’re trying to normalize or bring some normality to this conversation about changing language because when you change language, you can change thought process. When you change thought processes, you can change perspective, and that comes down to empathy. Empathy for self and others, and that’s really where the ACEs and trauma-informed policing makes such a huge difference with policing approaches. 

1:57:04: When you gain empathy, you have to have an understanding an self-awareness for self, in order to develop self-management skills, adaptive coping skills, or else how in the world could you extend that to the community that you’re policing in. 

1:57:28: What can leader’s do? And when I use the term leadership, I think most if not everyone would agree with me that I’m talking about positional leaders, I’m not necessarily talking about chiefs, or sheriffs, or DAs, or CEOs. While top down enforcement of this, or belief, or reinforcement of this is absolutely essential, when we talk about leadership it’s not positional leadership. Everyone holds a leadership role. 

1:57:43: David shows a slide from his presentation and discusses another large-scale study completed by the IACP, which talks about how to change the operational vernacular and how to make people feel more comfortable coming forward. 

1:58:11: The survey found that first responders would be more open to getting help in two areas. Number one – if a leader or someone in a leadership position talked about their experience and showed empathy toward this trauma-informed model there was a 71% chance that the person would have a higher comfort level in speaking about this. 

1:58:39: Here’s the better news in the last block. It’s even higher for peers. In other words, people who didn’t hold positional leadership roles…it was a line officer, and when they spoke about it, they felt even more supported, which was 83% of those first responders polled felt that they would feel comfortable going and asking for help. 

1:59:06: What does this mean? Again, I’ll bring it back to a very simple sort of hypothesis. It’s language. It is having a conversation, which is really what we’re doing here today…it’s our job now to bring this conversation externally out there into the communities, into the organizations, because here’s what I can tell you, over the last four years serving in this role as a public safety liaison, our team has helped well over 1500 first responder families. We’re moving to 2000 in 4 years’ time…everyone of those cases started with a conversation. 

 2:00:38: Jesse Kohler, CTIPP

2:03:35: Karen Johnson, Director, Change in Mind Institute, Social Current

2:04:25: I’ve been privileged to work with organizations, systems, and communities striving to advance all that we have been talking about in these sessions; trauma-informed, resilience-oriented, and healing-centered approaches.

2:04:40: My experience tells me, and I truly believe this, that it is within our reach to partner with all of our stakeholders, including most importantly, our foster youth, or transitioning to adulthood to make things better for our youth, to close the gaps in support services for this group of extraordinary individuals. 

2:05:01: We know that approximately 22,000 youth find themselves aging out of care every year, which from one perspective is too large of a number, even one youth who faces these circumstances, it’s not OK. And from another perspective, it’s a pretty doable number. We can do this. 

2:05:33: We can partner, and co-create, with our youth, our families and our communities to meet this challenge to ensure that every former foster youth has what they need to thrive as they navigate early adulthood and beyond. 

2:07:13: Keri Richmond, Manager of Child Welfare Policy, American Academy of Pediatrics, Executive Director, FosterStrong

2:08:44: There’s a lot more to me than just my day job. I’m also the daughter of a mother who struggled with a mental health diagnosis and was deemed unfit to parent before I was ever even in the world. I am the daughter of a father who lost his dad at a really young age, had an alcoholic mother, experienced his own abuse, and struggled with his own drug and alcohol addiction throughout his life. I am the granddaughter of a Filipino woman who emigrated to America as a single mother of five after seeing her entire family be slaughtered in the Philippines in World War II. 

2:09:30: I’m Filipino, I am a former foster youth, and I have complex PTSD. There are identities that I have wrestled with throughout my life but can now own fully. I think that trauma runs not only through my bloodline but in my DNA, there’s that generational trauma, but I didn’t really know a lot, or understand a lot about trauma until a few years ago. 

2:10:00: I had just lost somebody I was close to, and I was walking through a bookstore and really struggling with the grieving process and this book popped off the shelf at me…it’s called the Transformation, and it’s discovering wholeness and healing after trauma. 

2:10:19: There was something about it that just pulled me in. When I started reading the book, I thought holy moly, this is so much of what I’ve experienced in my life, but I’ve never been able to put words to. 

2:10:34: I knew I had a rough childhood; I knew mine looked a lot different than most kids that I grew up with, but I had no idea how much trauma had impacted who I was, the way I showed up in the world, and also the way that my family was and the things that had happened to us. 

2:11:00: It also helped me to look at my family in a new light and to have compassion and grace for their shortcomings and for the experiences that led to my removal. I was so grateful to have this language and to finally be able to put into words all of these things and it made me wonder how my parents’ lives would have played out if they had that language and if they were able to safely explore the trauma that they had experienced and if they were given the tools to be able to heal and build resilience. 

2:11:37: As I was preparing for today, I was thinking about how we’re so close to coming up on the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and just thinking about the toll that it’s taken on all of us. It has clearly impacted mental health across the country. And that’s why last year the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency on children and teen’s mental health. 

2:12:05: This is already existing crisis has been compounded by not only the pandemic but the ongoing struggle for racial justice and some of the existing trends that were already playing out prior to 2020. 

2:12:22: So, we’ve had a serious mental health crisis in our country for decades, but the past two years, children and families have experienced enormous adversity and disruption. For our foster care population this has only exacerbated, and especially for the group that we’re talking about here on this panel, our transition aged youth who often leave the system with no networks of support or family.

2:12:48: I think in the past decade we’ve really made critical shifts in the conversation around mental health and trauma. For instance, we’re actually having the conversation. And we’re making important shifts to better understand trauma and the long-term impacts it has on our emotional, physical, and mental health. 

2:13:10: We’re also starting to see more prioritization around prevention efforts. In Child Welfare policies, states are in the process of implementing the Family First Services Act, which will support families and help them stay safely together and prevent family separation. And this is progress that is worthy of being celebrated. 

2:13:31: But when it comes to supporting transition aged youth, with the services that they need to heal and thrive, we still have a ways to go. Our young people in foster care often have high amounts of adverse childhood experiences, and while we know that trauma often happens before removal, we don’t really acknowledge enough that it also happens at removal from our families of origin, and that foster care often adds to the already existing traumas we’ve experienced. 

2:14:03: So, as we look to shift from a foster care system that further traumatizes children to one that supports the healing, growth, and development of people, we have to include the voices and expertise of those who have experienced the system firsthand. 

2:14:24: We have to stop and ask these people what it is they need and actually listen and respond because the services that they say they need will be the ones that are most responsive. 

2:14:35: At FosterStrong we talk a lot about resilience and one of our mottos is unbelievably resilient, that’s a message that we want to spread the young people and let them know that they are unbelievably resilient. But we also want to be careful how we talk about resilience, that we’re not putting undue pressure on people, that they have to fake it or show up in a certain way. Not make them think that resilience is doing it all alone and having to be completely independent. 

2:15:05: For me, I believe resilience is standing in the truth of our experiences, but not being overcome by them. 

2:15:12: What I’ve learned as we’ve had these conversations about resilience and as I’ve worked with the pediatricians at the American Academy of Pediatrics, and also from my own experiences in childhood, is that the foundation of building resilience is really safe, stable, and nurturing relationships. 

2:15:30: So today you’re going to hear from the panel about a lot of incredible services and strategies to support transition aged youth. But what I want you to notice as they talk is that common theme of connection. Healthy relationships are truly the superfood to resilience antidote to trauma. 

2:15:48: The language that we use matters and the conversations that are taking place throughout these workshops are crucial, but as we leave today from this panel, I encourage you to pause and ask yourselves, how am I or how can I contribute to my own resilience and the resilience of my community. 

2:16:09: I love this quote that I stumbled across a few years ago that says something along the lines of, trauma continues to travel through our family lineages until someone does the hard work of healing it. But what I would add to that is it’s not a one-person job. It takes a community, and it takes connectedness to wrap around a person and break the chains of generational trauma. 

2:17:49: Rashaun Bennett, Panel Facilitator, Director of Operations, National Youth Employment Coalition

2:20:50: Why is this important to me? From my organization we already know that the workforce system is broken for lots of folks in this country and what we really need is a systemic and coordinated response to help those who are most marginalized and frequently those are folks who are transitioning from the child welfare system, get connected to work and opportunities more broadly. 

2:21:29: Michele Grimes, Director of Counseling and STRIVE, Youth Guidance, Chicago, IL

2:21:50: As Raushaun mentioned, I am the director of counseling and Strive, at Youth Guidance in Chicago, IL. For the past 14 years, I have been working really in a mix of foster care settings and school-based settings and a lot of the time kind of a meeting in the middle between the two, so I have seen a lot of how our young people get lost and left behind and there needs get missed as they get close to aging out of the system. 

2:22:23: I can’t take enough time to say why it’s important to talk about this regarding youth and care specifically. There are so many reasons, but I think the primary one that comes to mind for me is just really minimizing the vulnerability that comes along with being an adolescent moving into young adulthood in an education system, trying to figure out college, trying to figure out career, without consistent, stable, adult support a lot of the time. 

2:23:06: The workforce is failing in many ways, and this is one of the largest ways we are failing our young people in the U.S. is really having systems that recognize the impact of trauma, that recognize the impact of varied life experience and can still find strengths among our youth and give them the supports that they need to really thrive beyond involvement in the system. 

2:23:35: I’ve seen so many young people turn 21 and not have a viable housing plan, let alone be able to think about college or career. We all know that housing stability has to come first to really be able to succeed in moving toward consistent employment and independent living. 

2:24:00: I really want to see a stronger and more sustainable plan for this particular age group. 

2:24:28: Sixto Canel, Founder and CEO, Think of Us, Washington D.C.

2:24:46: The reason why this is important to me is because I truly believe that our child welfare system is just not structured to actually enable enough healing and that there is a lot of system-induced trauma that we can be able to course correct. 

2:25:09: How do we not just talk about what is trauma and the ways to address it, but really how do we start to move to embed healing as part of the process…and how does the system “re-architect” a bit so we are able to go ahead and have the individual who are impacted by the system actually experience healing, and it’s not in spite of the system, or in spite of the situation that you get to your destination. But it’s because of the actual structure of the a system that you experience healing and I don’t believe that is what our system is setup to do today. 

2:26:08: Tim Grove, Senior Consultant, Wellpoint Care Network (SaintA), Milwaukee, WI

2:26:25: The reason that I think I’m here is that I really stand on the shoulders of a few thousand youth we serve on a daily basis, a number of partners we’ve been on this trauma-informed journey with and about 400 Wellpoint staff who kind of have a both and approach to this. 

2:26:46: What I mean by that, is part of what we’ve done is work to transform child welfare systems, and just to give a brief glimpse into that, a few years ago we asked an audacious question: could we genuinely get all of our case management staff, people who work with youth and families to a place of implementing trauma-informed practice. 

2:27:16: Honestly if we hear Sixto’s honest appraisal of our child welfare systems…that’s a pretty daunting question. There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about that system. We persisted and decided to give it a try. 

2:27:38: Generally speaking, you can, and it turns out when you do that with a pretty concerted push you can get some pretty remarkable outcomes. 

2:27:52: Just to give a taste of those outcomes, and I really see this as a primary prevention strategy to prevent the need for youth to age out of the system, twice the amount of kids in our child welfare system found permanency in the teams that initially pushed these initiatives forward and becoming trauma-informed, compared to their counterparts. Double. 

2:28:19: Placement stability was significantly better, so kids and youth didn’t move around as much. And more families stopped getting services from the system, and when those services stopped they didn’t services at a future date. 

2:28:40: I said both and though because the second part of this, and this is a bit of an ode to Karen Johnson, my dear friend and colleague, who taught us a number of years ago to keep our promise. So what Karen meant by that was just the sheer tragedy of what happens to too many youth aging out the system and she really rallied our community, our program, and our agency to do better at keeping our promise. 

2:29:28: Jas Snell, Jim Casey Initiative Young Fellow

2:29:39: I also wear a few different hats as a national advocate and consultant, but today I’m here as a Jim Casey Initiative Young Fellow. Some identifies that I would like to share with you all is that I am of African descent, and I live through a continuous mental health journey. I was brought up by a single mom with four daughters, and we all have coped through our lived experiences with different levels of suppression. So, as I learn, I feel compelled to share and that’s ultimately why I’m here today. 

2:30:17: Both my lived and professional experience has shown me the importance of uplifting and supporting the strengths of young people while they are in their natural communities and families. This does contribute to their positive development, which includes mental health, physical health, education, employment, and other lasting, sustainable things. 

2:30:42: Some work that I have been engaged in has been around race equity and focused on positive youth development. Recently myself and a team, we were able to publish a document on how integrated positive youth development and race equity approaches across child welfare and criminal justice systems will benefit people long term. 

2:31:10: Jas shows an image on the screen that highlights a conceptual framework. You all are seeing a conceptual framework of how we fill principles of STRENGTH. Which, STRENGTH stands for systems integration, trustworthy and safe spaces, relationships that are positive and supportive, equity, including, and belonging, needs that are met holistically, growth, leadership, and opportunity to fail and learn, training and education, and lastly healing. 

2:31:45: Those principles make up strength and when applied, this is a conceptual framework of it. In the center (of the image) we see that the young person is literally the focus and the center. They are immediately surrounded by family and community because that’s a more accurate depiction of what a young person’s immediate ecosystem looks like. Further out, we have our traditional child welfare and juvenile justice systems that are still touching the young person, but they are not the first direct system. There is overlap between other systems like housing, health, workforce, and education.

2:32:30: This framework shows how each system does overlap with one another and if they come together in a way that is integrated, we can better serve young people and contribute to their positive development. 

 2:32:55: Rashaun Bennett

2:33:03: OK, let’s jump in…Michele, from the practitioner voice, and Tim from a systemic practicing voice…what are some common myths or missteps when serving this population in a trauma-informed way? 

2:33:38: Michele Grimes

2:33:43: So, I pulled out two major missteps that I saw frequently, particularly when I spent several years as a therapist working with youth in the system who were 18 to 20 years old and living in independent or semi-independent living situations…getting ready to transition out of the system. 

2:34:04: Misstep number one was seeing service providers make mistakes on both extremes. At one end, assuming that young people who are in foster care situations and who have experienced complex and chronic trauma, assuming that they should be treated exactly like any other youth and can function and do things in all of the same ways as any other youth in a school setting. Forgetting the impact of trauma and the impact of all of the transitions that they have made, and all of the different things that have occurred because of the involvement in the system. But then on the other extreme of that is also see service providers set very low expectation for young people and assume that they can’t succeed and they can’t achieve the same goals as other young people. 

2:34:58: I can’t really call back to which one I saw more because I think both of those mistakes happen all of the time and I really think the answer is becoming better listeners, paying attention to the individual that you’re working with, being present with each individual and recognizing that each need is unique and that each young person is going to need some extra supports but also has resilience and has strengths that are right there on the table if you look for them. 

2:35:30: The road right back to that is becoming trauma-informed and really understanding the impact of trauma and how to work from a strengths-based place, but also recognize the impact of trauma. 

2:35:46: Misstep number two that I would put on the table particularly for the young adult age group is not putting nearly enough emphasis on natural supports and not starting to seek those people out early enough for the young people who are in the system. I think there can be a lot of short sightedness in terms of allowing youth to connect with their biological relatives, allowing youth to reach out to those natural supports, even if the natural supports aren’t perfect and there are difficulties there. Offering services to the folks who will be in the young people’s lives beyond their involvement in the system. There are a lot of things that could be done to create more stability beyond that aging out birthday that I think just get missed, get overlooked, and often times in the name of protecting the youth or keeping them safe, making sure they don’t come into harms way, but I think we miss some support opportunities there. 

2:36:56: Tim Grove

2:37:02: I will keep mine in terms of missteps focused on the ACEs study. I had the opportunity to talk to Robert Anda and Laura Porter not too long ago and some of you are aware that about a year or so ago they put out an article and a video trying to describe the misuses and limitations of the ACEs study, but a lot of the missteps we’ve encountered, especially with young adults, is being identified by an ACE score, which first of all is not even technically accurate and second of all is so limiting and shortsighted, even the originators of that work are literally heartbroken about that possibility and yet we still hear language like, an ACE score of 6 leads to an X for an individual.

2:37:59: We feel a bit of an opportunity to keep putting out there the wisdom that Rob and Laura and others have shared which is that any empirical risk calculation exists at the group level, not the individual level. From a data point of view there are plenty of people in that group of folks with six or more ACE scores who will not only live a “normal” life, they will live a longer than normal life. 

2:38:29: When you think about it, making sure that message and most people who are doing that are doing that with good intentions, but perhaps not fully informed intentions, think about the message that can give to someone sitting across the table from you. We were part of that misstep in our evolution and history and have tried to make a commitment to think about that differently. 

2:38:56: Point number two, really briefly, our colleagues of color, our youth of color, any of the folks we serve who are connected to a group with a history of being disenfranchised say things like this, so wait a minute, there’s discrimination and historical trauma and poverty, and inequity that creates, if you think of Dr. Wendy Ellis’s pair of ACEs the conditions for those adversities. If the only thing you want to focus on are those adversities, my response is, aren’t we missing a big part of the picture? Aren’t the solutions as much structural and societal as much as they are about what you want me to do individually. 

2:40:05: Rashaun Bennett

2:40:31: The specific question is what supports are needed to equip this population with the empowerment, resilience, and navigating systems? 

2:40:48: Jas Snell

2:40:52: There are a few supports that are needed, both supports on the young adult side and on agency side. For young adults, a few that I’ll list are young people need supportive environments, this can be living environment, community environment, school environment. And if they are engaged in child welfare, how can systems help change that structure so that they are more supportive and foster healing. 

2:41:22: Some concrete supports that can be in place as Michele mentioned, supporting those natural connections…ultimately systems are accountable to lawmakers and stakeholders and the general public and can be rather hesitant to be liable for any risky behaviors that young people take, but in order for those natural connections to be uplifted and fostered, there is a level of risk that the agency must be willing to take. So supporting those natural connections, allowing funding to be used to support those natural connections is another support that is needed. 

2:42:13: On the agency side, in order for healing to be fostered, honestly taking a step back and thinking of our own development and transition into adulthood and lessons that we’ve learned ourselves, and some bumps along the way and giving that grace to young people because there does need to be a healthy blend of accountability and responsibility, but without the ability to take risks it blurs those lines. 

2:42:52: Sixto Canel

2:42:56: When I think about what do you need as an individual, sometimes it first you need language to describe what you’re going through. I remember as a younger teenager, hearing from some folks that had been through some of the same experiences that I had been through, and being able to hear how they described feelings, ambiguous loss, and so forth. And so being able to name it, and also being able to figure out how to cope with stuff. It’s the number one question that we get whenever we engage young people on a panel, a conference, is how did you cope through these things? 

2:43:29: From a system point, what I would say is that we need a system to re-architect itself in a way that it’s not causing some of this trauma. Imagine that you have been removed from your home, but then you’re placed in a different home, you’re told that you’re part of the family, you’re told that you’re loved, you’re told that you’re in a safe place, but then what ends up happening when you don’t fit in or it’s not working out or you do something that may be a result of your untreated trauma, and you’re on to the next place. And what does that psychologically do to someone who has experiences that over and over and over and over and over. 

2:44:08: So, when I think about the system, there are some common themes that we experience in it that is a result of that trauma. And I also think about this from the perspective of, we’re not getting enough healing opportunities within the system. 

2:44:23: So, we did a participatory research study where we had 209 young people and supportive adults and staff interviewed in five jurisdictions. We realized that those who had aged out could identify adults who were in their lives who they were connected to, but yet when we started to dig into do you think you can rely on them for x, y, and z, we saw that those who had already aged out had said no. When we backed up to the earlier teens, they still had the ability to say oh, yes, I can ask some of these supportive adults in my life for help. 

2:45:00: What we realized when we started to track the journey is that your social worker, your independent living coordinator, started to become anchor points in your life that when stuff started to hit the fan in your life, you would go to them…and it’s good that those types of supports were provided by a paid professional, but the tradeoff was that we then didn’t build the relationship with the nonpaid people in your life, and you didn’t get enough practice of being able to rely on some of those relationships, taking some of those true bonding moments away. 

2:45:38: So, when we talk about healing, the trauma here in foster care is so rooted in relationships. It is the trauma that we all have in common. Something happened where we are no longer connected to wherever we were removed from and now we’re in a different place. Some of the healing is rooted in being in a relationship with people who can be connected with us, but by default the dynamics between myself and my peers and someone who is in a paid professional role is one where there is an end date. 

2:46:10: And so how can we actually start to re-architect a bit of this system to be able to go ahead and naturally create moments of connections with people who are going to be there life long, and that help you inch towards the healing that we need. But the system is literally not setup to do that. 

2:46:29: Rashaun Bennett

2:46:38: What specific systemic either practices or policies have you found to be helpful when working with youth aging out of foster care? And after you answer that, I’m going to turn it over to Michele to give a more local, programmatic perspective. 

2:46:52: Sixto Canel 

2:46:55: So over the last fifteen months, we have been able to connect with over 38,000 young people where they have submitted different types of applications, complaint forms to us, and we have delegated that to 44 states. In the process of being able to connect that much data, what we’ve learned that the first thing we need to be doing for folks who age out is ensure that they’re not going into fight or flight mode because they’re housing has been jeopardized. That we are able to actually support folks in meeting their basic needs. In some places, states are cutting checks and being able to say, OK, this is your monthly allowance. And that is a policy that we see. But some places like Indiana, and I don’t mean to call Indiana out, but I will today, you as a transitioning out young person who is above the age of 18, it’s still going to the mall with a worker. We heard a young person say, I haven’t bought new underwear since high school because I don’t want to buy it with my worker. 

2:47:53: So, how do we get to develop certain skillsets if we don’t even have the mechanisms to practice. In a state that has a policy where it’s about reimbursable receipts…it’s not setup to give you the steppingstones to be able to develop. And when you don’t have those developmental opportunities, your sense of self and your self-worth and how you’re able to build your self-esteem, how can you do that when you’re being treated as such an other ism. 

2:48:24: So, the other ism of being in the system and the bureaucracy that dictates our life, puts us in a corner where system-induced trauma is occurring. So for me, when I think about this and what policies are useful, are the policies that enable us to have a healthy risk-taking opportunities to be able to afford an apartment, mess up with money, that is part of the process people, we all have done it. To be able to go ahead and have those things. 

2:48:56: Third, one of the projects that we’re doing in Washington is called the Office of Adolescence, we’ve been co-designing this office there with the state, and how might we move away from serving the label of foster care, juvenile rehab, juvenile justice and so forth, and how might we actually look at what is the untreated trauma that is present and that needs to move forward. What are the gaps that are there, so if you are in foster care, we can probably make the assumption that there is some work to be done around parental figures and parental relationships. 

2:49:31: Instead of saying, here are the labels I’m going to serve, how might we truly understand how we might start to serve, I fear to say the word, risk factors, but the factors that are a result of some of the traumas that we have experienced. 

2:50:07: Michele Grimes 

2:50:29: I want to call out a couple of things that are working currently and youth guidance that are hopefully pointing us in the right direction. One of them is, we have a really essential and possibly unique, but I’m not sure, program that is fully funded by DCFS where we have master’s level mental health counselors and social workers who are counselors and educational mentors as a hybrid together. This is one of the programs that I oversee currently, and they work specifically in schools with young people who are in the care of DCFS to provide some school setting level mental health services as well as academic coaching and mentoring and guiding and supporting.

2:51:47: I think that program represents to me a lot what needs to be done on the ground level, just finding a way to continue integrating our systems so we don’t just have a school system and a DCFS system, but so that they talk to each other and there’s some mutual support there. 

2:52:05: Along side that, Youth Guidance has a workforce program, Youth Guidance mostly works with middle school and high-school aged young people, but we have a workforce program that goes through age 24 and that exists to be able to continue providing services past that high school graduation date. So the academic counseling and mentoring program feeds right into our workforce program and hopefully creates some consistency and stability in support systems around college and career readiness, and independent living readiness, which circles back to one of my initial points of consistency of relationships that is important, and that we’re not just handing young people off from this person to this person. 

2:53:07: Rashaun Bennett

2:53:40: As we emerge from the pandemic, in this space, trying to get folks trauma-informed, trying to build our best practices for people emerging from the child welfare system, what recommendations do you have for the folks in the audience who work with this population and care deeply about it, who are policymakers. What would you tell them? 

2:54:00: Jas Snell

2:54:06: I will say that the pandemic has shown us that literally anything is possible, we are able to go on untraditional routes. Why we hadn’t considered them beforehand, I’m not sure, but it showed us what we’re able to do. And when it comes to serving young people and families equitably, the sky is the limit. We are able to revise programs and how we serve folks to meet exactly what they’re needs are. So the pandemic itself, I’m sad it took a pandemic, but a big lesson that came out is that there is flexibility, and there were risks with a lot of the measures that had to be taken during the pandemic, but we still navigated through it. 

2:54:48: Just remembering that because young people need a sense of self determination and agency and the way the system is currently structured it’s just not supported for all young adults, only a select few. That would be my key takeaway.

2:55:07: Tim Grove 

2:55:18: The argument that we make to policymakers all of the time is basically a human capital argument, and there are a couple of ways to think about this. A lot of people in this space may not be familiar with some studies out of New Zealand called the Dunedin Study…they’ve done a remarkable job of keeping a longitudinal cohort and one of there core conclusions that I suspect this audience will appreciate it is self-regulation is one of the key recipes to human capital. 

2:55:58: For people who know quite a bit about trauma, that makes quite a bit of sense. The other argument we make is we’ve got to find a way, we say all of the time, if only we could invest in our systems that support youth in the same way we invest in the entertainers in our society. When you look at our infatuation with athletes, actors, etc., it’s interesting, could we not find a way to put that kind of money, resource, and priority into helping our youth? It won’t solve all of the problems, but it sure might help quite a bit. 

2:56:51: Rashaun Bennett

2:57:17: Any recommendations as we emerge from the pandemic on improving the space?

2:57:27: Sixto Canel

2:57:31: Don’t be anybody’s savior. I really want to lean into this one. I think it’s a very tough time and I think in the moments where we get into these emergency situations and it’s a long, almost two-years now, I’ve seen some of our young people engaging with folks in a way where those boundaries are not what they used to be. It’s not fair to a young person and it’s not fair to the people on the front line. How do you enable someone to be able to go on that healing journey and support them and I think that is so critical in this very moment to lean into. 


2:58:16: Rashaun Bennett

2:58:43: The question is, what are some of the intrinsic and basic strengths that folks who have these experiences might have? 

2:58:58: Sixto Canel

2:59:00: I think one of the most interesting things happened. When we put out our cash grant opportunity and asked young people, we had gotten a bucket of money during the pandemic (Sixto shares his screen to show an image from his presentation) and what we were able to do with that was get applications from all of the country. We literally got 27,000 applications from current and former foster youth. 

2:59:30: One of the most interesting things when it comes down to resilience, you saw all of these things that they were asking for that were identified as needs, but the things that were top requests were help me get my resume together, help me get a bank account, and help me budget. 

2:59:50: And so, when you see a group of 27,000 folks from all over the country, what they all had in common was they said yes, I may be experiencing homelessness, I may be couch surfing, all of these things, I Just lost my job, but they saw the solution in being able to work and get a job. 

3:00:11: I thought that was so powerful because there is all of this narrative around, we need to support folks and they can’t do this or they can’t do that, but when it comes down to looking at it from a numerical standpoint, thousands of requests being about how I can help myself in a situation, I just think that is so wonderful and we have a responsibility to be responsive to that. 

3:01:05: Michele Grimes

3:01:08: Young people who have been in the foster care system know how to navigate systems in a way a general population 17-year-old probably has no idea of. How can we harness that knowledge and that understanding of how to navigate a system, how to strategically work to get what you need from someone, and how can we look at that as a strength rather than as a young person being “manipulative” or playing the system, or all of the negative phrases that get thrown out?  I think that gets missed a lot and it really could benefit and does benefit a lot of young people in entering the workforce and going into other systems, and already have an idea of how to read people and how to tell who is going to be your ally and who is not. That’s something that I would like to see more emphasis on, or training around how to utilize that strength. 

3:02:18: Tim Grove

3:02:25: So, resilience is a word that in my humble opinion gets thrown around a little carelessly sometimes and maybe without a full appreciation for what it means. But if I can quote another one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Bruce Perry who argues that experience is probably the major determinant of who we are and who we become. If you think about the youth of today and what they’ve experienced, it has been a lot. 

3:03:02: If you go back even 15 or 20 years, they have been thrown and dealt a world that is less than ideal, and I would argue is pretty unique in the course of human history. And what I see in response to that is an appreciation of it, but also this strong internal desire to work to make it better. 

3:04:34: Rashaun Bennett 

Rashaun leads a Q&A with the panel using audience member questions

3:04:45: What role can higher ed and community colleges play in helping with youth transition population? 

3:05:05: Sixto Canel

I think the intentional formation of relationships on campus with peers and some folks who are there to help navigate. 

3:05:25: At the core of all of these different evidence-based models, is relationships. That there are intentional activities around connecting folks who are in the program and with each other and to the university and to adults and so when I think about a system of healing, once place to heal is while you’re trying to navigate the system and if it wasn’t achieved there, there is also an opportunity at a community college or at a four-year college to be thinking through how you create intentional experiences that give language to trauma and that folks are able to swap how they’ve been able to cope and build those support networks with each other. 

3:06:11: Tim Grove

May I just add briefly, I want to give a shout out to CTIPP. We had been doing some work with some technical colleges in our areas…and the intersection of understanding resilience, adversity, trauma, healing, etc., is pretty intuitive to those facilities. There is a business argument for it, there’s a social argument for it, there’s a humanity argument for it. But I would argue that what it needed was someone like CTIPP to come along and be a bit of a coordinating glue so those different entities can connect with each other and share information. If we could get a collective increase of post-secondary retention by 10%, especially for folks who need it the most, that would be ginormous. 

3:07:45: Rashaun Bennett

Talking about prevention of substance use in programming, are there any specific models that you all have found that work? 

3:08:06: Michele Grimes

Youth Guidance doesn’t treat substance use specifically, but of course it comes up in working with young people. We will always aim to identify why the young person is using, why does it serve them, what purpose is it serving, such as whether it is helping them cope, helping them not feel some feelings that are difficult to feel and try to get at that and then of course provide appropriate referrals to more specific services when we need to do so. 

3:09:13: Tim Grove

The cutting edge of the neurobiology of trauma or addiction or misuse, we heard it referenced as the gateway drug to the criminal justice system, the real gateway drug earlier, there are some really remarkable information around the neurobiology of our stress response, well beyond it’s simply taught. It suggests that there is a profound functional chemical benefit to many drugs of abuse. That is not intended to enable or endorse problematic behavior, but I think generally speaking when you can approach an individual from that understanding it just frees up the conversation and the solutions. We get a little worried about sobriety exclusiveness programs if there isn’t a concurrence incidence of addressing mental health. 

3:11:59: Rashaun Bennett

Do any of the panelists have a vision of what an ideal trauma-informed, equitable, and youth-centered childcare center looks like compared to what exists today?

3:12:20: Sixto Canel

I think it’s one that is rooted in kin. And when kin is not possible there are some people who are called to do this work, to be fostering, there are some people who should not even spend a day fostering. But when you are called to do it, it’s amazing when that happens. One thing to pay attention to and I know have made this point over and over, but I’ll just make it one more time for good luck here, is how do we structure the system and how do we structure practices so that you’re intentionally having those healing moments?. We look at 10 to 15 years ago, folks were talking about we need to be data driven, now the conversation is starting to say, we need to be evidence driven. It’s not enough to just have data to be informed, and I kind of feel the same way with trauma. It’s not enough just to know about the trauma, but then how do you enable healing? How do you move to a system that is one where you are experiencing healing by the very structures of just being in the system? Right now, healing is happening in spite of the system, in spite of how you have to navigate the current experiences by being committed to that system. So, one where a system is truly rooted in how you have those healing experiences so that you can be able to thrive as an adult.

3:13:37: Tim Grove

The study I mentioned that we did a number of years ago was in a public-private partnership child welfare system, so we do half of that work in Milwaukee County…we are one of the few entities who just got removed from a federal class action lawsuit because the majority of the lawsuit settlement items criteria were met. Many in our system would point to the role of trauma-informed practice as not the exclusive but as a key contributor to that outcome. I talk about that from a data point of view. That work was published in the Journal of Child Custody a couple of years ago. I think the title is Child Responsive Child Welfare. 

3:15:49: Jas Snell

I would like to add that I do envision a system where othering doesn’t exist and we’re able to see whole individuals where there are and move from the replacement model that currently leads our child welfare system. I envision one that isn’t punitive and focuses more on restoration of family, communities, cultures, and even language. In comparison to where the system is today, we’re far from that and the main thing that sits at the forefront of my mind is how are current system practices and policies aligned with the vision that we have for children, families, and communities? If we’re not adequately serving everyone, there is misalignment. 

3:16:58: Rashaun Bennett

The next question we have is are there any models for youth peer-to-peer mental health support? 

3:17:17: Jas Snell

A model that is currently happening in Tennessee is through our state department of mental health and substance abuse services, they have rolled out a certified young adult peer support specialist (CYAPSS) program. I myself am a certified CYAPSS specialist, it’s an intensive 40 hour training, folks who have been on a journey of recovery, a mental health journey, or just some journey of healing, after undergoing the training and getting I believe 75 hours of work in the field experience, you’re qualified to then work alongside young adults who may also be on a journey of recovery, mental health, or some healing…in 2021 we were the first group to go through this training…I myself have grown as someone who lives with mental health issues, and to be able to provide sound, safe, and critical support to other young people, I feel that it is very impactful. 

3:19:02: Sixto Canel

Sixto dropped a link in the chat for MindRight program.  We’ve sent about 200 young people to this service and have tested it out and we’ve seen a ten-week retention and 73% response rate. This service provides a young person with two hours of mental health support coaching with two coaches who are college-aged…it’s two hours of mental health coaching every single day. It’s starting to gain…traction and insurance companies are even starting to reimburse for this type of service. 

3:19:57: Rashaun Bennett

For folks who want to get active in this work, what push back should they expect when trying to persuade foster care programs to adopt healing or trauma-informed approaches? 

3:20:10: Sixto Canel

Some of the biggest pushback that we’ve seen is that some of the activities won’t align to the line item budget that the programs are responsible for, especially if it is a federally funded contract that you’re getting federal funds for, where you have to account for things in a very hour-based way, literally the structure of the system makes it difficult for people to want to do the work. So, they have to do it in addition to.

3:20:45: Michele Grimes 

Funding is such a barrier, especially when these systems are dependent on state and federal funding. We need to find ways to diversify funding streams so that there are some private streams as well, so that there is some wiggle room for extra training. I think that is often the issue, there is not enough budgeted, not enough money coming publicly to provide the training that folks need on every level of the system to be trauma-informed…that’s an issue that comes up daily for me. 

3:22:43: Tim Grove

What we hear quite a bit about is the capacity of the people doing the work. When we try to approach with similar questions, how do we get foster care systems, child welfare systems, to a place of being trauma-response or informed, one of the biggest questions that we get back from administrators is what am I going to be asking of people, and what are you going to have me take away from what I’m currently asking of them now? I think there are constructive ways to make arguments around even from a data point of view or otherwise, there is an ounce of prevention, a pound of cure, there are some additional efforts, but it will definitely pay off in the end. 

3:23:57: The truth about those providing care right now is also worth putting on the table and trying to figure out how to solve that problem because it is a real problem. 

3:24:27: Rashaun Bennett

The question is how do we shift systems to be more restorative and healing at the local level when the system is burdened down by federal policy, regulation, and funding?

3:24:58: Tim Grove

One of the opportunities over the past couple of years is the appreciation and understanding of overwhelming stress and trauma is probably at its apex for all sort of obvious reasons…this is a plug to CTIPP, there is a unique opportunity to leverage the upside to that because there is so much downside, to say how do we as a community become resilient. How do we solve and address these problems at the community level? We would love to have communities get to the place where they are so healthy that these systems don’t exist or the need for them is scaled way back. I think we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to leverage this experience that we’ve all been through to say, let’s address this problem in a real forthright and fundamental way. 

3:26:40: Sixto Canel

As we leave here, I think there are a couple of things that I would center. Number one, I would center the idea that we haven’t discovered all of the interventions that are needed. At one point you would go to a therapist for anger management, and now there are anger management 12 step courses and people have figured out how to package those. I think we haven’t figured out all of the interventions and therapeutic programs that could be created for the common but unique experience that young people have in foster care. 

3:27:13: The second thing I feel every single action that we take should be driving towards how do we ensure that young people are loved past this contractual agreement, past this licensing standard? How do we actually help a young person find family and find love? And then, the supports that are required to make that love go even further because you have the right supports. Those are the two things that I would just leave everybody with, center those two things as we go forward. 

3:30:16: Amber Goodrich, Youth Villages, New Hampshire 

3:30:19: My name is Amber Goodrich, and I am 23 years old and I’m from New Hampshire. I was born in Mammoth Massachusetts as the youngest child of three. I lost my father at a very young age, leaving me with my mother who battled with addiction and untreated traumas, which created many mental health problems and left her incapable of caring for herself or her children.

3:30:38: I was placed in foster care when I was 11 years old, and I was moved around frequently, with any possible forever home returning me like I was a broken product they got from the store. 

3:30:48: As I grew older and got holder to place, I was eventually put in a residential facility for three years until I aged out of foster care. During my time in residential, I lived with 13 other girls where there was one staff member for every four girls, meaning we always had eyes on us. We would have to ask to use the bathroom and we have planned outside time. We were restricted to phone time, phone calls, and had limited access to the internet and we had a schedule made for us. Every single thing we did had a time limit attached. 

3:31:18: I had no control and limited real-life opportunities to learn from. When I aged out of care, I transitioned to the college life where there was no one watching, no schedules, and no one I needed permission from. For the first time in my entire life, I could decide for myself, and I decided very wrong. 

3:31:36: I was unprepared for adulthood due to a lack of normalcy, independence, and consistency. While academically capable of goals, and going to college, I struggled to maintain balance between friends and responsibilities. I depended on my friends for the emotional support and guidance that most young people get from their families. I felt like I was a part of something when I partied with my friends, and I over attached myself because I didn’t have anyone else. 

3:32:01: In two months, I partied and drank enough to fail out of my classes and be asked to leave school. When I left college, I strongly believed that I would not be able to return or overall succeed in life, and that I would be stuck in a cycle of chaos and failure. I accepted this for almost two years before I hit absolute rock bottom. 

3:32:21: I was homeless, living out of my car, and staying with friends and I knew I wanted better for my life, but I didn’t know how to get there. One day I reached out to my after-care worker and she not only provided me with information for services regarding housing, food security, and after care programs, and college scholarships, but most importantly she gave me the reassurance that I too could be successful and happy regardless of my past. 

3:32:45: She had hope for me when I did not have it for myself. I was able to get a job and get back on my feet. I was able to get my own apartment, giving me some stability and security to think about my future. 

3:32:59: While I was stable, I wanted consistency and still lacked the confidence to want more for myself. I didn’t see my potential. And that’s where LifeSet, a program of Youth Villages came in for me. LifeSet eased me into the waters of being comfortable with my independence, being able to recover from minor setbacks, maintain my stability. 

3:33:17: LifeSet guided me to consistency with normalcy and independence by exploring my natural supports and resources in my community. It helped me with accountability for myself, to manage things like applying for college, scholarships, and job applications. I was able to get a job at NFI North where I once was in residential program at. 

3:33:40: I work with youth potentially facing the same challenges that I once did to help them find their voice to advocate for themselves. I was able to get back into college, now working on my social services degree and I’m in my third semester in hopes that one day I can make the same impact in others’ lives.

3:33:57: Most importantly, I have gained consistency in my life, and I have gained stability and hope for my future. I hope that all youth, and young adults over the age of sixteen who are involved in the child welfare system will have access to high quality services and programs like LifeSet as they can be so life changing. 

3:34:49: Karen Johnson

3:36:17: We learned a lot today. I heard many challenges, many things we have to confront, we still have to learn, we have to work to do differently and better. I also hear a lot of messages of hope. We’re in a unique time right now and there’s so much synergy and energy. Thank you to everyone. 

3:36:54: Denni Fishbein concludes the session. 





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