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Building the Movement Session 5: Serving Populations with High Prevalence of Trauma

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

Moderator: Jesse Kohler, Executive Director, CTIPP


  • 17:10: Historical Trauma and Racial Healing: Ingrid Cockren, PACEs Connection CEO

  • 31:25: Veterans and Military Families; Captain Joshua Strait, DO, FAAP, CAPT, USAF,

  • MC, Developmental Behavioral Pediatric Fellow 51:40: Resilient Leaders Initiative: A Social Accelerator in Rural Communities

    • Vichi Jagananthan (Rural Opportunity Institute (ROI), Co-Founder)

    • Eulanda Thorne (Program Manager, Public School Forum of NC, ROI Community Board Member)

  • 1:12:41: Violence Interruption - Work in Communities with Highest Rates of Gun Violence in NYC: K Bain, Founder & Executive Director, Community Capacity Development

  • 1:41:51: Mindfulness Strategies for children with exposure to trauma in low-income urban schools and communities: Ali Smith, Co-Founder, Holistic Life Foundation

  • 2:01:37: Native American/Historical Context: Tami De Coteau, Ph.D.

  • 2:22:35: Incarcerated Women: The Persistence of Trauma: Susan J. Rose, Ph.D., and Thomas P. LeBel, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


12:37: Dan Press, CTIPP

12:55: I just wanted to share my own personal experience. Getting out of law school, I spent four years on the lands of the Navajo people as a legal services attorney, and the last 50 years after that as an attorney for tribes representing tribes all over the country, from the Everglades all the way up to Barrow Alaska. 

13:16: The two lessons I want to offer from those 50 years of experience is the devastating affect historical trauma has had on Native American communities, the high suicide rates, the high substance abuse rates, and the high obesity and diabetes rates. Secondly, is the vital culture that has managed to survive and even thrive despite the four centuries of genocide. 

13:53: The work that all of us are doing, all over the country, to address trauma, can help the Native communities and all the other communities that have suffered historical trauma and childhood trauma. 

14:40: Jesse Kohler, CTIPP

17:10: Ingrid Cockren, CEO, PACEs Connection

Historical Trauma and Racial Healing

17:29: What we’re going to talk about today is a very important topic that I always like to give a bit of a disclaimer whenever we’re going to talk about race or historical trauma just because these types of topics are generally polarizing in our society. So, I definitely want to put out there that this is informational, this is not meant to be harming in anyway, and I definitely want everyone to have an open mind and be open to our discussions today. 

18:20: Just to give some background about my organization, PACEs Connection is a social network that is dedicated to the five tenets of PACEs Science, so epidemiology, the impact that trauma has on the brain and on the body, on our DNA or epigenetics, and of course, resilience. 

18:40: We really focus on supporting communities. Again, we are a social network built to support communities to solve their most intractable problems. Currently, we have over 430 communities represented on our site…and we just hit 55,000 members this week. 

19:05: As I’m newly taking over the helm of executive director, we’re really focused on in the coming years is equity and healing center practices, and definitely increasing the awareness of historical and collective trauma, and this visual provided by one of our communities in North Carolina (Ingrid shares an image on a slide), is a great way to visualize ACEs and trauma beyond what we would normally focus on, which are individual ACEs. 

19:40: We want to begin to have a clear understanding of collective trauma and how those collective traumas can then become historical trauma as they are passed on through generations through a process called Intergenerational Transmission. 

20:14: When we look at historical trauma, the term itself, it’s really what we call intergenerational transmission of trauma. However, it is more likely to occur in groups that are defined by cultural delineation like race or nationality. 

20:33: The term itself in the 80s by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart, who is a Native American social worker, and is defined as a “cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma”. Dr. Braveheart also says that it is accompanied by what we call Historical Unresolved Grief.

21:02: This is a presentation that I’ve been giving since about 2015, when I first started. I would give this presentation and people would get up and leave the room…but I have noticed that since 2020, people have been a lot more interested in this phenomenon known as historical trauma. 

21:25: Here you’ll see the that the groups most impacted are: Indigenous or Native American, African Americans specifically those who are descendants of American slavery, individuals living in generational poverty, members of the LGBTQI community, refugees, survivors of natural disasters and other widespread traumatic events, obviously children and adolescents because their age increases their vulnerability, war veterans, and then Latino and Muslim Americans. 

22:00: I have an asterisk near them because their historical trauma may be connected to more recent events like 9/11 or the discussion of immigration in our political spheres. 

22:22: So as you look at this list, definitely think about what intersectionality looks like. So, refugees of color, LGBTQI youth and adolescents. When you have intersectionality between these groups, it increases their vulnerability. 

22:44: Ingrid reviews a slide showing a list of historical trauma symptoms. 

23:15: Some of these are controversial, especially as we relate these topics to issues of race and issues of nationality, or ethnicity. The reason why this is the case is because we live in a country where we have pushed ourselves into a corner in the way that we talk about race and historical trauma. We have been duped into this understanding that genetic race is a real thing, and it is not. So, because we are so race-focused in America, we are unable to have real conversations about race and ethnicity when it comes to these issues. And often, we are in the space of blaming the victim. 

24:04:  Racism is a real problem in America. It is deeply embedded in our history and the way that we look at the issue will allow us to have more effective ways of resolving those issues. And so, racism and xenophobia in America are systemic issues and thus must have systemic solutions. 

24:30:  Ingrid shows a slide, depicting a visual image of the Interacting Layers of Trauma.

The Rise Center out of California has done a great job of helping us to visualize what it would mean to address issues of historical trauma within our work. 

25:00: We tend to focus on the individual and interpersonal level. This is where individual ACEs occur. Also, this is where generational transmission as we deal with work with families and the parent, child interactions or caregiver, child interactions. 

25:19: This visual helps us to see that we are impacted at a systemic level and when we look at the systems that are impacting our development as human beings, we must consider neighborhoods, communities, institutions, and definitely our history and legacy in the structure of our environment. 

25:47: When we do this, this is what we would call a social ecological model, this is based on Bronfenbrenner’s work, he’s a child psychologist who really began our basic understanding that children development within systems, not just homes, but again, neighborhoods, schools, institutions, and their lives are impacted by issues of policy and definitely our overall, what we would call the macro-system that houses our believes and values. 

26:20: Obviously these issues are closely tied to identity and in my work with PACEs Connection I have definitely pushed us forward in our understanding of how we address ACEs beyond just our blanket strategy of all children, all families. The truth is that because of historical trauma, we have to have different strategies based on groups that have experienced high levels of trauma if we want to be equitable. 

26:56: So, all families, all children as a strategy is not exactly equity, it is equality. Equity means that we are basically giving more resources and attention and higher-level interventions to groups and families who have long been underserved and under resourced because of racism and other systemic issues. 

27:20: As you look on the other side of this visual where it says liberation and healing, this is where all of our work should reside. At the individual level, we need to honor the resilience and fortitude of individuals and families. At the community level, we need to build beloved community. This is extremely important because when we think about community work, here in lies where we do the most work. 

27:49: One of the interventions that’s listed under Build Beloved Community is radical inquiry, and this is what we’re engaging in today. This is making sure that everyone understands how systems work and how they are impacting us. 

28:04: If I give an example of an individual child that is living in a neighborhood that is mostly African American who may be experiencing high levels of gun violence in their neighborhood, who may be experiencing high levels of poverty, and looks around their neighborhood and sees that the majority of their neighborhood looks like them, a child will see this and believe the messages from the larger society, which is that the reason for this environmental distress or atmospheric distress, it’s because my skin is Black or Brown. And that’s not the truth. The truth is that the reason why some neighborhoods are impacted by higher levels of violence or poverty is directly related to policy, and decision-making, and the structure of the country that we live in. 

28:58: Policies like red lining and issues of housing discrimination are more likely to be the reason why certain neighborhoods look the way that they do. If we let this child believe that their skin color is the reason why their neighborhoods are reflected in this way, then we will then seed poor racial identity development in that child. 

29:20: What this means is that we need to engage in radical inquiry so there is an understanding of how systems are in play, that racism is shaping our country, that racism is impacting our health outcomes, that racism is impacting our educational outcomes, and that this needs to be something that everyone is aware of so that we can actually address racism as oppose to having a narrative that everyone has the same potential to succeed in this country. 

30:55: Jesse Kohler, CTIPP

31:25: Captain Joshua Strait, DO, FAAP, CAPT, USAF, MC, Developmental Behavioral Pediatric Fellow - Veterans and Military Families

31:30: As far as a disclaimer goes, I just need to say that my perspective, my views, don’t represent that of the United States military any branch therein, or the Department of Defense.

31:41: I really enjoy my job working as an active-duty officer in the United States military. I work at Madigan Army Medical Center in the state of Washington. My specialty is in development behavioral pediatrics.

32:04: My work, my passion for building resilience in families helped gravitate towards this field. I work mainly with families with children with special needs. 

33:25: What I’ve understood in my practice and since really engrossing myself in ACEs science and resilience is that we understand then we events happen, it alters the brain, the way that it’s connected, it alters a child’s ability to attach to another human being, it alters their perception of themselves, and the world around them. 

34:02: Everyone one of us as human beings, we need stable relationships. We need a family. We need connection. We need healthy touch. We need to feel like we can be safe, we can be respected, and that we belong as part of this human family, and whether it’s our gender, our religion, our race, or our age, or whatever else it is, it is not a disqualifier from being part of this important human experience. 

34:31: In my practice, and I want to give examples of what it’s like to work with military families. I want to focus on a strength-based approach, so helping a family understand, let’s build up particular events and connections and things that can really help your child and your family continue to move forward. 

34:50: As many of you are familiar with, military families are at high-risk for stress that can lead to toxic stress, high-risk for divorce, high-risk for mental illness in the home, high-risk for abuse, particularly around times of deployment, either before or after deployment, and obviously for mental illness in the home, if one parent or both parents suffer from PTSD.

35:13: What we also understand from recent data is that a lot of those who join the military are likely to have a history of ACEs and we don’t know exactly the explanation but it just calls to reason that perhaps those who have experienced traumatic stress gravitate towards something like the military that can provide them this opportunity to receive an education, to travel, to receive extra experiences, to have health insurance, and to have something that they know can provide for their family. 

35:44: Every family I meet with, I understand they are already at higher risk for having experienced a dysfunctional childhood themselves and it helps me with fostering a lens of compassion in any conversation that I have them.

36:01: One thing I want to focus on too, is systems…perpetuate trauma. That is in the world of medicine and it’s in the world of military. Sometimes I feel like the systems we have to operate in foster a sense of disconnection so the way they’re employed increases disconnection.

36:42: I found that being trauma-informed is not so much about doing, but it’s about fostering a human connection and engaging a family where they can actually engage their personal tools and their skills to be able to heal and go through a grieving process and move forward, ultimately teaching that child that principle of adaptability and resilience and bouncing back.

37:26: I’m hopeful that more and more leaders within the military are realizing that the ultimate mission is the families that we are seeking to serve. If we can build up each and every family, we increase our national defenses, we increase our health, our prosperity, and happiness, and thriving and adaptability. 

37:49: I also feel like that’s part of my role, is acknowledging the sometimes incredibly challenging tension caregivers in the military have to hold in their duties to the United States military and also at home with their families and recognizing that the most important work that they will ever do is within the walls of their own home and as I employ that in my conversations, I feel fortunate enough to have experienced this softening of a weight on some of these families shoulders. 

38:30: Captain Strait provides examples of his work with patients. 

38:33: The first one, is not a patient of mine, he is a gentleman who I actually met at an airport, not even working in the same military installation that I’m working at, but he was on his way home to his wife who was critically ill. They had been apart for almost three years now because of his duty, because of his mission, he was called to a particular area to focus on training other soldiers, he opened up to me about the stress that he’s under. He hadn’t slept for three days to try to get permission from his commander to travel to his critically ill wife. He told me that about two years prior his wife had had a miscarriage and they wouldn’t let him go be with her and again, almost full-term pregnancy and he was ready to leave in a month or two, and they wouldn’t let him go and she was very depressed obviously and grieving the loss of their expectant child. He told me it was him having to have a breakdown and becoming incredibly angry, where they’re like OK, take 30 days, you go ahead and go down. 

39:43: This prompted in me again this idea of mission. What’s the most important thing. He taught them and he taught me as well as we nurture the people, the men and women in the systems that we operate in, we nurture their need for human connection and their stable family relationships, then the job is going to get done. But if we neglect that, then not only is the job not going to do get done, but they are going to suffer and it’s going to take awhile to recover. 

40:50: There is a family that I work with where I work with three of the children. They all have special needs and one of which is incredibly medically complex and has multiple reasons for the family to be strained as far as visiting medical care often, emergency room, sub-specialists such as myself. But the family dynamic was such that what was happening was not working. Both parents were active-duty military and thankfully because of extended family, a family member was able to come and live with them to help take care of the children. But while they’re away at deployments and trainings this caregiver would focus on these, there was a total of four children, three with special needs, and she herself needed emergent surgery. Not to make a very important story too long, but the commander would not let the father take time off work to take care of the kids and spot his wife so she can visit the caregiver in the hospital. They refused to let him. Thankfully the mother’s command understood and said yes, you can go home and be with your children. She was out for three days in the hospital after emergent surgery but as soon as she got out, she had to go right back to taking care of these children and the parents had to go right back to work. 

42:13: What I noticed on physical exam when I looked at two of those three children, they had severe tooth decay and it was to the level where I needed to make a report, there were abscesses and rotting teeth coming out. Even though they had a seen a dentist about a year, year and a half earlier…this was evidence that I needed to tell the caregiver and the father that things are not working right now and I’m going to get more help. In the military, particularly in my installation, we have something called the MCHATs, or the Military Child Health Advocacy Teams, where they involve something called family advocacy, and they contact CPS, and they bring in a social worker. My approach is this is something that is not working, but I’m going to help get other people involved and build skills within the family. 

43:08: What I didn’t understand was that this father had had CPS called on them when they were children, and he was put in foster care. So, when I had this conversation in triggered something inside of him. He does have a history of PTSD both from the military but also in childhood where he suffered significant physical abuse, he later told me. That me even having this conversation triggered this thought, I am that horrible father like my father was, is this doctor accusing me of neglecting my children, like my father neglected and beat me. 

43:43: Thankfully we had a very meaningful discussion where right now, due to the systems that we operate in and your command not being compassionate and not understanding the true priority of your family’s health, we need to get other people involved. This team, thankfully, is able to actually interact with the military, with command, and say look, this is what is happening, and of course then I was able to plug these kids into resources which sometimes is needed, but not always. 

44:13: Because in my practice, I find the most important thing that I can do for that family is help them access the resources they already have in place. And if they don’t, I can make suggestions. Can I offer you a suggestion? And I do it in such a way that I’m not telling them what to do, but I’ve learned the most important thing is to say, have you considered this? 

44:33: Some of the families I work with find that attending a religious organization, whether it’s a church, a synagogue, a temple, or a mosque, can really help with a sense of purpose in the family and a means of communication and connection with others around them, and a spiritual endeavor, a spiritual help that is vital for all human beings. I’ll even say, have you considered joining the YMCAs so the family can regularly exercise together and support children in basketball or swimming because I understand in the back of my mind and in the training that I have a received that a family that is more connected to others is more likely to back bounce from setbacks. 

45:14: The next patient that I want to discuss…I will never forget him, unfortunately they had to, we call it PCS so they had to move to a different station, but when I first met him, he almost seemed psychotic because of his behavior. But when I was able to through a trauma-informed approach, understand what was going on in the home environment where both parents, prior active-duty, had significant PTSD from being deployed to conflict, and he was a difficult child, he had a difficult temperament which increased the strain within the home. When we could get to the foundation and the explanation for these natural reactions to abnormal circumstances then I was able to help them understand that you’re not a bad parent, he’s not a bad son, and plug them in with the resource we call FOCUS, Families Overcoming Stress, which is one of my favorite resources where we have a non-medically based group of volunteers, some social workers, and educators and others who are willing to sit down with parents, however many sessions they need to talk about conflict resolution and communication and how to overcome stress. 

46:23: From when I first met this child to about a year later, I got to get to him because he would communicate. He was bright, he made eye contact, and he was happy and cheerful. And mom, at one point, actually had tears in her eyes, saying we needed help and I’m so grateful that we go the help. That to me is a reminder that when I could have easily just diagnosed this child with something and given a medication and said see you in six months, good luck, could that really have helped the child, I don’t know. But what I do now is that through the trauma-informed approach to this high-risk family, and already being in the military with a history of trauma themselves, that child was able to receive extra connection in their home and feel loved because their parents also got help for their PTSD. 

48:47: I also recognize that in the military, we have a very diverse population of men and women and when I work with families of color, I make a point of it, to point out that I acknowledge that you, if you want to be a doctor, you can be a doctor, and praise them for who they are because I recognize that they system I operate in and the nation, and me being a privileged white person, it’s not as easy for people of color to recognize that if I want to be a doctor, I can be a doctor. I want to inspire that in these families that it’s OK for them to dream to become president or be a doctor…and acknowledge the impact that racism is either currently having on that family or has had in the past. 

49:26: As I have my conversations about ACEs with them, I incorporate racism as something that can alter how someone feels about themselves or the world around them. 

49:41: My approach, and whether I’m working in a civilian hospital or the military, I always counsel families on the importance of HEART, it’s an acronym that I’ve grown fond of where if you hug a child, you engage them, you ask questions, you read to them, you talk to them, when you incorporate those things, you’re building a sense of resilience from day one. Where they can touch you, and feel you, and smell you and see your eyes, and as they get older, they know it's OK for dad and mom to ask questions, how are you feeling today? How was school? Do you feel safe? And being comfortable with talking about sex and peer pressure and those things as they get older. And it is OK to talk about feelings because yes, sometimes I’m angry, too. Sometimes it’s hard and acknowledging those feelings and experiences. 

50:26: There’s a book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens, by Dr. Ken Ginsberg and he gives 7 C’s of resilience. If we can help every military family and every child recognize that if they gain a sense of competence, confidence, connection, character, coping skills, contribution, and control, then ultimately that family can bounce back from anything. 

51:40: Vichi Jagananthan, ROI, & Eulanda Thorne, Public School Forum of NC

Resilient Leaders Initiative: A Social Accelerator in Rural Communities 

52:24: Vichi Jagananthan

I’m one of the co-founders of Rural Opportunity Institute, and we are a small organization based in Eastern North Carolina…that seeks to support youth, organizations, and communities in rural North Carolina to interrupt the cycle of generational trauma and design innovative solutions for healing and resilience. 

52:43: Our goal here is not only to create trauma-informed solutions that work in rural communities, but to also be able to build a knowledge base of things that we can share with other people so that other places that face similar challenges can also learn from the work that we’re doing and hopefully we can learn from you all. 

53:23: We are based in Edgecombe County, which is a rural community in North Carolina, and I’m not originally from there, I moved to the area in 2017 to start ROI, I had been there previously as a high school teacher, and upon arrival have just been entirely struck by the strength and resilience of the region. We heard earlier about historical trauma and I think eastern North Carolina is an incredible example of historical resilience. 

53:49: To give you a couple of data points, it is home to a town called Princeville, which was the first town in America incorporated by freed slaves after the Civil War. Martin Luther King came to Rocky Mount…to give his “I have a Dream” speech before giving it in Washington. And since then, there has been a long legacy of people continuing to fight for and uphold civil rights and other types of movements. 

54:19: And yet at the same time, we do struggle from a lot of long-lasting disparities that stem from trauma. And so, when we first started our organization, a lot of different community members named that they wanted to understand ways that we might be able to heal from a lot of that generational and historical trauma. 

54:40: In order to dig into that, we did a community-based systems mapping process…basically to help people disentangle all of the different forces that contribute to trauma. We did activities, we built this map, and ultimately arrived at this shared idea of all of the different things in our community that contribute. 

55:03: What we wanted to do was figure out, given all of that where do we start and what do we do about it? So, we did this process called leverage where you look across a system and say where is there already energy for change, where is the opportunity for ripple effects, and for our specific context where does it make sense to intervene first. 

55:22: Out of that exercise, we arrived at a three-part strategy for how our community can arrive at the reality that people wanted to see. The first part of that strategy was learning, specifically building awareness in as many places as possible, of what trauma is, how to respond, resilience-based tools, the second part was healing, so taking that knowledge and translating it into policies and practices within existing organizations and institutions that move away from punishment and towards healing, and then finally supporting people as they are on the pathway to healing, to staying connected to opportunities for school, work, and wealth-building, with the vision of long-term, that those who have experienced trauma and healed become the people who are in the position to provide healing to others. 

56:20: The first part of that is the community board that we formed to govern that learning part of the work. 

56:32: Eulanda Thorne

56:41: I’m here in Wilson, NC, I worked 14 years in the public school system as a public school teacher, and then four years as a school counselor. Currently I’m employed as a program manager of the North Carolina Resilience and Learning Project, which is a whole school, whole child framework, working with districts across the state to create trauma-informed learning environments that are safe mentally, emotionally, and physically for all children. 

57:12: Specifically, I’m here today as a board member for the Rural Opportunity Institute…we pride ourselves in how our community board was formed and what we represent. 

57:58: Our process was an open nomination process, which was very important to us. Our Community Board Members are representative of the community. We like to refer to it as maybe a cohort of community members who are speaking from a residence perspective. 

58:20: Our purpose is to hold the entire organization accountable for building trauma-informed resilient eastern North Carolina. And again, that is so important because we have been able to reach more people, and be more impactful and reach a true diverse, all inclusive population of people by the way we formed our Community Board.

58:44: For example, when we go out into the community, and there is a single mom who is pregnant and going through trauma, we have someone like that on our Community Board. They are real-life people who are probably immersed in some trauma themselves. Regardless of your background, you can be on the community board. We found that when we’re working on community issues and we leave community out of that, we’re going to be very productive because we need to model what we’re saying we represent.

59:23: A really brief example, I was a school counselor at the time I was nominated to be a Community Board member. I was blown away…I was a school counselor, and you want me to be on this board? I was informed that ROI sent out a mass email, they had maybe 180 to 200 emails of community members. They sent out this mass email, we’re looking to build our Community Board and who would you like to nominate? It could be the grocery store clerk who everybody knows in the town, who greets everybody when they come into the grocery store. 

1:00:23: Part of what the Community Board has also done, we’ve partnered with an amazing organization called Resources for Resilience. We have a program that we call REAP, which stands for Resilience Educator Apprenticeship Program. Community members are able to have a two-day training where they are learning trauma-informed practices and the brain science behind trauma and resilience. After attending that two-day training, they have an opportunity to go to a four-day intensive train the trainer program and become a resiliency educator. 

1:01:03: At the time, I was a school counselor, but I also was a resilience educator and we learned great tools that we share with the community about how to heal and how to reset your nervous system. I can do a whole session on whole impactful that is and how important it is to let people know that we are wired for connection and let people know that we you go through a traumatic event, how you respond is normal, because of the way the brain science is. 

1:01:35: We start our Community Board meetings with grounding activities. A lot of our Community Board Members are trained in resilience, we all ground together before we dive into community business. We are modeling what we’re sharing out with the community. After we ground together, we usually start every meeting with a connection activity. We want to connect. We have this model of learn, heal, and connect and so we model that in our Community Board Meetings. 

1:02:24: My concept that I’m trying to convey to you all is that our Community Board has been extremely instrumental in how this is progressing throughout the community. We had 23 local leaders who have been certified as resilience educators and we lead these trainings, we’re still growing, and this slide is just showing you a snapshot of the knowledge building impact. We have literally reached over 13,000 members of the community since January 2020. 

1:02:55: Not only am I a board member, I can speak to the impact that the way this whole system is setup, how it grows people and it grows the community. At that time, I was a school counselor, since then through my partnership with ROI and the Board, I landed my job as the program manager with Eastern North Carolina for Trauma & Resiliency because of the connections we make and how much this impacted me. 

1:03:40: Vichi Jagananthan

1:03:42: Through the guidance of the Board, really pushed us to understand which parts of the community to train, how to message the training, how to get people in. We’ve been able to reach a lot of community members and what people started to say is that the knowledge is helpful, but now we want to know when I go back to my organization and my job, how do I infuse this into the way that we are with people? Because people start to see through a totally different lens.

1:04:08: Now I go back to my job as an educator, as a police officer, and I’m realizing all of the ways that we are continuing to perpetuate some of the patterns of trauma that have been here for a long time. So that led us to work with a subgroup of the people in the training that we called a design insight group, to design a program that would help us understand how it is that we might support organizations to start to embody some of the practices that we learn in this training at a more structural level.

1:04:40: That program is called the Resilient Leaders Initiative. The goal is really to infuse inside institutions these healing practices. 

1:05:00: Vichi shares a slide highlighting programs that Resilient Leaders Initiative was modeled after. 

1:05:37: Our goal in building this was to take some of the best parts of those programs, but channel towards addressing historical trauma within public institutions, not startups, and in rural North Carolina. 

1:05:51: We ran one cohort last year and are ready to start a second one this year. Last year we supported five organizations, and the same will be true this year, to work through a nine-month process of implementing and testing out new practices, and what people go through is a first phase of focusing on framing the problem and a lot of that is understanding in their context who are the people that they serve and how is it that their organization may be perpetuating trauma but also what are the bright spots where they may be creating opportunities for healing. 

1:06:33: And then we spend a second phase trying to figure out the right solutions. So, rather than jumping to, oh we have a discipline problem in our school, I read this thing, let’s implement that. Instead, we spend more time generating what’s the whole landscape of solutions and how do we test a bunch of them and see what actually works well for us. 

1:06:53: Often times, the best solutions aren’t designed for the constraints of communities like ours, which is probably true for many of you, so it’s hard, you’re retrofitting some of this stuff to an environment that it was never designed 1for. Instead, we’re encouraging people to think through how we might adapt or reconstruct some of these solutions for our context. At the end of that, teams arrive a hypothesis or plan for what they want to take forward and sustain within the organization.

1:07:24: Vichi shows a slide and discusses this year’s teams supported by the Resilient Leaders Initiative.  

1:08:11: In particular, HOPE realized a gap where they are sent students from all across the district who have been removed from their learning environments for various disciplinary reasons. And when those students arrive, they often have some of the most acute mental health and support needs, but HOPE doesn’t actually have its own counselor. They have no ability to provide services to students within their environment. But what HOPE did was figure out a way to hire their own counselor and they are able to within state rules, bill Medicaid for students who seek services from this counselor such that it pays for itself.   

1:12:41: K Bain

Violence Interruption - Work in Communities with Highest Rates of Gun Violence in NYC

1:12:47: I am the founder and executive director of Community Capacity Development, a 501c3, we are a human justice and healing organization located in New York City, but working nationally towards transforming lives, specifically in communities of color. 

1:13:03: Our mission is to uproot systemic challenges…around 2009 or 2010, I had the privilege of working as a legislative and budget director in the New York City council. At the time, we got a $4.8 million investment from then Speaker Quinn, it was not an easy amount of money to get, or an allocation to retrieve, but we did. In doing that, we setup pilot programs around the city of New York, now affectionately known as the Crisis Management System. We’ve grown that investment to over $100 million in the last decade or so.

1:14:11: Five pilot locations that became that are now over 50 to 60 organizations that my group provides training and technical assistance for around the city of New York…what do we do at CCD…we focus on sustainable growth planning in communities of color, in communities that have been marginalized and disinvested in. 

1:14:40: Now one of the most effective ways to do that is to look at violence because violence is undeniable, violence is a byproduct of disenfranchisement as many have said before and the traumas that we have suffered in our communities. We’re known as an anti-gun violence organization and initiative, we’re known as an anti-racist, anti-poverty organization. 

1:15:00: I think one of the reasons that we gained national recognition and attention was because in Queensbridge Houses with many who are familiar with New York City will know, it’s the largest housing development in North America and arguably the world. We went to Queensbridge Houses and we did some things there that hadn’t been done in other spaces and affected 365 plus days with no shooting and no killing in that housing development. 

1:15:32: We know how hypersensitive many of us in these communities are sometimes we grow up in 4 to 6 block radiuses and don’t leave those. I know people in NYC from Brooklyn, who have never left the borough of Brooklyn. These are grown women and men but again operating inside of that silo, that 4 to 6 block radius.

1:15:50: How did we work with the community to produce such an outcome? How do you in the largest housing development again, federally, the poverty rate is around $24k to $26k depending on your family size and Queensbridge Houses is $13k to $15k per year median income.

1:16:07: Look at the fact that wealth gap between white and Black families. In a white family the average median wealth is $142,000 and in Black families it is approximately $11,000. With this type of hypersegregation that exists unfortunately in 2022, what steps did we take to make ourselves the most effective human justice site in the city of New York and now nationally recognized.

1:16:35: The first thing we did, and I heard presenters before me talk about the importance of need assessment. Of going into communities and asking the right questions and listening. Something as simple as that, my group in terms of being organizers, we really take pride in our ability to listen and to work from empathy. 

1:16:58: We have a saying, when you start at human than justice is a possibility, but when we start at criminal, in terms of criminal justice work, we very rarely end up in a position in which justice is acquired. So, we are again a human justice organization and it’s built into the way that we approach these challenges that I am speaking of now, the trauma that we’re all speaking about now. 

1:17:22: Let me give you a little bit about what a human justice organization requires or is built on. We have a theoretical framework that says human rights plus human development leads us to human justice. It’s an equation. Human rights plus human development equals human justice. 

1:17:40: Well, the rights component of this conversation is built on the fact that every human being regardless of gender, geography, economic status, regardless of creed, color, is a precious gift. That life has to be respected and be treated with dignity. That’s first. Human rights we have to be made aware of these rights, we have to be given these rights forthcoming, just on the basis that we are born into this world as human beings. Full stop.

1:18:10: The human development component of this means that it’s about resources, but not just throwing resources at our problems, at the challenges in society. Not just saying on paper, we’re going to move this money from this part of the excel sheet to another. The development component of our equation talks about how specifically those who have been removed from opportunity, removed from access, removed from power, are positioned in those exact positions. Not to be at the table, to lead the conversation at the table. 

1:18:50: We also have a methodology that’s called CSI and that deals with community empowerment as a component. It deals with system change and individual transformation through direct services. And what’s interesting about our methodology I find is that it requires us to approach these three distinct areas simultaneously to be most effective. 

1:19:12: In any initiative that our organization leads, you will see a component focused on if it’s policy work, research, direct, you will see community empowerment at the helm of what we do, simultaneously working on system change, which is policy and legislative work, research, and the direct services. So, we do those three things and we do them very well at the same time.

1:19:33: When I look through history to find effective movements and change where it was needed, I’ve noticed and we’ve noticed, that these three areas have to be intersected intentionally for the work to be effective. 

1:19:51: Recently, big news for us, we’ve been replicating our work in counties, in cities, in states around the country, we’ve been doing a lot of this work pro bono. We see organizations that need help as our name implies, we’re about developing the capacity, so, we’ll go to organizations and we can teach human justice, which is one of our trainings, we can teach and train in diplomacy, which is a specialty area for us…but also, there is the back office work that has to be done and some of our leaders in our organization, like myself, had the privilege of working on a $90 billion budget at city council for many years. So, we bring some of those experiences of behind the scenes that smaller, grassroot organizations like ours need, and they need to be built internally for greater capacity.

1:20:44: When we touch into supporting organizations and communities of color, we are there from a position of empathy, to listen, to learn, and then to suggest and recommend the proper support. I just want to highlight the word support because I think it gets used a lot. Terms like support and engagement get thrown around a lot, but they’re not really happening in ways where we can see the maximum effectiveness.

1:21:07: I think in this work when we’re dealing with people who are traumatized and there is intergenerational oppression that people are struggling and fighting through, we have to really be honest about what support looks like, and support looks like what it should look like from the position of the person’s being served. 

1:21:26: So, again, myself, my story and where I come from to do this work is a survival mode mentality. I’m someone who did not have much, came from a community where violence was the norm. So, now I work in communities where you are seven to nine times more likely to be shot and killed on a daily basis. We go in with our lived experience of what we call real models, not role models, but people who have been through some struggle themselves. We can share from a position and a place of this is what I’ve experienced in addition to the research, in addition to the academic support, we’re coming from a place where empathy is key and central to the work that we do. 

1:22:12: I just want to leave you with this, a few weeks ago, I got a call from the White House and Joe Biden, his representative called and said, K Bain, the President would like to speak with you. I said, put him on the phone. They said not like that, he would like to sit down and have a conversation with you about the work that you’ve been doing in New York City, but around the country. And I said, OK, instead of us going to the White House, would he mind coming to the projects, to the housing development where I’ve done a lot of my work. Or to the school that is in the ghetto where I worked for the past six or seven years. We had a school PS111 that went from failing on all levels of measurement to now being one of the most successful schools in New York City on all levels of measurement. They agreed. About two weeks ago, I met President Biden at a school that we work with the young people. Again, there was extreme violence in this area and in the school building, over five years it is no longer the major challenge that it was. So, I was supposed to speak with President Biden for about 20 minutes about our work, our model, how we replicate it, and what we have to offer the country, and we spent over an hour on live television, world-wide talking about human justice and healing from the perspective of those of us who lead at Community Capacity Development. 

1:23:38: The following week, I was training groups of probation officers in the city of New York and we got a call from Obama who said he would like to open or close or give remarks at one of our trainings, our virtual trainings. I said he can give the training, he can open it, he can close it. But all that to say, the intention the attention after a couple of decades of this work in growing the crisis management system and now building what we call the Human Justice Network where we’re looking for Black, Brown, Indigenous people, people of color, marginalized community group organizations to be leaders with us in this work, it’s our time. The attention is now coming, and we are prepared and ready to replicate and to put our learnings and lessons and better practices out to the world. 

1:24:24: The last thing I’ll say, I spent the month of January writing a manuscript that I want to give for free in June called The Elected Official’s Guide to Understanding How to Completely Stop Gun Violence…not reduce it, not to send it back in the other direction, how to completely stop it. I’m saying that in full confidence because we’ve done it. We know what’s required and we’ve demonstrated at this point it is evidence based. 

1:41:51: Ali Smith, Holistic Life Foundation

Mindfulness Strategies for children with exposure to trauma in low-income urban schools and communities 

1:42:06: I’ve known Denni for about 20 years now…that’s about the time we started the Holistic Life Foundation, about 20 years ago this month is when we did our first programs. My brother and I and our other co-founder, Andres Gonzalez started the Holistic Life Foundation right out of college.  

1:42:48: Me and my brother grew up with meditation in our home. We grew up in West Baltimore right where the Freddie Gray uprisings happened, at a different time for Baltimore, pre-crack, it was a neighborhood. There was a lot of love there, a lot of support there. You knew everyone…when I grew up in Baltimore it wasn’t as traumatic as it is now for kids growing up in Baltimore. 

1:42:58: I did have the yogi-based meditation every morning before school. It was just how my dad made it, me and my brother didn’t really have a choice because he was a basketball coach and a teacher and pretty strict, so meditation was something we did every morning without question. 

1:43:22: We saw how much the practice affected us and we wanted to share it with other people…so we started the Holistic Life Foundation…we weren’t really sure who we were going to serve and how we were going to serve them, but we just knew that we wanted mindful practice to be a part of it. 

1:44:05: We started with a small after school program actually before our mom was the one who introduced us to Denni. She was running this program called PATHS, promoting alternative thinking strategies from Dr. Mark Greenberg. 

1:44:41: Dr. Mark Greenberg was running the PATHS program…my mom started working for the program at a school called Windsor Hills Elementary School. While she was there…the principal saw myself and Andres Gonzalez picking her up from school most days and she like, what are you guys doing? Do you coach football? We decided to do an after school yoga program instead, which yoga was close to our heart, and we started there. 

1:45:10: From there we moved onto doing more programs around the city, serving other populations. I think our first population outside of schools were drug treatment centers. Baltimore has historically had a huge problem with drugs and drug abuse for many reasons. 

1:45:40: It definitely brings inner strength and peace…that was one of the things we saw and wanted to share with other people because when we moved back from college and moved into the neighborhood we grew up, actually the house we grew up in, we noticed that it was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the United States at the time we were living there. 

1:46:02: It was one of those things where our friends would come out and see us, and we were dead broke because we had just started an organization, just started a business, and we were living in that neighborhood, which was home to us so it didn’t really bother us, we had a sense of peace about us, and our friends would wonder, well how are you all this happy, inwardly and outwardly, and you’re broke and live in this neighborhood? We were like, you’re miserable, and you’ve got money and live in a nice house so there must be something to this. 

1:46:34: In the beginning, we didn’t really know what trauma was. We thought there were just a lot of bad kids. We had not experience working with kids before we started the Holistic Life Foundation. I don’t think we realized that there was something deeper going on until one of our students, who is actually doing really right now, he was in our first group back in March 2002, and he refused to close his eyes to meditate. Back at that point, we were like you have to close your eyes to meditate, and he would do whatever he had to do to get put out of class right before the meditation. He would do the physical practice perfectly, he would do the breathing perfectly…one day we took him home and we saw what was going on at home with him and we though oh my gosh no wonder he doesn’t want to close his eyes…we let him meditate with his eyes open, eventually he got comfortable enough to meditate with his eyes closed.

1:47:30: We knew that something else was going on with some of these kids. We didn’t know about trauma back in 2002 at all, so were just trying to figure out things that we could do to support the kids and the practice in a way that felt comfortable for them. I guess we were trying to be trauma-informed before trauma-informed was a thing because we cared about the kids, and we loved them and wanted to help them. 

1:47:57: From there, we started moving into school-based interventions that were whole school. Particularly our Mindful Moment Room, there is a viral video that keeps popping up about term detention to meditation, that is that program. Our kids get referred to the Mindful Moment Room to center themselves and then go back to class, trying to change it from more of a punitive experience to an empowering experience. 

1:49:01: Dealing with trauma with kids…is at the forefront of what we did, and what we’re doing because so many kids are dealing with trauma in Baltimore city, I guess everywhere, but it just seems more prominent in Baltimore. 

1:49:16: We’ve worked all over the world…and in Baltimore, it seems like the kids are most affected by trauma here. I notice when we go other places to teach and to train and they give us their problematic kids, they don’t have as much going on as the kids in Baltimore do. 

1:49:36: Once we figured out exactly what was going on, we had to figure out ways to work with it…the first thing that we always do, is working with the kids to make their bodies a safe space because that’s important. I don’t think you can really work with kids who are doing any type of mindfulness work and not make their body a safe space first. 

1:49:59: People have definitely come up to us and said, hey, I did a mindfulness practice with a group of kids where they just sit in silence and the kids are coming out crying and they’re trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s because the kids aren’t safe in their bodies and that empty space allows for that trauma to come up. 

1:50:14: We always start out with some physical practices, and we always start off with some yoga first, whether it’s chair based or mat based, working with the proprioceptive input to make sure that their body isn’t sending their mind fear signals all the time. 

1:50:32: It’s beautiful to see once a kid can actually sit still and their body does start to feel safe because we’ve dealt with kids who have been through traumatic experiences and their body isn’t safe to them. To see that transition is an awesome thing. 

1:50:50: We never do silent meditations with our students. All of our meditations are guided, that way the kids can learn about inner peace, but it’s a safe inner peace and not a vacuum of stillness because that’s not safe to the kids that we’re working with. So we do all guided meditations, and it works out well for the kids. 

1:51:18: Another thing we work with the kids on besides the guided meditation, we give them a lot of choices. There are a lot of people who have been traumatized; they don’t really have choices and the power has been stripped away from them. So, we don’t do adjustments in the poses, we don’t move the kids around. We might give them a gentle suggestion about what they might want to do to enhance their pose…we don’t do physical adjustments because it’s taking the power away.

1:51:50: We use a lot of reciprocal teaching because it helps the kids with empowerment and self-esteem. The kids come to the front to lead. When you come to our programs, you’ll see the kids leading a lot, and it actually helps to take ownership of the practice. That’s the way we’ve been most effective with bringing the practice out into the community, through the students that we teach. 

1:52:10: Without a doubt, there are always students that go home, it’s usually for stress and anger, if their parents have had a rough day, they’ll try to take it out on their kids, but our students are smart enough to be able to identify what stress and anger look and feel like, and they’ll stop their parents and sit them down and breathe or meditate with them, and lead them through the practice to nip it in the bud before that stress or anger goes downhill towards the kids. 

1:52:38: Another thing that we really do, as I said, we care about the kids, is treating the kids with love…we had a conversation with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk…he was telling us that there was one thing that would always work in healing trauma, except for traumatic brain trauma, like a brain injury…is it breathing, is it meditation, is it yoga, and he said, no…you treat the kids with love. Love is the thing that heals all forms of trauma, that connection. 

1:53:15: It was good to hear from someone how is a trauma expert, it’s something that we felt, but we didn’t really have any proof of, and it was good to hear it from someone like him. 

1:53:28: Another thing that is really good about the practice is it gives the kids an inner resource. A lot of times kids don’t have resources around them or they don’t have any place to go. They can’t go to a retreat center and they can’t go on vacation. They’re stuck in their home or in their neighborhood, which may be chaotic, but if they have that inner resource and that inner peace, it’s something that no one can ever take from them. If they can find strength and resilience within themselves and they can also find peace within themselves, it’s a tool that they can always have with them. 

1:54:10: We’ve worked with tons of kids who end up incarcerated. It’s just the reality of their lives. But the best thing about it is that they’ll write us or call us from jail and say that the one thing that is keeping them sane in there is their practice. They’ll always revert back to their practice, they’ll revert back to their breath, and they’ll revert back to their meditation. 

1:54:40: It’s a very inconspicuous practice. It’s something that no one will know what they’re doing. They always jump back to the breath and the meditation. 

1:55:32: I think it was good for us to be able to articulate that we could train better and facilitate these practices because it was things that we were doing instinctually because we saw what was having a positive effect on the kids…10 or 12 years in, we had trauma-informed down because we were just doing what was working with the kids. We knew that a physical practice made the kids feel safe in their bodies and that made breathing and meditation a lot easier. We knew that we can’t have silence-based meditation. 

1:57:04: We can definitely be a really good resource for anyone who is interested bringing these practices to kids or adults who have dealt with trauma. The practices are meant to heal and they do heal, but the thing is you have to teach them in the right way or you can do more harm than good. 

1:59:14: Denni Fishbein

I just want to make the point that this kind of practice is what is called normalizing prevention, it’s called the culture of prevention, where we are really incorporating what we know and have learned about…it really embeds these practices into our daily lives and teaches us how to interact with one another and with our young people and within ourselves, and it’s all interconnected. I think that’s such an archetypical example of how we can really start to be trauma-informed in our daily lives.  

2:01:37: Dr. Tami De Coteau

Native American/Historical Context

2:02:10: We probably all know the definition of historical trauma, which we consider this collective, cumulative wounding, emotional, psychological, spiritual wounding of a group of people due to genocide. 

2:02:23: This is very different than the kind of trauma that someone might experience if there was warring between two groups of people. A lot of times I will hear that push back, well with the Indians, there was a war between the Europeans and the Native Americans, and the Native Americans lost. That’s not what happened. There definitely was some warring, but the colonization and the genocide of the people involved… a couple hundred years of the U.S. Government creating policies to completely eliminate an entire group of people through various strategies that were genocidal, including the oppression and the elimination of their cultural ways and their religion, etc. That is very different than the kind of trauma that occurs when two groups of people war.  

2:03:16: The transgenerational trauma is also referred to as intergenerational trauma…we know that when large groups of people experience genocide, they tend to have some common symptoms…difficulties with mental health, substance abuse, behaviors that tend to be violent. We can look at almost any indigenous population in the world and see a lot of similarities, whether it be the Sami from Norway, or the Maori from the Australian area. 

2:04:16: People often ask me, was there one genocidal policy that was maybe more problematic or more harmful than others, and my opinion is most definitely, and that was the boarding school area that lasted for well over 100 years, into the 80s in the United States and another decade and a half in Canada. We’re hearing about that now nationally in the news and in social media. 

2:04:43: This was particularly problematic because Native children had a need for attachments and not just person to person attachments, but they had a need for multiple attachments because the culture was collective and holistic, they had very meaningful attachments to their people and their extended family, but also to their culture and their language and their spiritual world and the land. Particularly to their land, to their place of being because we believe that our culture is in the land, that our ancestors are in the land, and we have a ceremony in a certain place and the energy from that ceremony is available for continued healing even after the ceremony ends, and all of the things that sustain us are in the land.

2:05:30: We know through research and what the previous presenter talked about is the importance of relationships. So, attachments, and attachments of any kind for Native children are buffers against stress. They were things that made Native children resilient. When they were taken from their Native environments, from their homes and their places, all of those attachments were broken. All of their meaningful attachments, the things that helped them understand how to be, who they were, and the things that built their resilience and buffered them against trauma disorders were removed. They were placed in these very militant like boarding schools that used corporal punishment, that separated siblings so they were unable to maintain sibling relationships, and as we’re learning now, were places of really horrific abuse. 

2:06:29: Many (Native) children died in these institutions from abuse, or disease, or simply loneliness, but the ones that survived came out of these institutions with really complex trauma, really severe trauma. We can only imagine what that they did to their brain development and their nervous systems, let alone their ability to accurately perceive themselves and the world.

2:06:56: And then they had to go back into their communities and try to figure out how to be. How to be parents, how to raise their own children, how to be partners. Really all that they knew was how to be abusive, that’s what they were taught, that’s what was done to them. So then this began this legacy of difficulty in parenting and engaging and raising children in this emotionally connected way, or sometimes even in a safe way. And that continues to pass on generation to generation and less there is targeted intervention. 

2:07:34: When somebody goes through this kind of trauma, their nervous system has a tendency to get stuck in a state of vigilance or alarm or even fear. And a lot of people who have suffered early childhood and complex trauma are really stuck here in vigilance and alarm. That’s where they exist all of the time. 

2:07:54: Dr. De Coteau shares a slide showing the Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response and discusses the impact to the parts of the brain.

2:08:32: If you’re someone who has experienced trauma and you’re stuck in vigilance and alarm, then you’re always having trouble accessing the parts of the brain that are necessary for functioning well in any environment. And then it’s just a hair trigger to a full-on fear response. If you exist in vigilance and alarm for a lengthy period of time, that’s really where paranoia exists. People begin to not just feel hypervigilant and have this exaggerated startle, but they really begin to experience the world as this place that is out to get them, and they begin to develop a sense of paranoia and an inability to trust others, which leads to a whole other host of problems with building relationships and seeking help.

2:09:48: A lot of our substance abusing population is also individuals with histories of trauma that were not able to develop the ability to self-regulate and are stuck in this alarm state and they are trying to find something to calm themselves, to gain sleep. Sleep is all about relaxation so if we can’t relax because we’re in alarm than we’re not sleeping. If we’re in alarm state, we have chronic exposure to stress hormones that breaks down our bodily functions and leads to disease over time. 

2:10:24: We have to remember that when we’re talking about trauma-informed strategies, step number one is engaging people in activities such as mindfulness and in calm, safe relationships so that their bodies can calm down enough for their brains to work the way that they are meant to.

2:10:44: Dr. De Coteau shares a slide showing the nervous system and discusses the Vagus Nerve. 

2:10:56: For discussion, we’ll break it into three basic parts. We have a really healthy part of this nervous system that tells us to go find help when we’re in trouble…perceived threat may not be actual threat, so whatever we experience in our life, our brain will associate with threat. And when our brain perceives that again, it will send a threatening signal to tell our body to go into a flight, fight, or freeze response. 

2:11:25: But the first stop that signal stops in a healthy body is the upper thoracic region and the social engagement area, and is the part of the body that says, you’re in trouble go find your safe person. 

2:12:06: But if that individual was somebody who has particularly as a child growing up in a situation where help is not available, or they’ve tried to reach out for help and help has been denied, then this part of the body stops working, it goes dormant so to speak. When the fear signal comes in then the next stop, it goes right past social engagement, which is also why people with trauma have trouble asking for help because the part of the nervous system actually doesn’t engage, so it’s a physiological reaction rather than an actual choice…it goes right into fight or flight…and this is where aggressive defenses…everything in the body speeds up, it makes us faster, it makes us stronger, so that we can survive. But if we’re stuck here all the time, then we’re always in a defensive oppositional mode and physiologically the only response the individual can give is an oppositional one. 

2:13:23: So, we see that our youth and our trauma population, they’re always trying to fight us, and they’re always oppositional, and they’re always arguing because they’re physiologically stuck in that system, and until they do things and receive interventions that teach their brain to override that system, they kind of almost can’t have a different response. 

2:13:57: Fight or flight is the part of the body that says you’re in trouble, help is not available, you’re on your own, figure this out on your own, solve this problem on your own. But if we can’t solve the problem, we’ve had multiple attempts, we’ve failed, the nervous system gets overwhelmed and there is a point where the nervous system will basically say, alright help is not available, you’re not getting out of this, there is no way to solve the problem, so self-preserve. Save as much energy as possible and immobilize. That’s where, what we refer to as freeze, which is really more like collapse, where everything in the body slows down and sensation disappears here. Some people will call this a state of shock, or learned helplessness, but there really isn’t much pain, if any, but there’s also not much emotion here, if any. 

2:14:40: People who are stuck here will talk about a feeling of numbness as if they don’t exist, as if their world isn’t real. They’re not experiencing fear or pain or depression, but they’re also not experiencing joy or peace or happiness. There is just sort of nothingness here. And this feels yucky to people, it feels like they’re not existing. These are the individuals that are harder to treat because you have to spend a lot of time doing somatic work to help them establish safety in their body and you have to do that very carefully and very patiently. 

2:15:20: And they’re also the individuals who are more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors because when they do that, they get this little boost of adrenaline that for a moment pops them up into fight or flight and then they can feel again. 

2:15:14: So much of our Native population because of what they’ve have been through is in this collapse state, or what we would refer to as learned helplessness where they’re really having trouble moving their bodies, their thinking is slow, they’re not accessing the parts of the brain that they need to be more successful or to resolve their trauma. 

2:15:54: That’s says a lot if you’re in a helping profession about exactly what level of help and scaffolding do people with this level of trauma need. And it’s probably a lot more than is available to them. 

2:16:31: I’m not aware of ACEs data that has been completed and published on Native Americans. I think we’re getting close because I know there are some studies underway. 

2:16:39: Dr. De Coteau shares a slide discussing Trama and Social Location, and ACEs.

2:16:40: What you see on the left is the pyramid for the non-Native general population. What you see on the right is the proposed pyramid for Native Americans, and what you see there is that they have all the same layers of the pyramid that the general population does, but they also have two additional layers, which are the generational and historical trauma, and then the social conditions and the context of all that, even before we get to the ACEs. 

2:17:07: Native people really come into the world already with some pre-disposition to disease and early death also mental health difficulties that go along with that. We now know through…epigenetics research that traumatic responses that are usually stored somatically in the form of sensory information, can be passed on intergenerationally. In some animal studies it’s found that it can last for up to 14 generations. For Native people none of this is new, we’ve talked about this in our traditions for always and ever, that we’ve understood that what we’ve experienced needs to be healed or it’s passed on to our offspring and continues to affect us. 

2:18:05: So, this idea that this genocide happened in the past, and you just need to forget about it and get over it, it was a war that you lost, just doesn’t hold up in the research. It doesn’t hold up in the trauma literature and it’s not how the body works when it’s been exposed genocide. We know that in order for trauma to be resolved there needs to be targeted interventions that are culturally sensitive and include all of the variables of trauma-informed care, which are establishing safety in the body, establishing safety in relationships, and learning how to self-regulate. 

2:18:14: What’s really great about the trauma literature is that it validates Native American traditions because it’s telling us some of the best ways to do that are those rhythmic movement-based sounds, dances, that are all part of our culture already. So, that’s very validating to us as Native people. 

2:19:52: I do quite a bit of consultation with school systems to help them build trauma-informed schools. That involves a period of teaching about the science, we usually do a piece of teacher self-care, historical trauma, whatever the school needs, and then helping them design their system to be consistent with the trauma-informed strategies and then teaching the teachers and the educational staff how to recognize trauma behaviors in students, what they look like. There is a term we call “catching it low” where you notice when a child is beginning to into that alarm state and before they’re in total fear, you’re going to provide an intervention that really disarms the amygdala. Again, the priority is placed on relationship. Ali talked about choice, because we’re giving them back a portion of the power and control that they can manage so that they can feel safe in their bodies, that’s where behavioral change occurs. 

2:20:52: What teachers learn is that, first of all, when children are traumatized and they’re not in their upstairs brain, all bets are off for learning. And then a lot of time and resources are spent on managing difficult behaviors. So, while there is some teaching and learning on the front end of how to do trauma-informed strategies in a school system, it doesn’t take long for schools to begin to see really positive outcomes and for teachers and students to be a lot happier and a lot less stressed. We have learning brains in the classroom and children are learning new behaviors healing from their trauma. 

2:21:30: It’s really been fun to watch how our Native communities utilize their cultural traditions to create healing ways in their school systems and how beneficial that is to children. Even in terms of school attendance, school performance, just overall teacher morale goes up, it’s been fun to watch the creativity in the school systems. 

2:22:35: Susan J. Rose, Ph.D. & Thomas P. LeBel, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Incarcerated Women: The Persistence of Trauma

2:23:56: Dr. Susan Rose

Dr. LeBel and I today are going to be talking about research we’ve conducted with women in jail, really this builds off a number of studies in the past 15 years.

2:24:14: We want to give some background about (what) we’re going to be talking about, especially today, a recent study of trauma among women in jail. I connected somewhat to the idea of historical trauma because as you begin to see that these are women where there is multi-generational trauma and they really had trauma as children, trauma as adults, and then the trauma relates to their incarceration. 

2:24:52: What we know is that women…who are entering jail have pretty high rates of trauma. It could be physical trauma, sexual trauma, or crime-related and mental health challenges. Some incarcerated women do experience post-traumatic stress disorder, but in particular they also experience, and this is not discussed much, trauma and victimization while they are incarcerated, really re-traumatization. This can be by staff, women are sexually and physically victimized by criminal justice staff, as well as other incarcerated women, other inmates of the jail.

2:25:43: When we think about the fight or flight, they are always on alert, this hypervigilance response for their safety, and keep what we call a prison or jail mask on in order to not show their emotions. 

2:25:56: Our work has been primarily in jails, and I just want to say that there is a big difference between jails and prisons. Most of the literature you’re going to see is about women in prison. Jails have a much shorter term of confinement. There are many more women who go through jails than go through prisons. About 80% of them stay for even less than a month. They’re sentenced for misdemeanors, low-level felonies, these are not women who have committed more serious crimes. Jails are usually closer to an inmate’s home, which means that they could see their children and family more often and they do not. 

2:26:38: Over 9 million people are jailed every year as opposed to in prisons, which is about 1.3 million, and those numbers have been reduced because of COVID. These jails are operated by county governments.

2:26:54: The project that we’re going to discuss today is in Milwaukee County jail within about 30 to 45 days of their release, we screened women who agreed to the study for substance abuse problems, trauma, and stressful life events. We have a final sample of 110 adult women, and we screened them using the adverse childhood experience scale that you’re familiar with, the stressful life event screening scale, which talks about stressful life events or trauma as adults, the k-6 distress scale, which you may not be as familiar with…it’s been used a lot with incarcerated populations to look at psychological distress as a result of incarceration. Then we use the audit the alcohol use disorders identification test, which was a screening measure to determine if there is probable likely hood that someone has a substance abuse problem.

2:28:07: Dr. Rose shows a slide that discusses the selected characteristics of the sample of the women they talked to for the study. 

2:28:10: The women were about 33 or 34 years old, most of them had been in jail already for about 90 days, or that was the mean number of days that they’d been in jail, over 50% were Black, non-Hispanic, about…a third of them were White, non-Hispanic, and about 16% were Hispanic. 

2:28:33: A whopping 68% of these women were mothers of minor children. In other studies, we conducted if we looked at mothers of children, minor children and children who were above the age of 18, that percentage grew to about 80 percent. Most of these women had at least a high school degree, or a GED or some college. 

2:29:02: This positive audit score, what this means is that the screening for substance use, over 70% of them had the likelihood that they had a substance abuse problem.

2:29:22: Dr. Thomas LeBel  

2:29:30: We focus our research locally here in Milwaukee on incarcerated women often because women are in a sense forgotten in the prison and jail systems because the vast majority of incarcerated people are men, so they definitely don’t get as much attention. 

2:30:33: Dr. LeBel shares a slide that highlights the ACE Results of the study population

2:30:38: The important thing to note with this is if you think of the 10 measures looking at abuse and neglect for the first five and the last five more around household dysfunction, all of these had response rates of more than 40% except for one of these…the overall score was 4 ½ and the research strongly indicates that those scores especially over four are most impactful negatively on people’s lives and on these women’s lives.

2:31:28: The ACE in itself of having a household member go to prison, the impact on children with incarcerated parents over 40% themselves, and Susan mentioned that, inner intergenerational factor, living with someone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or someone who used drugs being over 50%. 

2:32:08: Dr. LeBel shares a slide that highlights the Stressful Life Events Screen Results of the study population 

2:32:10: So, the stressful life events, again some of these could have occurred in childhood or occurred later, other folks earlier today talked about foster care or adoption, and you’ll see on here 25% of these women said yes, that they’ve been put in foster care or put up for adoption. 

2:32:34: The amount of violence that these women have experienced is really tragic when you look at personally experienced violence in relationships, basically 75%. 

2:33:48: Dr. LaBel shares a slide that highlights the K-6 Distress Scale Results of the study population. 

2:33:49: The K-6 that Susan had mentioned is really a six-item inventory that asks if they’ve had certain feelings, none of the time, in the past 30 days, or up to all of the time…it’s really capturing depression and anxiety. 

2:34:22: The 42.7 number is really the cutoff for seriousness mental illness or issues around depression or anxiety, so you’re an incredibly high percentage. The following questions are taking all feelings together, how often did they occur in the past 30 days, and this gets at the impact of jail as the average time that these women have been in jail at the time of the interview was 90 days, about three months, but you’ll see that more than half are saying more than usual…indicating that the stress of the environment, having to interact with the other women in a closed space, the staff, the potential victimization, even theft of some sort…other things are having an additional impact on these women.

2:35:29: Dr. LaBel shares a slide that discusses the results of the study.  


2:35:32: What really comes through is women who have experienced more childhood adverse experiences as well as these other stressful events also are experiencing greater psychological distress during their incarceration. 

2:36:20: I think the important thing that also came out of the last presentation as well is the intersection for these women between substance use, mental health, and physical health. In other studies, before this one with women in the same jail, about a third indicated all three. That they screened suggesting as serious substance use issue, they’ve had mental health treatment…and they noted a serious physical health issue…asthma in particular was really high in this population. 

2:37:12: Dr. Susan Rose

Dr. Rose shares a slide that highlights recommendations developed from the study. 

2:37:22: One is that we just think it is critical that all women who enter incarceration, especially in jail, should be screened for the presence of past and current trauma, and this is not being done at all. Jail staff have no idea what sort of experiences women have had. In some ways they may not want to really know some of that.  

2:37:46: We also think that social workers who are working with correctional populations really need to address not just childhood trauma, but adult trauma among jailed women. These women have past, present, and ongoing trauma as a result of that. 

2:38:06: Jail is an opportunity. Women are not in jail for a long time, but there is an opportunity to teach women more effective coping strategies while in jail to help them manage the effects of trauma. 

2:38:38: We’ve put down here some evidence-based gender responsive programs that really should be provided to incarcerated women.

2:38:57: The last one that I really want to emphasize is that correctional staff really need to receive training in recognizing and addressing the behavioral manifestations of trauma. Otherwise, they just see it as obstinate, this is woman is not adjusting to jail life, and not really understanding what the effects of trauma are in her daily interactions with other people, with jail staff, and other people. We want to strongly emphasize that that is a recommendation that we would make. 

2:39:35: I want to take one minute before we go to talk about children of incarcerated mothers. This is that intergenerational, transgenerational trauma that we see. 

2:39:59: Children of incarcerated mothers have a lot of trauma. One, often times they will see a mother arrested and detained. Think about this, you’re six years old and here comes the police and they haul your mom away with handcuffs behind her back, that’s pretty traumatic for kids. 

2:40:15: Kids have limited communication and visits with mothers. In the last five years, many local jails have stopped in-person visitation with young children and gone with video visitation, which doesn’t mean a lot if you’re a two-year-old child or a three-year-child to see your mom on the screen as opposed to a physical encounter. However, we know that some relatives don’t even reveal that a mother is incarcerated. She’s away, she’s somewhere. Kids have to change residences, schools, familiar areas, and often times they are separated from their own siblings.

2:40:56: We have some specific recommendations for children of incarcerated mothers. One is that they are able to have consistent contact with the parent during their incarceration. Jails often charge much more money for phone calls between inmates and their families, it can be up to 10 times the amount of what it would cost you to make that same phone call. So they just don’t happen. Five years ago, Cook County in Chicago made a profit of $750,000 off of inmate phone calls. 

2:41:37: Police should ask about minor children at the arrest and make provisions for their immediate care. Often times they do not. If the kids are there, they’ll take them to the station and then look around with where we are going to find a relative to take them, or if they take a mom during the school day, the kids may return home and mom isn’t there. They don’t even know where she is. 

2:42:00: And we want to emphasize that children incarcerated parents’ ought to be included in re-entry planning. 

2:42:18: We think that the impact of childhood and adult trauma has got to be documented in incarcerated populations. 

2:42:33: The impact of incarceration on symptoms of depression and anxiety has to be acknowledged by professionals who are working with incarcerated populations and the data that links this kind of trauma with the likelihood of recidivism has to be widely disseminated…we’re talking about disseminating this information in the popular press…if you’re in schools, school newsletters that go out to get this information out to everybody. 

2:43:10: To make change, practitioners have got to form relationships with criminal justice professionals to build trust and facilitate communication. We were very fortunate that a report that we gave to the superintendent of the Milwaukee County House of Corrections, we worked with an agency there and presented that report to them, and they were then able to use that report to get additional funding to hire a re-entry worker at the jail. These relationships can be very powerful, and you can be seen as helping the women and the jail staff in monitoring that. 

2:44:50: Dr. Denni Fishbein 

2:45:19: You bringing out the systems abuses, this is what we very much want to do in the course of this workshop is not just talk about individual level trauma, but it comes from systems and structural drivers as well. WE don’t want our systems that are there to serve to further traumatize us through corrections, through prisons and jail, through our child welfare system, our foster care system, and so forth. 

2:45:51: A long time ago, I developed a program called Baby Talk, where I was teaching prenatal care and parenting to the mothers in the Baltimore City Women’s Annex of the detention center. Hardest thing I ever did in my life…one day I became so frustrated. There were about 60 women in this room with me, with no air conditioning in the middle of summer and everyone was all hot and bothered, but I was so concerned, I said how many of you were abused as children, and there were a few hands, I said, ok, how many of you were beaten to the point of unconsciousness before the age of 12? Literally had about 80 to 85% of the women in the room raise their hand. Because atrocious crimes have been conducted, and you want to cast as Spurgeon’s, but when you find about the cycle of violence you cannot. 

2:48:56: Sherri Rickerson, STEP MC

Share your Story segment

2:49:00: So, I think I’ve been invited share my story because I have 10 ACEs and the fact that I’m OK, I’ve heard people say it is miraculous, I would call it a statistical anomaly. I mostly here to tell you that there are things that we are doing in the trauma-responsive movement is something that can replicate that.

2:49:22: Some of my earliest memories are of watching my stepfather beat the daylights out of my mom and of me never being good enough for her not to hit me. My mother gave me and my brother better than she ever had, and I learned at an early age that there was nothing that I could do to not get the belt on pretty much a daily basis.

2:49:49: My repeated early childhood messages were that I was bad, I deserved it, and I was not worth anything. The few times that I was removed from my home for abuse I was returned in ways that left me in danger, such as a phone call, which my mom recorded and let me know that she would get to me before they did. Or interviews in public places with my mom.

2:50:21: More often I would passively show that I needed help through papers that I wrote at school or comments that I made. I would change out and make sure that the bruises I had could be seen and more frequently there was no help or investigation coming. 

2:50:37: I was kicked out of kindergarten and second grade, I scored in eighth grade between 94th and 98th percentile nationally for Math, English, and Science. I was reading at a college level…I was identified as gifted, but I was told I was too much of a problem and I didn’t belong in the classroom with gifted students because my behavior would hinder kids with real potential.

2:51:12: I remember in eighth grade as the first time I tried to run away. I snuck out my window after mom had locked my brother and I up for the night. The only friend that I had had these amazing gentle and caring parents, and it was a safe place for me to go. They being upstanding citizens helped me call the police who promptly gave me back to my mother who called the Texas police officers bleeding heart liberals. 

2:51:40: I slept in the closet that night with my mom’s bed in front of it and we moved that weekend from Texas to North Carolina. I slipped into depression. I was told by mom that my suicidal thoughts that had me hospitalized was just a cry attention. I began cycling through running away and going to juvie, the shelter home, back home, run away, the whole thing. 

2:52:04: Eventually I was declared incorrigible and placed in the state’s custody to spare my mother from me. I wound up in a co-ed group home. I remember foster home tryouts and I was not a kid who was worth keeping. I would up in a co-ed group home and as happens in many co-ed environments, I found myself desperate to leave that space that housed a person who harmed me. 

2:52:40: Despite begging repeatedly to be moved, I was told there was nothing available until I kicked in walls, threw fire extinguishers through windows, and generally destroyed anything I could get my hands on. I got put in juvie again, and I was offered so many options and I refused them all. I was convicted of destruction of private property on February 14th as a minor and emancipated into adulthood on February 15th

2:53:10: I had no license, ID card, job, place to live. And I was free, and I was so happy because I had finally won against the system that I felt like had never cared for me. So, I walked out of the courthouse with this little box of everything that I owned, and I was feeling good. I sat on this little bench in front of the courthouse, holding my little box, and I realized that I didn’t have any place to sleep as little flakes of snow started to fall…this moment just sticks in my life a lot for me. 

2:53:52: So, I got out my little piece of paper and I started unfolding it and I called one of my buddies who I had met in juvie, and he was, yea Sherrie, come on over. And he was a good friend. He was the kind of good friend who give you the best that he had to try to make you feel better. And I was high before the sunset on the first day of adulthood. 

2:54:20: I spent years angry at systems that didn’t take care of me. I exercised my freedom in ways that hurt me. I had no idea how to navigate life. I consider myself blessed to have overcome addiction before I had my kids. And I had nothing to fall back on to help take care of them. 

2:54:44: This path eventually led me to having two children, two absent fathers with drug and alcohol and domestic violence history. Tons of fear that I was a bad mom. I was very ashamed of myself for not being better for my kids, and I was living in poverty. 

2:55:09: I felt like a failure. I knew I never wanted to hit my kids, but I never knew what I was supposed to do with them. I call it parenting in a void. So, you’ve got this screaming kid and you just don’t know what to do. I didn’t hit him, and I didn’t do well. I was at a point where I was probably two weeks out from losing it all and just terrified that somebody was going to see how worthless I was and take my kids away. 

2:55:41: I was invited to join a program called Step MC that was addressing poverty in our community. I kept testing these people who were supposedly creating space for me. I kept waiting for them to give up on me for their system to hurt me also. As I began to say all of the ways that I had been hurt and all of the reasons why I was angry, instead of being met with justifications and blame of “you’re responsible for yourself now”, I was met with affirmations of “you’re right, it’s not OK, it’s normal to be hurt when those things happen, you deserve to be safe”. 

2:56:35: I developed a deeper understanding of how systems trap good people that care about people like me into processes that do not care about people like me. 

2:56:50: I finally began to heal. Nobody at Step MC gave me the path or the answers. They did walk with me while I learned to navigate life in a different way. They helped support me in overcoming barriers like figuring how to do full-time work and parenting and school. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the relationships that I developed. 

2:57:18: My kids developed a lot of trauma. My son was really good. Identified as gifted, incredibly bright, he was consistently pushed to excel, he I didn’t have a lot of problems with him, and in retrospect he didn’t get the attention that needed when he was younger and that’s why I paid the piper in his teen years. My daughter on the other hand, she was wild. Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar. She was almost kicked out of kindergarten, and second grade, she kicked teachers, she hit me, she was removed from the gen ed setting for 95% of the day. Her principle told me although she was dual identified as gifted as well as the other issues, the advanced math program that her testing scores said she qualified for, it was for kids who were going to grow up and be doctors and lawyers, he couldn’t allow her behaviors to hold the other kids back. 

2:58:15: Don’t worry, it didn’t fly. She went. Through all of this, I was learning about ACEs and resilience and how it wires our brains. I was beginning to see that my daughter wasn’t giving me a hard time, she was having a hard time. 

2:58:33: When you start having information about what to do instead of just what not to do, parenting gets a lot easier. I also know firsthand that it’s possible for adults to heal. I spent years angry that I was continually put back into an abusive environment until I got better. I now realize that if somebody would have seen my mother, a woman with no coping skills, overwhelmed, with two kids, and a disturbing childhood that makes everything that I talked about here look like we were talking about going out for ice cream, if she had been seen, and if she had been helped, and if she had been heard, and if somebody had made her feel safe, I could have had a different life. 

2:59:24: I did apologize to my kids for some of the mistakes that I’ve made. I don’t offer excuses. Not good is not good enough. And I love them, and I’m healing, and I support them, and they’ll do better than I have. 

2:59:46: I now am blessed to work for Step MC. I get to be the affirming voice for other adults struggling with poverty and trauma. I get to be the person who says I know it’s dark and there is hope. I get to give what I got, and I get to give what we all give, which is the best of what we know. 

3:00:06: Personally, my life is calm, I own a good car and home, my daughter was on A/B honor roll last semester, I can’t remember her last meltdown. She’s happy. She works at a library. She giggles, she loves books. I have no idea what that childhood is like and I’m so grateful. 

3:00:27: My son is in the dorms at a state college. He recently texted me and asked me what I thought about him getting a tattoo today. That’s normal stuff. We’re happy and we’re safe. 

3:00:46: Holding space for people, adults and children, and understanding the trauma-responsive movement, that is what helped me be where I am today, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to give that back sometimes and to share with you today. 


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