In Session: Advocating for Children with an Understanding of Resilience and Trauma

The General Assembly is now in session, and we’ll be closely following the legislative issues affecting children and families in Virginia. For a helpful list of strategies to best advocate for children, explore our recent Advocacy Day recap. Today we’re also sharing this excellent post from Voices for Virginia’s Children; their Northern Virginia consultant Mary Beth Testa offers excellent insight and inspiration for legislators to work this year with a focus on building resilience and understanding the impact of trauma on children and families:

Recommendations to the 2018 General Assembly
(Reposted from the Voices for Virginia’s Children blog.)

Written by Mary Beth Testa, Voices’ Northern Virginia consultant

Research shows that chronic, severe stressors in childhood can cause toxic, traumatic biological responses to the developing brain, often with long-term consequences for health and wellness. Yet this research also tells us that responsive relationships with caregivers and strong community supports can buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), allowing children to develop to their potential.

ACEs are potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian. A growing body of research, based on the ground-breaking 1998 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente study, has sought to quantify the prevalence of ACEs and illuminate their connection with negative behavioral and health outcomes, such as obesity, depression, and other chronic health conditions later in life.

ACEs do not have to dictate the future of the child. Children can thrive despite trauma in their lives.

A child’s first five years of life are the most critical period for brain development. Despite trauma, children are resilient and can thrive if the right supports are in place in their family and their community.

We have reached a pivotal moment to build off the momentum of local work and point to a new direction of trauma-informed policy at the state level. In the months ahead, Voices will continue to incorporate more trauma-informed policy into our advocacy.

Voices for Virginia’s Children offers these recommendations to the General Assembly in 2018:

Promote trauma-informed best practices

  • Establish an interagency working group to evaluate the commonwealth’s policies and practices that address ACEs and promote resiliency. This working group should develop a state framework to implement evidence-based trauma-informed policy and practice and use it to help identify innovations, interventions, and resources to support resilient children and communities.
  • Create state-funded grants for local organizations that promote innovative trauma-informed care.

Continue supporting the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet

  • Maintain funding and staff support for the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet to ensure its continuance in the Northam administration. Established by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Children’s Cabinet is a cross-secretariat, multi-agency collaborative dedicated to developing and implementing a comprehensive policy agenda to promote the well-being of the commonwealth’s children from birth to age 21.

Please advocate with us to promote resilience and prevent trauma.

Download our fact sheet, which includes these recommendations and data we can use along with stories and experiences to highlight the urgency of action.

To find out more about opportunities to promote resilience and address childhood trauma, sign up for legislative updates from Voices for Virginia’s Children.

(Link to the original post on Voices for Virginia’s Children‘s site here.)