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This coming Sunday, Oprah Winfrey will present a 60 Minutes story on childhood trauma’s long-term effects. In the report, she speaks to Dr. Bruce Perry to learn how trauma affects a child’s brain and can lead to physical, mental, and social health problems throughout the child’s life. The special will also highlight trauma-informed efforts in Oprah’s hometown, Milwaukee.
In a promotional CBS This Morning interview, Oprah spoke about what she’d learned about the impact of trauma stating: “This story is so important to me and I believe to our culture that if I could dance on the tabletops right now to get people to pay attention to it, I would. It is definitively changed the way I see people in the world, and it has definitively changed the way I will now be operating my school in South Africa and going forward any philanthropic efforts that I’m engaged in.” She went on to say, “a lot of people working in the philanthropic world, trying to help disenfranchised people…are working on the wrong thing…unless you fix the trauma, you’re working on the wrong thing.”
Oprah’s shift in perspective comes down to what Oprah calls a “life-changing question.”: “See, we go through life and we see kids who are misbehaving. ‘You juvenile delinquents,’ we label them. And really the question that we should be asking is not ‘what’s wrong with that child’ but ‘what happened to that child?’ And then having the resources to be able to address what happened to you.”
In their landmark ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study, the CDC found that exposure to ACE’s, including traumatic events such as child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and substance abuse in the household, can lead to lifelong mental, physical, and social health issues. Based on those findings, experts have cited childhood trauma as one of the most critical public health concerns for children today. More than 60 percent of children in the US have been exposed to a traumatic event within the year and in Virginia, 19% of children have experienced two or more ACEs. Fortunately, research has also shown that a stable supportive relationships with caregivers and strong community supports buffer the effects of ACEs, allowing children to thrive.
Just as Oprah highlights, the magnitude of this issue necessitates infusing trauma-informed practices into human services systems, non-profit organizations, and philanthropic efforts. This is the first time a cultural icon of this standing has recognized this issue, however many organizations in Virginia and across the nation have already shifted to trauma-informed practices and programs. As an established state-wide philanthropic entity, FACT has focused on promoting and supporting trauma-informed practices throughout Virginia for several years. Incidentally, FACT is the only organization in Virginia, and one of few nationally that addresses trauma across the lifespan.
As trauma-informed approaches gain national attention, we’d like to highlight several Virginia organizations that have already made trauma-informed work central to their mission:
Family & Children’s Trust Fund
In the last several years, FACT shifted its focus to include support to direct services and system-wide trauma-informed care approaches. Programmatic grants currently fund Trauma-Informed Community Networks in Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads. FACT also requires all funded direct service programs to have trauma-informed components. In addition to programmatic grants, FACT conducts on-going research on trauma-informed care, publishes issues briefs, updates and hosts the statewide FACT Data Portal and supports statewide trainings.
Greater Richmond SCAN
Greater Richmond SCAN is the backbone organization for the Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Network (GRTICN), a diverse group of professionals in the Greater Richmond area who are dedicated to supporting and advocating for continuous trauma-informed care for all children, families and professionals. The TICN is funded by FACT and exemplifies FACT’s commitment to system-wide trauma informed practices in Virginia.
Voices for Virginia’s Children
Voices for Virginia’s Children’s mission is to champion public policies that improve the lives of Virginia’s children. Promoting resilience and preventing childhood trauma is a part of Voice’s 2018 legislative agenda and includes promoting trauma-informed best practices and continuing support for the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet.
Don’t forget to tune into Oprah Winfrey’s 60 Minutes special this Sunday March 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET!
FACT’s Child Abuse & Neglect (CAN) Advisory Committee serves as one of Virginia’s citizens’ advisory boards and is tasked with advising the Governor and the Department of Social Services on issues related to child abuse and neglect and family violence.
Read the CAN Committees legislative recommendations below, in a letter from CAN Committee co-chair Betty-Wade Coyle to Governor Northam:
Dear Governor Northam:
The Family and Children’s Trust Fund (FACT) was established to provide resources to communities to treat and prevent family violence across the lifespan. As a public-private partnership with administrative support provided by the Virginia Department of Social Services and funding oversight from a gubernatorial appointed board, FACT receives income through dedicated license plates, a state-income tax check-off program and other private donations.
In 2012, Virginia’s Governor’s Advisory Council on Child Abuse and Prevention merged with FACT. The FACT Child Abuse and Neglect Advisory Committee now serves as one of the state’s citizens’ advisory boards required for federal funding focused on child abuse prevention. Included in the duties of that committee is to advise the Governor and the Department of Social Services on issues related to child abuse and neglect and family violence.
With this charge in mind, we are writing to endorse the following proposed legislation critical to effective prevention and intervention of child abuse:
State level trauma-informed approaches
We know from the study on Adverse Childhood Effects (ACEs) that exposure to trauma often leads to lifelong health issues if interventions are not made. Last fall, the Commission on Youth made recommendations to implement state level efforts focused on preventing and mitigating the effects of trauma on children. Legislation has been put forth to support several of those. They include:
Increasing permanency for Virginia’s children in kinship care
Children in foster care who are living with relatives may languish in care for many years. Virginia has 1,708 children in foster care that are waiting to be adopted, half of which have been waiting for over 2 years. The kinship guardianship assistance program creates a new permanency pathway for children to exit foster care and to live permanently with relatives while continuing to receive financial assistance. The guardianship assistance program will encourage Virginia to place more children with relatives so that they can live permanently with relatives as legal guardians.
(HB 106, SB 44, SB 636)
The expansion of Medicaid will provide a vital support for thousands of families in Virginia and serve to protect children. Parental access to healthcare is fundamental to buffering stress associated with physical and mental wellbeing. The CDC recognizes parental access to healthcare as a protective factor for child abuse and neglect. Without it, a family’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day challenges of raising children is critically compromised.
Your administration has already made a clear and ongoing commitment to the health and safety of Virginia’s children and families. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in those efforts.
Betty Wade Coyle
Chair, FACT Child Abuse and Neglect Advisory Committee
FACT Board Member
This tax season, consider donating your state refund to the prevention and treatment of family violence and trauma in Virginia. Virginia law allows taxpayers to voluntarily donate all or part of their income tax refund to FACT as approved by the General Assembly. You can easily make your donation while filing your taxes.
If you’re paper filing use the Virginia Schedule VAC form and under Other Voluntary Contributions, enter code 72 for the Family and Children’s Trust Fund and then enter the contribution amount.
If you’re electronically filing your tax filing platform will prompt you to enter your voluntary contributions when you get to the credits/deductions portion of your state tax interview.
You may also mannually donate your refund directly to FACT by donating online or sending a check to:
Family and Children’s Trust Fund
801 East Main Street, 15th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
FACT is the only organization in Virginia devoted to treating and preventing family violence across the lifespan. This means we have a unique understanding of the complex issues and factors that affect family violence and thus can best distribute the funds to areas and issues that need it the most.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Social Services supports FACT’s administrative costs. This means that 100% of every dollar you donate will go directly to programs that are working to prevent and treat family violence across the State. Therefore, every donation, however big or small, has a lasting impact on Virginia families.
If you’re getting a windfall from the IRS this tax season, consider investing in Virginia families!
Family and Children’s Trust Fund (FACT) of Virginia is soliciting applications for their 2018 grant funding cycle. A total of $300,000 in awards will be made to nonprofit, faith based and/or public organizations in the state through a competitive application process. FACT is seeking proposals from community organizations to develop or enhance their efforts to prevent, treat or increase awareness of family violence using a trauma-informed approach. Programs that provide services to victims of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are eligible to apply.
Trauma-informed care is an approach to the care and treatment of individuals who have experienced trauma. Not only is the type of trauma important to consider, but the resulting coping mechanisms and behaviors of the individual are also critical to designing effective treatment programs. Trauma-Informed practices provide a framework for communities to better understand the impact of trauma on individuals and a way for caregivers to focus their treatment efforts.
As more research emerges about the negative impact of trauma on families across the Commonwealth, FACT seeks to enhance efforts by human-service professionals working with victims of trauma to incorporate trauma-informed care practices into their program efforts and to increase public awareness of the negative impact of trauma on individuals.
Examples of the type of project FACT will consider include: training for families regarding the impact of violence on their children, the establishment of trauma-informed care networks in communities and training for social workers on how to incorporate trauma-informed treatment practices into their client care plans.
FACT is a public-private partnership and is the only organization in Virginia that is committed to reducing family violence and trauma across all ages. Applications for this funding cycle are being accepted through February 9, 2018. Click here to learn more about the FACT grant process and to access the RFP.
-Judy Kurtz, Grants Committee Chair, Family and Children’s Trust Fund, Board of Trustees
Imagine if you had to choose between refilling your son’s asthma medication and paying rent, or wondering if you can afford to take your daughter to the dentist or might wait another week to see if her tooth stops hurting. These are decisions that working parents may have to make if Congress doesn’t reauthorizing Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as FAMIS in Virginia. These services are a lifeline for families, providing free or low-cost coverage for kids whose working parents aren’t offered or can’t afford health insurance on their own.
Providing health insurance for children living in low income families makes sense from a variety of perspectives. When children are healthy, they miss less school, are better students and have brighter futures. When kids go to the doctor for regular preventive care, parents miss less time from work. When kids have health insurance, they go to the doctor more and emergency room less. Affordable health care is a critical foundation for functional families.
CHIP fills an important gap by providing health coverage to low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to buy coverage for their kids. With bipartisan origins, CHIP is one of Congresses most successful creations, having cut the proportion of uninsured children by two thirds since its 1997 enactment. More than 3 months ago, Congress allowed funding for CHIP to lapse. While Congress provided stopgap funding for the program until March, 1000 pregnant women and working parents of more than 68,000 children in Virginia are now in limbo wondering if their children will have healthcare in the months to come.
Because Congress hasn’t done their job, Virginia’s legislators will also be wondering how they can do their work knowing they might need to appropriate $52.9 million of unanticipated funding not in the current budget. Additionally, to continue providing coverage in FY 2019, Virginia lawmakers would need to appropriate an additional unanticipated $137.3 million. An unanticipated expense of such magnitude would force lawmakers to make difficult budget reduction decisions such as raising taxes, pulling back on other budget priorities like mental health or cutting kids medical coverage.
Congress needs to treat children’s healthcare as a top priority. Forcing states to scramble to keep their children’s healthcare programs afloat by tapping into emergency funds is inefficient and irresponsible governance. Stringing along families who rely on CHIP for their kid’s coverage for months is not only callous but harmful—uncertainty may lead families to withdraw from the program and forego needed treatment or quit jobs to qualify for Medicaid. There’s no good reason for children in need to be denied access to health care. Congress must fund CHIP immediately to provide fiscal stability for states and health security for families in need.
Submitted by Lisa Specter-Dunaway, Vice Chair FACT Board of Trustees & CEO at Family Forwards Virginia
To kick off our blog, FACT will be interviewing several members of our Board of Trustees to highlight their work.
Liliana Hernandez, Child Welfare Program Specialist at the US Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, has been a FACT Board of Trustees Member since July of 2016. Liliana servers on the Grants Committee, and contributes to the work of the Child Abuse and Neglect Committee and Editorial and Planning Committee.
Tell us about your work with the Children’s Bureau:
The Children’s Bureau is a Federal Government agency that oversees child welfare programs such as foster care and adoption. I am a program officer for states in the Child Welfare Waiver program, which provides states with opportunities to use federal funds more flexibly in order to test innovative approaches to child welfare service delivery to improve outcomes in the areas of safety, permanency, and well-being. I initially was hired to oversee the title IV-E Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) which allows a state or tribe to use federal funds to provide a subsidy for a child that exits the foster care system to a relative that has assumed legal guardianship.
From a national perspective, what sets Virginia apart when it comes to child welfare?
Virginia is one of 9 states described as county administered (California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania).
This means services from Fairfax County are going to be very different from Hampton Roads because there is variation in child welfare policy, funding and services available. This produces challenges with consistency and data sharing however leaves more opportunities for best practices. For example, Fairfax County Family Services provides substantial assistance to kinship care families; however there is no statewide kinship navigator program. .
How does being on the FACT Board intersect with your work?
The Children’s Bureau also provides technical assistance to every state’s community based child abuse prevention programs (CBCAP). Virginia’s CBCAP program aligns with FACT’s priority to prevent trauma and foster state and community based collaborations to support resiliency and healthy development, avoiding the re-traumization of the children and families that enter the child welfare system. Additionally, FACT’s focus on trauma-informed practice aligns with my work and research interests on avoiding the re-traumatization of those children that enter foster care.
Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are under constant stress from the insecurity of not knowing if they’ll have a safe place to sleep or where they’ll get their next meal. On top of that stress, a large amount of people experiencing homelessness have endured other forms of traumatic stress including adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as child abuse and neglect; and domestic violence.
With increasing recognition of the pervasiveness of traumatic stress among people experiencing homelessness, awareness is growing surrounding the importance of creating trauma-informed care within homeless services.
Check out FACT’s latest Issue Brief to learn:
To kick off our blog, FACT will be interviewing several members of our Board of Trustees to highlight their work in Virginia communities.
Judy Kurtz, Sudden Death in the Young (SDY) Case Registry Coordinator, has been a FACT Board of Trustees Member since 2014. Judy currently serves as the Board Treasurer and chairs the Grants Committee.
Tell us about your work with the SDY Case Registry Project.
The registry was developed to more accurately count the number of cases and to better understand the causes and risk factors for infants, children and young adults who die suddenly and unexpectedly. The information learned from this registry will inform strategies to prevent future deaths. Included in the registry are deaths from cardiac (SCD) or neurological causes such as epilepsy (SUDEP), or those attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Virginia is one of 10 states participating in this national project which is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
So far the registry has identified many infant deaths, child drownings, and some sudden deaths in teens. We know there are some cardiac and neurological conditions that aren’t commonly diagnosed in children that could be contributing to these deaths. Part of the project involves obtaining genetic samples for studying cardiac and neurological profiles to see if there are common threads.
What kind of measures would prevent unexpected deaths?
Targeted and coordinated safe sleep education for at risk families is extremely important. In our study there were 22 infant deaths associated with unsafe sleep practices in 2015. I’ve seen that the families with sleep related deaths also have a lot of associated risk factors, such as limited prenatal care, parental substance abuse and unstable living situations. In many cases the infants were born sick and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. Most infants who died, had cribs but weren’t using them correctly. Therefore, safe sleep education needs to holistically address these associated risk factors in addition to safe sleep education. Other sudden death prevention measures include better school physicals for school athletes, cardiac defibrillators in public areas such as schools, better child supervision around water and improving the general public’s awareness of sudden cardiac and neurological deaths in the child population.
Describe the communities you work in. What sets them apart from other parts of Virginia?
Data collected for the SDY Case Registry covers four communities in the Tidewater region of Virginia: Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. In the Tidewater region there are some issues that stem from its high military population. The region is more transient than other places in the state because people are coming and going as part of their military work. This separates families from their extended families and influences people’s options for childcare. Often income levels don’t meet the expense involved in obtaining licensed, quality, safe childcare. While working on the SDY Case Registry I’ve noticed that there are limited choices for affordable childcare for low-income families. Also, many families work evenings and weekends and childcare providers offering flexible schedules for parents are limited.
The lack of affordable quality childcare is a growing problem across Virginia and the nation, how can we work to fill that gap?
When I worked in California at the Westside Children’s Center in Los Angeles, the agency offered an early education program that included support services such as child development specialists, ongoing education and visiting nurses to incentivize childcare providers to provide safe, licensed daycare. Because gaining licensure can be a major financial, personal, and time burden on childcare facilities and especially for family daycare homes, it would be helpful to provide incentives for licensure while also helping them provide quality, safe childcare.
How does being on the FACT Board intersect with your work?
FACT works to prevent family violence to ensure that people are healthy and contributing members of society across their lifespans. Many risk factors for sudden death in the young intersect with the same factors that contribute to family violence such as: substance misuse, domestic violence, unemployment and insecure housing. Kids shouldn’t die. If there’s a way to figure out why this is happening and prevent these deaths, it not only ensures that more children will live full and productive lives, but it will also lead to stronger more resilient families.