An eight-year-old girl named Anna has sparked a movement to end childhood trauma in New Mexico. Anna is a fictional character based on a real case within the Protective Services Division of the New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department and it's her story in the book, Anna, Age Eight, that is guiding urgent community work focused on ending childhood trauma and maltreatment. A group of family-focused Dona Ana county agencies have initiated a groundbreaking project that will use data on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to combat childhood trauma - the result of ten adverse childhood experiences that include growing up in households where adults misuse substances; are threatening or violent; have untreated mental health challenges; are abusive physically, emotionally and sexually; neglectful of meeting basic needs; are dissolving marriages or are engaged in activities leading to incarceration.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Prevention Project launches on Aug. 8, with a series of events in Las Cruces. They begin with the Resilience Leaders course from 9 a.m. to noon in room 2007-B at City Hall, 700 N. Min St. The course is a new program that empowers agency leaders with a result-focused process facilitated by Dominic Cappello, co-author of Ann; Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment. The course includes a face-to-face classroom experience and five web-based lessons for participants to explore strategies for meeting the needs of families and preventing ACEs and trauma. There is no fee for this course for pilot participants.
Cappello will also conduct a presentation for the public from 1:30 - 3 p.m., followed by one for legislators and businesses from 5:30 - 7 p.m. For this event, RSVP to: Adominguez@las-cruces.org. Both presentations will be at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St.
Las Cruces City Councilor Kasandra Gandara, Dist. 1, is a project organizer, "I was eager to read Anna, Age Eight, having collaborated with the authors on their earlier program, Data Leaders for Child Welfare. The book has become a catalyst for important forums on the root causes of family trauma and how to engage the community in data-driven prevention. Each chapter offers practical ways for addressing long-standing challenges. I especially liked reading their ideas for designing a new version of child protective services called 'Child Welfare 2.0' and creating a city-wide system of trauma-informed behavioral health care to heal families. For elected officials, the business community and the public, Anna, Age Eight will provide a framework for using data, technology and community empowerment, to create a safe place to live where all children are nurtured and all families have the support they need to thrive."
According to Gandara, most ACEs fly under the radar of child protective services, resulting in high emotional costs to families. A high ACEs score can result in a child's diminished capacity to learn in school, perform well at work, or establish healthy relationships. The costs to government and taxpayersassociated with ACEs include resourcing social workers, child welfare programs, law enforcement, the judicial system and emergency room visits. Gandara says the good news is that most ACEs are predictable and preventable with a data-driven and cross-sector, city-wide process. The blueprint for moving forward with ACEs prevention was published in Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatmentby Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello.
For more information about the Aug. 8 events, contact Councilor Gandara at kgandara@las-Cruces.org or Amber Dominguez at Adominfuez@las-Cruces org.