Iowans Thrive Blog
Featuring stories, research, and news on Iowa's movement to respond to ACEs
Around any table discussing children and family issues in Ottumwa, Pat McReynolds and Cheryll Jones are likely present, leading or participating, and often grounding the conversation in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research.
Hearing about The ACE Study from Dr. Robert Anda with the CDC a decade ago was the spark they and several stakeholders needed to unify their community around prevention and family support efforts. They especially connected with the idea that the challenges they saw with kids and families could stem from past traumas and that interventions needed to start early in a child’s life, with support for parents and children.
Since that spark, they have worked to spread knowledge about ACEs and related topics and build champions for change—all without a formal coalition. Knowledge about ACEs is now being infused into social service agencies, the education system, health care, the community college, and even city government.
“When we’re at the table, if you don’t know about ACEs, you’re going to learn it,” says Cheryll, a nurse practitioner with the University of Iowa’s Child Health Specialty Clinic.
Preventing ACEs in future generations starts at the VERY beginning, when the brain begins to develop in the womb.
Many Iowa parents face significant stressors, especially from environmental factors and historical trauma. That stress can be passed on to their children as they are born and disrupt healthy development.
An updated white paper from the Iowa ACEs 360 Coalition explores how trauma is passed down to future generations, how parents are experiencing greater stress, and what we can do to respond through prenatal strategies.
Here are a few highlights:
Dim lights. Three students and a teacher huddled over a textbook. A digital fireplace burning on the white board. Students laughing together before sitting down to work at a table or computer station.
This Flex Academy studio at Hoover High School, one of six at Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS), is centered around creating a calm and supportive environment for students to learn at their own pace. Often the students who attend have failed a class, are missing a lot of school, or are struggling to learn in a traditional classroom. The academy gives them the flexibility to learn online or in the studio with teachers there to guide them.
“I think we over-complicate what we can do to engage students in school,” says Mimi Willoughby, Academic Pathways supervisor at DMPS. “Really it’s a caring environment, a calm space with some flexibility.”
In the greater Des Moines area, the name ArtForce Iowa is slowly becoming a recognizable name in the community.
ArtForce Iowa is a 501c3 non-profit that was founded in 2012 by a group of concerned citizens, with a mission to transform youth in need through art. All of their programs are based on a three “force” model: ArtForce, WorkForce and LifeForce. This model incorporates creative self-expression, work skills development and advocacy in a safe supportive community and their research base consists of Self Determination Theory and Trauma-Informed Care Principles.
Working primarily with youth who have had involvement in the juvenile or family court system, or immigrant, refugee and first-generation American youth who have experienced violence and trauma, the team recognized in 2017 that they were not doing everything they could for themselves or their students. That is when Executive Director, Christine Her, stumbled upon Central Iowa ACEs 360.
The Chicagoland Trauma-Informed Congregations Network is an interfaith table that brings together faith-rooted organizations and others that are interested in using our collective wisdom to respond to the call to facilitate and deepen the role of faith communities in recognizing and creating “safe and brave spaces” that support the healing of trauma experienced by individuals and communities.
In May of 2019, we invited Rev. Kirsten Preachy to Des Moines with goal to learn about the development and future plans of the Chicagoland Network, and discuss opportunities here in Central Iowa.