Childhood Trauma, School Challenges and a Dis-empowered Workforce

Connecting the Dots with the Business Community

I have been asked by the business people, in my work focused on preventing childhood trauma, what’s the connection between trauma, school performance, and job readiness?” It’s a very important question and touches on why the private sector is needed in order to address epidemic rates of childhood trauma.

As a city councilor, I have developed strong partnerships with the Greater Chambers. I was asked if I could offer a presentation for business leaders on my work with Resilience Leaders, a coalition focused on preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). I arranged for the co-author of the book Anna, Age Eight, Dominic Cappello, to provide a presentation called, “Mental Health and Your Bottom Line.” He discussed the connection between ACEs and substance abuse and mental health challenges. He also discussed the economic costs of trauma and introduced the business leaders to the ten-question ACEs survey to measure one’s own childhood adversity.

Cappello explained that ACE’s are potentially traumatizing events that children or youth endure in the home. They include physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; and living in households where parents are misusing substances, are engaged in domestic violence, and have mental health challenges. ACEs also include parents separating or a family member being incarcerated. Most ACEs fly under the radar of child welfare and our schools. ACEs can impact our emotional and physical health, as well as our capacity to learn.

Since the presentation, many Chamber members have approached me to speak to their ACEs score. Some have stated, “I have met with my colleagues regularly for ten-plus years and never knew he or she was dealing with trauma.”  Some have shared personal and work experiences with loved ones or friends that have had to seek addiction/behavioral health care services out of town or out of state, which puts huge burdens on our families, business and community.

I see the connections between safe childhoods, successful students and an empowered workforce every day. I fully understand the financial costs of addressing problems related to ACEs. This is why I am committed to working upstream to stop trauma before it starts.

Our work with Resilience Leaders has largely been guided by the book Anna Age Eight and it’s a blueprint for communities to combat ACEs. We are using data to assess, plan, act and ultimately evaluate our prevention work. Our approach is collaborative, in alignment with current city, county, and school efforts.

As a city councilor, I have taken on the role of bringing awareness to our community leaders about ACE’s and the emotional and financial costs associated with trauma.  I have taken an active role by forming and facilitating our Resilience Leaders group.

We are now implementing the Resilient Community Experience Survey, a tool to assess to what degree parents have access to what we call the “surviving” and “thriving” family services. These are ten vital services including behavioral health care, safe housing, and job training. The survey is being conducted with support from New Mexico State University across the entire county and will reveal where there are gaps in vital services and why. You are welcome to fill out the survey here: http://bit.ly/dacfamilies

You might be asking why is all this important to me? It is my belief that if we generate awareness and engagement of our all our family-serving agency staff, businesses, community leaders and our policy leaders, we can prevent ACEs.  We can not only be a healthier thriving community, but a more economically vital one.

For more information about ACEs and the Resilience Leaders, email kgandara@las-cruces.org.

School photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com