Tag Archives: CALM

CALM & Adverse Childhood Experiences Response

Thanks to national pioneers like California’s Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, CALM’s work to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and heal individuals from childhood trauma remains at the forefront of public health efforts. 

The term Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) comes from the 1998 landmark study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente. It describes 10 categories of adversities experienced by age 18 years: abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect (physical, emotional), and household challenges (incarceration of household members, or growing up in a household with mental illness, substance dependence, parental absence due to separation or divorce, or intimate partner violence). 

The ACE study is considered one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being, with data gathered from over 17,000 participants over a two-year period. Data from this study indicated that ACEs were prevalent, with about two-thirds of the participants indicating they had experienced at least one ACE. If one ACE was experienced, there was 87% likelihood of at least one additional ACE. The outcome? The higher the number of ACEs someone endorsed, the higher the risk of experiencing poor behavioral and physical health outcomes in adulthood.  

Cute elementary age boy smiles while pediatrician checks his heart and lungs with a stethoscope.

Dr. Harris, a pediatrician by trade, has been integral in providing medical professionals across California with the tools and knowledge to integrate ACE science into their practice. Specifically, she has spearheaded efforts to incorporate ACE screenings into all pediatric settings. Screening, as well as prevention and early intervention, are key to begin the healing process and to reduce the prevalence of negative health impacts for those who have experienced a significant level of trauma. While this knowledge has been primarily useful for healthcare providers, its core philosophy is important to a broader audience. So, Dr. Harris has developed, along with numberstory.org, an awareness and outreach campaign to educate the general public about the importance of understanding ACEs, as well as understanding ways one can mitigate possible effects of toxic stress often caused by ACEs. 

Guided by the evidence from the landmark ACE study and Dr. Harris’ groundbreaking work, CALM has augmented services and implemented strategic partnerships to address ACEs and develop resiliency for the entire community in recent years. In partnership with Cottage Health, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC), and others, CALM is pioneering trauma-informed interventions in healthcare settings across the county. This includes efforts to screen for ACEs as part of Well Baby pediatric visits Countywide, a multi-year research project to provide therapeutic support for NICU families, and extensive trauma-informed training for community partners.

“When we talk about trauma and early prevention, CALM’s trained therapeutic staff are experts at supporting children and families to change the trajectory of early trauma and toxic stress. Reaching families and intervening to disrupt the long-term negative impacts on health outcomes takes a coordinated approach across multiple sectors and partners. CALM’s interventions are a crucial part of this response” stated Katy Bazylewicz, Cottage Health Vice President Marketing and Population Health.

Through these collaborative efforts, CALM is transforming the community through a system change approach. CALM is reaching beyond its walls to implement therapeutic practices and embed clinicians in various settings to meet families where they are. 

The next wave of the pandemic will require a tremendous investment in mental health response as we fully address the impacts of this collective trauma. This past year, the community’s resiliency has been tested. CALM’s client base has faced economic and financial stressors, increased anxiety, depression, and intimate partner violence. These stressors contribute to the growing mental health needs of individuals, children, and families in the region. CALM is prepared to meet the needs of the community head on and will continue to be the vital resource for ACEs awareness and prevention for as long as it takes. 

About CALM

When a child experiences trauma, our entire community is impacted. To combat the effects of childhood trauma, CALM is here to support families in need of strength and healing. CALM’s evidence-based programs represent a continuum of care that addresses the safety and wellbeing of children and families across Santa Barbara County. Approximately 2,000 clients receive individual and group therapy through CALM’s clinics in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc and thousands more receive community-based education and mental health supports. With a 50-year history of serving families in our region, a staff of exceptionally qualified clinicians, and meaningful partnerships with complementary agencies and organizations, CALM is committed to preventing childhood trauma, healing children and families, and building resilient communities throughout Santa Barbara County. To learn more, visit calm4kids.org.

For more information about all of CALM’s services, please call 805-965-2376, or visit http://calm4kids.org.

CALM is for Kids

April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, so naturally our very own Child Abuse Listening Mediation has some special activities planned. CALM is half-a-century old and the only nonprofit in Santa Barbara County that specializes in the prevention and treatment of childhood trauma. This organization, just like every other nonprofit, has had to forgo its typical fundraising events in the wake of our global coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, it’s had to postpone November’s 50th anniversary gala, “Lighting the Way;” its seafood soirée “Crabfest for CALM;” the CALM Auxiliary’s quarterly Antiques, Decorative Arts & Vintage Show and Sale at the Earl Warren Showgrounds; and even its special event, “Courage & Resilience: An Afternoon with Elizabeth Smart,” with the victim of one of the more notorious child abduction cases. Smart’s ongoing recovery stands as an inspiration for human perseverance in the wake of horrific trauma.

Instead, while Ladies Get Loud 2021 will still happen as a virtual “Night In” at the end of April, that month’s events will focus less on fundraising and more on CALM’s ambitious agenda to lead. It plans on developing and implementing trauma-informed, evidence-based programs and services that treat child abuse and promote healing as well as programs that have proven successful in preventing childhood trauma through strengthening and supporting the family. 

So “Inside CALM” has transitioned from open houses into a series of short virtual presentations held on Facebook Live. Here, it broadcasts information about therapy modalities and innovative programs that are open to anyone, and it hosts a Q&A. These will be open to the public. CALM’s Facebook and Instagram sites will also host a month-long social media campaign focused on building resilience and strengthening families; these feature a daily dose of practical tips. And its online Community Conversation Series resumes late April with a webinar about the bell curve of trauma that our community will face as it moves into the post-pandemic phase. Fortunately, CALM will focus on what the next few years of mental-health awareness will look like, and how the organization anticipates treating our community’s needs.

In truth, imagining a better future is nothing new to CALM; the nonprofit has always envisioned a time when childhood trauma becomes a thing of the past. Under the five-year-long stewardship of President and CEO Alana Walczak, the organization has continued to evolve from its origins as a volunteer-staffed “warm line” for stressed parents in Santa Barbara, to a well-trained therapeutic staff of more than 100 specialists across the county. CALM’s prevention and positive-parenting programs have doubled in size since 2003; they take up more than half of its budget and staff’s time. Its approach stems from understanding that strengthening the entire family is the best way to prevent the abuse of a child.

“A lot of people don’t realize that CALM has really shifted its focus,” Walczak said. “We will always be here for kids and families in Santa Barbara County, we will always provide clinical therapy sessions. But now, 50% of our work is prevention, and working with families that have risk factors for trauma before the trauma occurs. We want to load up those families with support and education and resources to prevent harm from happening.” 

Such an ambitious endeavor doesn’t come easily, even for a seasoned organization, Walczak said.

“When you’re trying to move the needle on such a complex issue as preventing and treating childhood trauma, no one organization can do that on its own. If we want to see long-lasting change – the third part of our mission is to build resilient communities – we have to work in partnership with other organizations that serve children and families. That’s why we’re starting to see ourselves as a social service agency that will absolutely serve every single child that comes to us for clinical services. But we’ll also work within systems to really anchor permanent changes.” 

CALM has created partnerships with preschools, universities, medical centers, social sector agencies, and local governments

CALM has created partnerships with preschools, universities, medical centers, social sector agencies, and local governments. The organization has a presence in pediatric clinics and in 33 learning centers. It acts as the preferred mental health provider for Santa Barbara Unified School District and has a presence in every school in that district, from pre-K through sixth grade, Walczak said.

It’s all about helping other systems become “trauma-informed environments,” said Ashlyn McCague, CALM’s Director of Development. That means helping teachers and administrators at our schools understand what motivates the behaviors of “difficult” students in classrooms.

“They’re probably not kids just who are trying to ruin their teacher’s day,” she explained. It might be that Bobby just left home where daddy was beating up mommy or where mom was so depressed, that she hasn’t gotten out of bed for three days, leaving the young boy to feed his younger siblings. Then the child comes to morning circle and he’s unable to sit still or he’s hitting his friends. Maybe he’s demonstrating signs of a trauma but doesn’t have the words to explain it.

Similarly, CALM knows how important it is for pediatricians to know about the trauma history of a baby’s parents so that they can discern where the family’s challenges and vulnerabilities might be. In those cases, CALM can provide parenting or therapeutic support to help the family develop a new, healthy path.

“It’s kind of blowing the frameworks of those professionals up a bit,” Walczak said. “It’s about helping to educate everyone. Teachers are teachers, not mental health professionals, but they’re dealing with mental health issues all the time. For example, some of it is just helping them understand a bit about the brain chemistry of trauma.”

Nowadays, CALM is blowing up outdated ideas in the general population by putting effort into letting the community know that it serves everyone, all kids and families who are at risk for trauma. 

“There’s the stereotype that we only work with families from the lower east side of Santa Barbara,” Walczak said. “Yes, the majority of our clients are Latinx, and most of our clinicians are bilingual to make sure that no matter what language you speak, we can provide quality trauma treatment. But there are a lot of other communities that need support, too. One of the pediatric clinics we’re embedded in now is Sansum, and everybody seems to go there. For upper-middle-income families, it’s sometimes even harder to access services because nobody expects them to be really struggling. Who do they tell? There’s so much secrecy and our culture doesn’t create space for folks of all economic classes or races to have needs. We’re trying to debunk that myth, and to make sure that everybody has access to the help that they need.”

CALM has also been quick to respond to the challenges of the pandemic, pivoting to virtual services in the course of just three days last March, and taking a look at its own protocols in the wake of last summer’s protests about racial justice. 

“Like many organizations over the last year, we’ve been really looking at diversity equity and inclusion,” explained McCague. “A lot of clinical work comes from the field of psychology, which has been historically a very white, upper-echelon group. There are new modalities that are coming out of communities of color. We’re exploring them so that we can serve our own diverse community in the county. Having modalities that reflect the people with whom we’re working is really important to us.”

What it all adds up to for CALM is that every month is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The nonprofit’s mission to eradicate childhood trauma is an ongoing effort that never ebbs, and one that has economic as well as health and societal benefits.

“Identifying, treating and healing trauma as early as possible saves everyone a lot of pain and money in the end,” McCague said. 

To learn more about CALM, visit CALM4kids.org or call (805) 965-2376.

Every Child Thrives

Sure, CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) was the first nonprofit in the country to dive head-first into child maltreatment prevention. And yes, the organization – which provides a wide array of direct services to treat and prevent child abuse – just turned 50.

But CALM’s CEO Alana Walczak doesn’t want to talk about the past. “I want to talk about the story of our next fifty years,” Walczak says.

Her vision is big. Building off its research-driven clinical programs and widespread trust among partners across the spectrum of agencies that touch the lives of families and children, CALM is leading a countywide strategy to end childhood trauma.

“The most important relationship in the world is between a parent or caregiver and a child,” Walczak says. “If we can keep that most precious relationship whole, we can change lives.”

Cute elementary age boy smiles while pediatrician checks his heart and lungs with a stethoscope.

Childhood trauma has become a regular part of the vernacular at the highest levels of government and social change efforts. Here in California, the state’s first ever Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris, MD is on a crusade to root out childhood trauma. Armed with irrefutable science that shows adverse childhood experiences – abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental incarceration, divorce – lead to a wide array of dire health outcomes, leaders like Burke Harris and Walczak are clear-eyed about the urgent need to stop childhood trauma in its tracks.

“It is significantly cheaper to support families earlier,” Walczak says. To that end, CALM does the work even if the government doesn’t fund it. For example, the agency has counselors embedded in preschools and pediatric departments to intervene at the earliest signs of trauma. “That’s the wave of the future,” Walczak says. “We are not going to wait until Kindergarten to find out which kids need our help.”

Santa Barbara’s size poses an exciting prospect for Walczak, the team at CALM, and their 75 partner agencies spread across the county. It may just be possible to live up to CALM’s vision of building resilient communities empowered to prevent childhood trauma and heal children and families.

Roughly 5,500 babies are born in Santa Barbara County every year. Through direct services and trauma training programs across the pediatric health and education systems, CALM is building a web of support for all children and families. “If we do this right,” Walczak says, “we can build a robust continuum of care supporting children from birth with the support of an engaged pediatrician all the way through school with engaged teachers, parents and school administrators. That would be a game changer.”