Tag Archives: Child Abuse Listening Mediation

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.

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.”