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The steady growth in ACEs and Trauma-Informed laws and resolutions has continued since the last snapshot in PACEs Connection in June 2021. That article reported that state legislatures and governors in dozens of states enacted nearly 60 laws and resolutions that specially reference adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or trauma in the years 2019 and 2020. A new tally shows that In 2021 alone, another 36 laws passed plus one more enacted in New Jersey 2022—a law establishing mandatory domestic violence training for municipal prosecutors that includes the impact of trauma on survivors.
Two states—Maryland and Hawaii—passed laws establishing commissions or task forces to address trauma. In addition, a law passed in Illinois to amend another law that created the “Whole Child Task Force.”
The Maryland law establishes “the Commission on Trauma-Informed Care”—aka “Healing Maryland’s Trauma Act.” The purpose of the Commission “is to coordinate a statewide initiative to prioritize the trauma-responsive and trauma-informed delivery of state services that impact children, youth, families, and older adults.” The members of the Commission include members of the legislature, representatives of numerous state agencies, the executive director of the State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect or designee, and appointments by the Governor including clinicians and researchers with expertise in trauma. Others named in the law include representatives of urban, rural, and suburban municipal government. The Governor names the chair of the commission. Commissioners serve four-year terms, concurrent with the Governor’s term of office.
Commission responsibilities include assisting in the development of a statewide strategy toward an organizational culture shift into a trauma-responsive state government, establishing metrics to evaluate and assess the progress of the statewide trauma-informed care initiative, developing trainings, making recommendations regarding improvements to existing laws relating to children, youth, families, and older adults, and submitting a yearly report.
The Hawaii law establishes a task force with the Department of Health to develop and make recommendations for trauma-informed care in the state. The task force must present its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature prior to the convening of the 2024 legislative session. Members represent several state agencies including health, human services, superintendent of education, and more. The task force is required to “create, develop, and adopt a framework for trauma-informed and responsive practice,” to identify best practice with respect to children and youth who have experienced trauma, and their families, and to “provide a trauma-informed inventory and assessment of public and private agencies and departments.” Other responsibilities are listed that relate to using cultural practices that build wellness and resilience in communities, coordinating data collection and funding streams, and seeking ways in which federal funding could be used to “better coordinate and improve the response to families impacted by coronavirus disease 2019, substance use disorders, domestic violence, poverty, and other forms of trauma….”
A new law in Illinois dealing with the state’s “Freedom Schools” also addresses the function of the “Whole Child Task Force” that was created by P.A. 101-0654 for the purpose of “establishing an equitable, inclusive, safe, and supportive environment in all schools for every student in this State.”
The goal of the task force is to ensure that every child in the state has access to teachers, social workers, school leaders, support personnel, and others who have been trained in evidence-based interventions and restorative practices to create a common definition of a trauma-responsive school, district, and community. Other aspects of the goals include outlining the training and resources required to create and sustain a system of support for trauma-responsive schools, districts, and communities and making recommendations for key data to be collected to gain a full understanding of progress being made.
The state superintendent of education makes appointments to the task force that include state legislators, state agency personnel, members of the statewide professional teachers’ organization and people who have expertise in trauma-responsive school practices. The law requires the task force to make a report on or before February 1, 2022 upon which it is dissolved. The Whole Child Task Force page of the Illinois State Board of Education says that the report is due on March 15.
Here are some additional highlights of laws passed in 2021:
—A Maryland law that requires the state to include survey questions on adverse childhood experiences and positive childhood experiences in the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS);
—An Oregon law that requires the Pain Management Commission to develop a curriculum that takes into account the needs of Oregon Tribal communities, communities of color and other groups who have been disproportionately affected by adverse social determinants of health, such as racism, trauma, adverse childhood experiences and other factors that influence how an individual experiences chronic pain;
—Numerous states have enacted laws requiring training including statutes in California (CA A 135, Act No. 2021-085) to develop training and resources that are trauma-informed and anti-racist; a Colorado law (CO H 1228, Act No. 292) enacted that addresses training on the connection between domestic violence and trauma on children; a Louisiana law to train school employees about ACEs (LA S 211, Act No. 353); a Minnesota law to train mental health personnel (MN H 2128, Act No. 30); a Nevada law (NV S 108, Act No. 409) to train court personnel on implicit bias, cultural competency and the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences on the behaviors of children; a Texas law (TX SB 904, Act No. 430) that requires trauma training for certain attorneys; and a Washington state law (WA H 1295, Act No. 164) to require staff in institutional education facilities to have professional development relating to working with adolescents with many ACEs. Another law in Washington (WA S 5331, Act No. 285) establishes an early childhood court program for children at risk of becoming involved in the child welfare system.
As legislatures convene across the country, the NCSL ACEs database shows that the interest in ACEs and trauma-related legislation remains high. In just the month of January, over 100 bills have been introduced in 27 states. Click here for a PACEs Connection post on how to access and use the NCSL database. A good way to access state legislative websites is through the Library of Congress (click here). In some states, you can register to be notified by email if there is a change in the bill’s status.
Please add a comment below with any additions, corrections, or comments about how the laws reported on here or others are being implemented. Click on a specific state using the map on the “Laws and TI Resolutions” widget on State ACEs Action.