Fresno’s Milestones Tracker provides a map of organizations that have or are becoming trauma-informed. Each dot represents an organization. The dots are color-coded to a particular sector. The larger the dot, the more milestones they’ve done. Click on a dot to see the name of the organization
If there’s one word that captures the engine behind Fresno’s flourishing PACEs Connection initiative, that word is “grassroots.” Just ask Jason Williams, the community manager for Fresno’s initiative known as the Fresno County Trauma & Resilience Network.
The grassroots aspect of the initiative, which was led by the community-based Every Neighborhood Partnership was definitely a huge draw for Williams. “It was coming from the community perspective. And that's what I really, really appreciated, this wasn't a top-down thing that was happening,” he says. “It was really a grassroots thing, which is beautiful and important.”
As a testament to how the hard work in the community has translated into action, a whopping 59 organizations that are part of the Fresno County Trauma & Resilience Network are in the process or have fully integrated trauma-informed practices into their work, as reflected in their completion of the 11 milestones included in PACEs Connection’s Milestones Tracker.
The Milestones Tracker is part of a set of tools in the Community Resilience Tracker that PACEs Connections offers communities to measure their progress and outcomes. It’s available for communities that join the PACEs Connection Cooperative of Communities. Fresno began implementing their Milestones Tracker when it had 11 milestones; the Milestones Tracker now has 14, and in future updates organizations will track all 14. The milestones include presentations about PACEs science to all staff members, participating in a local PACEs initiative, leadership integrating trauma-informed practices and policies based on PACEs science, and all staff filling out a PACEs survey anonymously for their own understanding. Attached is a PDF of the entire survey.
Williams recalls his first encounter with the “community vibe” that perpetuated by community advocates Brian Semsem and Artie Padilla, both of whom laid the foundation for the Fresno initiative. The only requirements, he says, were that they would meet every six weeks. They encouraged anyone who works with kids or families who have experienced trauma to come together and talk as a community and made it abundantly clear that everyone was welcome. “And [Brian and Artie] kept showing up,” Williams recalls. “They’re smart, passionate people. They’re not pushing people.”
The convivial atmosphere was one that spawned conversation all across the board. “Part of the key is there are no silos, so it’s this cross-sector thing,” he says, pointing out the collaborative process in which many community organizations from sectors such as education, health and the faith-based community come together to tackle issues important to the community they serve.
Williams knew well from his own work the burning need for cross-sector work. Prior to starting a trauma-informed training business with Semsem, Williams was a social worker. “I worked with kids, and I would have an educator at a meeting, and a parent, and then maybe a therapist. And those people had never even met each other, and it just didn't make any sense to me, because we're all working for the same kids, the same families. I think that was really the key to our initiative building and lasting and having 60 organizations actually do the milestones survey,” he says.
While the grassroots work has been inspiring, Williams says their initiative has yet to get buy-in from large systems such as the judiciary and law enforcement. “They’re not involved in a lot of these conversations, yet the work that they’re doing is having a huge impact on the community,” he says. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t persist in reaching out. “Right now, I have a police officer whom I have bugged and bugged and bugged. And he’s been super responsive, but he and they still don’t come to the conversation. So, I’ll just keep inviting him.”
Fresno joined PACEs Connection’s Cooperative of Communities late last year. Williams says that the connections that have come from joining the cooperative have helped provide a forum for working out struggles and sparking ideas. “It's super-validating to be in a space and complain about not having a sector get involved,” he says. “And having another community say, ‘Man, we've been having the same issue.’ And then having another community say, ‘Oh, this is how we did it. And it's like, oh, my gosh, just even think about that. That has been huge!”
Reflecting on the milestone survey, Williams says, “It’s a way of actually seeing, okay, here are a set of measures, and once I’ve checked all of these boxes, I think we’re trauma-informed.”
Stay tuned for an in-depth look at Fresno’s initiative and how organizations have changed because they integrated trauma-informed policies and practices based on the science of positive and adverse childhood experiences (PACEs science).