(l-r) Judge Andrew Heath, Chief Justice Paul Newby, District Attorney Ben David
Plans to integrate practices and policies based on the science of adverse childhood experiences in North Carolina’s 6,500-person,100-county statewide judiciary were announced today by Chief Justice Paul Newby.
The announcement featured a presentation by Ben David, district attorney for North Carolina’s 13th District, that focused on building community health, the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and how communities can engage service providers and courthouse professionals to work together to prevent crime and reduce recidivism.
“Emerging science has shown that childhood traumas, such as adverse childhood experiences and adverse community environments—we refer to these as ACEs-—can have profoundly negative impacts on children,” said Newby.
“These traumas increase the likelihood that these children could end up in the courtroom either as the defendant or as a victim,” he continued. “Our court officials are on the front line, and regularly encounter children who may be victims of trauma, abuse, or neglect and therefore could be impacted by ACEs. I’m pleased to announce that I am establishing the Chief Justice’s Task Force on ACEs-informed courts. The mission will be to enable judicial branch stakeholders to understand the impact of children’s exposure to ACEs at an early age, and to develop strategies for addressing adverse consequences within our court system.”
The task force will:
- Educate judges and court administrators on the effects of ACEs—adverse childhood experiences and adverse community environments;
- Equip juvenile court officials to recognize young offenders and victims impacted by ACEs;
- Identify existing programs and design new programs that intervene in the lives of children whether they’re offenders or victims, to help them lead a successful life;
- Provide a platform for which court officials can offer feedback to educators regarding their experiences to create further avenues for research.
Judge Andrew Heath, executive director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, which provides centralized administration and budgeting for the state’s courts, said members of the task force include judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, clerks, law enforcement, private attorneys, child advocates and academic researchers.
“This talented group will be supplemented with an advisory group made up of subject-matter experts, as well as representatives from law schools, universities, the executive branch, and private foundations,” Heath said.
Following the announcement, David, a longtime advocate for child welfare and ACEs science, explained why the task force was created and why it’s so important to the health and well being of all people in North Carolina. He wove together education on ACEs science, stories of children and their outcomes, real-life examples of the progression of victims of trauma through the court system, and the good outcomes that can come from trauma-informed, healing centered approaches to helping trauma survivors. He also spoke of the importance of community support across many different systems to achieve the goal of having a healthier community where mental, physical, and emotional well-being and healthy relationships help to make the entire community healthier.
The recording of the event can be found by clicking here, or pasting the link below into your browser.