The Power of Partnerships
In the forward to the NJ ACES Statewide Action Plan, the Executive Director of NJ Office of Resilience, Dave Ellis, provides essential insight into New Jersey’s vision of collaboration and partnerships in building a trauma-informed and healing-centered state. Nowhere in the plan are identified silos of service. Families, schools, businesses, early care programs, community health care programs and more are now identified as the community where comprehensive services and integrated systems of support are made possible with the power of partnerships.
A Systems Approach
Utilizing the capacity of the community by building upon and strengthening relationships that already exist by sheer demographics, local programs and businesses can create and foster a support network for families by removing some of the glaring barriers to accessing a healthy and safe community. First, community hubs such as schools and child-care centers, as well as pediatric and medical services, can break the silence on the risks of corporal punishment and community zero-tolerance policies that often drive the inequitable responses to challenging behavior. Challenging behavior, whether in adults or youth, are often the product of trauma or environmental and ecological risks within the community. Developing a Public Health Framework that blends the community culture and needs with trauma-informed and innovative responses to stress, trauma and systemic inequities will drive the integrated approach to prevent and mitigate the impact of ACEs on children and families.
Social Determinants of Health
It is important to note that an ACE score, or the neighborhood one grows up in, is not deterministic. However, social determinants of health include inequitable access to health and mental health care in a community that could provide support services that negate or soften the impact of a stressful or adverse experience. Access to nutritious and varied food, health care coverage, health and mental health care, and quality childcare options that meet the cultural needs of the family are often limited in low-resourced communities. A system’s approach in the community model to mitigate the impact of ACEs can’t possibly aim to eliminate ACEs entirely. A systems approach promotes the community to engage in a response to ACEs that informs about the impact of toxic stress, challenges social norms that do not serve the well-being of the child and family, offers safe and healing spaces and services, and provide trauma-informed and healing centered responses to behaviors that society often punishes that further compounds the trauma.
We do this work because we know there is a response that is better than what we have given to the question surrounding ACEs and the impact of toxic stress on children. It is not just the adversity, but the societal reaction and absence of support that can impact the functions of an entire community. Levers of change in business, education, health care, and justice and more are presented in this work of ACEs with call to action across the nation. In New Jersey, this response is part of a framework that embraces public health and community ingenuity in localized prevention and intervention efforts that recognizes the power of partnerships. See New Jersey Office of Resilience: https://www.nj.gov/dcf/resilience.html