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Walla Walla Valley PACEs Connection (WA)

Meet CRI Founder Teri Barila


Today, we have the opportunity to get to know CRI’s founder and board president Teri Barila. Teri holds a M.S. Degree in Fisheries Science and Management, has over 20 years experience working for government agencies from the Bonneville Power Association in Portland to the Army Corp. of Engineers in Walla Walla, WA. She was a founder or major instigator for numerous community focused non- profits, most notably, Friends of Children of Walla Walla, Community Center for Youth (CCY), Commitment to Community and of course CRI.

What was your "aha" moment that took you into the world of ACEs and Trauma informed care?

There was no one aha moment, but a big one in terms of this being community driven was when Rob Anda, co-principle of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,  pointed out to us in the audience and said “go home and make something happen.” That really struck me from the community aspect. Prior to that, I had been doing ACEs work, had even done a two-year study at our Juvenile Justice Center to see what our own population of youth offenders looked like, relative to ACE Score and suspension rates, but that was from the mentality of a single sector, and more of a research-posed question. When Rob said what he said, it really hit me as a “call to action” from a much broader view/vision (this was the fall of 2007). 

Another a-ha moment was when Rob Anda came back to Walla Walla to speak in 2008. A mom with all 10 ACEs in her childhood, stood up in front of this audience of 168 professional people. At that point, I still wasn’t fully convinced about my vision, I wondered if it was just me feeling like this was so important? She was the only person in the room that was not a service provider. So after listening to Rob speak for 3 hrs, she stood up (I thought she was going to the bathroom!!) and went to the front of the packed room, turned to the audience, and said “I just heard Dr. Anda tell me I am not the bad person or bad parent many of you in this room labeled me. I am a person with all 10 ACEs. My childhood was not my fault.” She was crying and trying to keep her voice steady. You could have heard a pin drop. So many in the room DID know this mother either when she was homeless with 3 kids, or because of her kids and experience in the CPS system, or her son with a learning disability and challenging behaviors--- When she did that, it was like a jolt of electricity hit me. I thought, if she can “see” the significance, the impact of ACEs, in one exposure with Rob, how many hundreds or thousands of people right here in WW would have the same reaction? So her story was what gave me confidence to decide that there really WAS a solid basis for wanting to get started with a “formal” movement.

There have been other a-ha moments along the way of course. One was when Vincent Felitti was in town (he is the other principle researcher on the study). He mentioned people without good regulatory skills may end up smoking as a coping strategy since nicotine is one of the most effective chemicals known for anti-anxiety. I didn’t know that, and it made me think of my Dad, a two-pack-a-day Camel unfiltered starting at age 14. All of a sudden I saw my Dad (who was dead by then, 10 years earlier than he should have, due to his trauma history) as this 14 year old, dealing with his Dad’s early death and subsequent other trauma (his older brother whom he idolized was killed in an airplane accident as a Naval Academy flight instructor), losing a 2-month old son whom he tried to save (Dad was a doctor) but who still died even after his heroic efforts, then to almost lose another son to a drunk driver (this was after my dad became sober, so the fact that a drunk driver nearly took his son (who was 21), the implication implicit in that, then my sister’s near death and another sister nearly kidnapped by a guy who held a gun to her head), his alcoholism, his drug dependence...all that flashed before me when Felitti said that, and I thought, “damn it,” if Dad were still alive, wouldn’t he be one of the ones to say, Why didn’t I know this sooner?--a statement I often hear other people say. 

How does your background influence your perspective for CRI?

Well, my 6 ACE childhood has a bit of perspective to all of this! Understanding now, what we didn’t know then, seeing the devastation of trauma first hand (I am convinced my Mom’s death to Alzheimer was trauma-related). She never got over losing that 2-month old baby, nor her youngest brother to suicide, her parents death to alcoholism and the loss of all their business, the murder of a sister, the second child left with a traumatic brain injury due to a drunk driver, and then his paranoia leading to him divorcing all of his family. How much trauma can one person manage? But the most important part was not the sadness, but the resilience and the love and joy we had in our family, and what that family meant to me even in its pain. The seeds of my fascination with resilience were certainly seeded in my childhood by those I loved.

Also, my science background and love of biology has been a big influence in wanting to translate this into language everyone can learn from and see how amazing our brain is in trying to protect us and keep us safe. 

What are you looking forward to in 2020 for CRI?

Seeing how our strategic planning for the next 10 years will look and knowing CRI is in good hands for sustainability.

What are you currently reading?

Lisa Feldman Barrett’s “How Emotions are Made,” Bruce Lipton’s “The Biology of Belief” and Lori Desautels and Michael McKnight’s “Unwritten: the story of a living system.” 

Barrett’s book is blowing me away! I think this is the most important book I have ever read!

Favorite hobbies outside of work.

Reading, walking and hiking, anything outdoors, being on the water, sunshine, blue sky. Watching my son and his wife be the amazing parents they are to my first granddaughter and being an involved grandmother to her (that doesn’t qualify as a hobby, I guess, but I had no idea being a grandmother would be so much fun!) She’s 22 months old now. After their visit from Wenatchee recently, my daughter-in-law said in an email that Valkyrie was having so much fun wearing her sweatshirt with the dinosaur scales on it and running around “roaring just like grandmom showed me!” Now that cracked me up!

-Kathryn Padberg, Social Media + Marketing 

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