Center for Youth Wellness

Child Advocacy Network Helps California Policymakers Turn the Tide on Childhood Adversity

The California Campaign to Counter Childhood Adversity (4CA) made 73 visits to legislative offices and met with key advisors for Governor Gavin Newsom on its 3rd annual Policymaker Education Day in Sacramento on May 1.

The child advocacy network, steered by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), ACEs Connection, and Children Now, met with assembly members and staffers to raise awareness of childhood adversity, to celebrate the progress California has made to address it, and to inform legislators about further investment needed in training and resources for pediatric providers in order to ensure a successful rollout of ACEs screening.

“California’s children are in trouble: more than 1.5 million have had two or more adverse childhood experiences, which can lead to severe physical, emotional, and educational problems, and exact a heavy price on our communities and our economy,” said Children Now President Ted Lempert. “The good news is that our Governor and other state leaders have expressed their support to build better systems that support these young people, their families, and our state.”

As the state’s leading coalition to counter child adversity, 4CA and its members have been the impetus for the state’s progress in tackling childhood trauma, including ACEs screening and treatment.

Among other things, 4CA advocated heavily for the passage of AB 340 in 2017, the nation’s first state bill for universal ACEs screening. In addition, a 4CA representative was a key part of the official workgroup it launched to develop tools and protocols for screening children for trauma as part of routine health screening through MediCal, the state’s Medicaid program.

Jim Hickman, interim CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness, praised California for making children and families a priority.

“Champions of children and families in our legislature, along with Governor Newsom, Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, MD, and Deputy Secretary Kris Perry, are using the Adverse Childhood Experiences framework to make California a leader in fostering strong and resilient families,” said Hickman. “The implementation of AB340’s trauma-screening guidelines is just the beginning. California’s children and families must be our number one priority.”

Members of 4CA also developed a set of policy recommendations focused on trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches to be funded by certain Prop 64 state-level expenditures. As part of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative Advisory Group in 2018, 4CA is finishing up a policy roadmap on how Prop 64 funding could help communities by providing funding for children and adults affected by trauma.

This roadmap draws on the experience 4CA members have with trauma-informed initiatives throughout California.

“Nearly every county and many cities in California have created local initiatives to prevent and heal from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and to build trauma-informed communities that solve our most intractable problems,” says Jane Stevens, founder and CEO of ACEs Connection. “With leadership from Governor Newsom and other visionaries in the state, California can help lead the nation in using ACEs and resilience science to create self-healing organizations, systems and communities.”

4CA’s steering committee includes representatives from leading child advocacy groups across the state, including The Prevention Institute, the Children’s Defense Fund, Public Health Advocates, Futures Without Violence, the California Department of Public Health, the First 5 Association of California, New Teacher Center, Zero to Three, Our Children Our Families Council of San Francisco, Center for Youth Wellness, ACEs Connection, and Children Now

In a 4CA Statement on ACEs screening, the committee called on the state to expand its support for the program.

“We need to support the effective implementation of the ACEs screening program by educating our policymakers and advocating for screening coupled with (1) provider training, resources and guidance, (2) care coordination and referral systems, and (3) provider supplemental payments for ACEs screening.”

In addition, the 4CA statement noted, California needs to invest more in prevention. To rewrite the future for California’s most vulnerable children, the committee added that “we also need to continue advocating for increased investments in primary prevention strategies that promote and enhance protective factors, including education for parents and caregivers on childhood adversity and toxic stress; strengthen economic support for families; and provide high-quality early education.”

Kris Perry, Deputy Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency on Early Childhood Development, agreed that there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done. “We’re a little at risk of taking too much for granted right now because we have such a champion in the governor, but the reality is the budget isn’t over the finish line yet,” she told 4CA members on Policymaker Education Day in Sacramento. “We’re working to create a state, maybe the first state ever, that’s realized children are experiencing trauma and we’re not turning away; we’re leaning in.”

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