Resilient PA Testified at PA Children and Youth Committee Hearing on Trauma-Informed Care and ACES

On Monday December 13th at 10:00am, the PA House Children & Youth Committee invited Resilient PA and HEAL PA to testify in an informational meeting the committee held regarding Trauma Informed Care/Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Resilient PA was represented by Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania, and was joined by Beth Tomlinson, Senior Director of Education of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. We also submitted comments from Mike Jaruszewicz, Vice President Community Impact, United Way of Erie County and Suzanne O’Connor, Senior Advocate Trauma-Informed Region, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. They all provided testimony about the efforts that various programs are incorporating to address trauma informed care, the history and purpose of Resilient PA, and why Resilient PA and trauma-informed care is important.

A growing body of local work in our state is focused on trauma as a confounding variable to achieve better health, education, and financial stability outcomes in our communities. Adverse Childhood Events are some of the most intense sources of stress that children can be exposed to. This includes intergenerational sources of trauma like child maltreatment, interpersonal violence, and parental substance use and/or mental illness.

At this moment in history, we must consider the additional trauma that many children in Pennsylvania have experienced due to the pandemic. Some lost relatives to COVID, many had their school routines interrupted, and in doing so, may have lost contact with positive adult mentors that helped anchor them outside of their home. They may have experienced more interpersonal violence or even abuse and neglect in their home, with fewer opportunities for a mandated reporter to see what’s going on and report. And some families have experienced periodic or sustained poverty which was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Children will experience adversity. Public policy has a role to play in prevention and intervention, You, as elected officials, can positively affect the funding and service delivery of publicly funded programs that work to get up-stream with preventative strategies, as well as to help parents and families escape unsafe situations or seek treatment for an addiction. More complex, but very important, is to dismantle inequities which have been created by our historically and predominately white-led, able-bodied decision-makers. Solutions can’t be prescribed by those of us who have historically held the strongest voice and must be developed with the voice of racial and ethnic minorities, people of all different abilities and ages, gender identities and sexual orientation.

Trauma-informed care is about building an understanding of trauma into systems and organizations so that people-serving systems can understand and then work to help children and adults flourish. So many of our public systems are fundamentally human and our ability to spread trauma-informed practice will directly affect systemic and individual outcomes. This is important not only in education and social services, but also in our courts, the criminal justice system. For example, corrections officers who are trauma-informed learn to recognize that an inmate’s behavior be stimulated by environmental factors which are triggering a biological response to stress which flares dues to previous exposure to trauma.

Full Written Testimony Available

The hearing was recorded and is available on youtube!