November 20 2014

Dave Lockridge of Merced talked about how he combines the Bible lessons with brain science to overcome the harmful legacy of childhood trauma such as physical and sexual abuse. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris of San Francisco described how continual exposure to violence and neglect can affect the developing brains of children.  And California’s Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye connected traumatic experiences in childhood to why too many young people get suspended from school and get in trouble with the law.

These diverse voices and many others were part of Children Can Thrive, California’s largest-ever conference on the impact of childhood trauma and what can be done to reverse its harmful effects on the body and spirit. The Center for Youth Wellness organized the unprecedented gathering of more than 200 practitioners, researchers and policymakers gathered in San Francisco to share cross-sector strategies in health care, education, child welfare and juvenile justice.

The conference opened with California’s first release of childhood trauma data via a report called “A Hidden Crisis: Findings on Adverse Childhood Experiences in California.” The report is well worth reading and found:

• Nearly two-thirds of Californians have experienced one or more kinds of childhood trauma, with emotional/verbal abuse being the most commonly adverse childhood experience.
• Those who reported four or more kinds of trauma are 5 times more likely to suffer from depression, 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and 12 times more likely to be a victim of sexual violence.
• Childhood trauma is strongly linked to poverty.

Many California Endowment partners and grantees participated in the conference and shared stories of the important work they are moving forward in their communities, including Fania Davis of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, Dr. Elisa Nicholas of the Children’s Clinic in Long Beach, and Godwin Higa, principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School in the San Diego neighborhood of City Heights.

Although the scope and scale of childhood trauma can be overwhelming, the good news is that it is possible to transcend adversity and build resilience in ourselves and our communities. Research has shown that support from just one caring adult can make all the difference in the life of a young person and provide a buffer against even the most extreme adversity. It’s through human connections and compassion for one another that we have the best chance of healing from the harmful effects of trauma.

The full report can be found here.

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