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Early Childhood & Education Task Force Update

the-raising-of-americaThose who attended the Public Meeting learned about the impacts of adverse childhood experiences (traumatic stress) on brain development, behavior and learning, and long-term health and well-being. Cara Weiler, MSW, Clinical Supervisor from Southwest Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center (CTAC), joined task force members in explaining the science and the heart of the matter.

Our Task Force is working with CTAC staff, with Dr. Nicholas Andreadis, retired physician and dean, and with Family & Children’s Services and other partners in the Raising Kalamazoo Collaborative (RKC) to hold DVD & Discussion events for congregations and organizations to raise our community’s awareness about the impact of traumatic stress. Children who suffer trauma need protective factors in their lives to help them cope with traumatic stress.  Protective factors include social skills, interaction with positive peers, attachment to parents, and school and community rewards for pro-social involvement.  The traumatic stress a child experiences may exceed the protective factors available.  When that happens, the stress adversely affects the child’s brain development and leads to negative outcomes for the child and our community.

img_0938The DVDs are from the Raising of America series by California Newsreel.  Wounded Places shows the profound impact of trauma on children and youth–both one-time trauma and chronic traumatic stress.  DNA is Not Destiny highlights a long-term research project that demonstrates the way chronic stress continues to affect children adversely after they have reached adulthood. So far, 8 organizations have held an event, 4 more are scheduled, and 10 new groups signed up at the Public Meeting to host one for their group. See pictures from the event hosted by Loaves and Fishes for their volunteers and staff.

The goal of this work is to help build our community’s capacity to respond effectively to children and their families who face traumatic stress.  We want to increase our investment in interventions and community conditions that can increase the resilience and success of all children.

Mr. David Campbell, Superintendent of the Kalamazoo Regional Service Agency (KRESA), spoke on behalf of 8 superintendents of the school districts in Kalamazoo County to support the community collaboration to reduce the negative impacts of traumatic stress. Our schools experience many children with these needs and are intervening in many ways. As part of this collaboration, the superintendents will participate in a special session with CTAC to explore how our schools, with the support of our community, can further develop trauma-responsive capacity.

Interested in hosting a screening?  Please contact Denise Hartsough at or 269-599-1801.

The next meeting of the EC&E Task Force is Monday, November 28, 5:30pm – 7pm, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 247 W. Lovell St. at S. Park St.

Regena Nelson & Rochelle Habeck, Co-chairs