Center for Child Counseling (CfCC), Palm Beach County’s preeminent agency in the field of childhood mental health, brought together leaders from the public and private sectors to jumpstart an action plan to address childhood adversity.
Last week’s 3rd annual “Lead the Fight: ACEs to Action” event represented a milestone in addressing the basic human right of all children in Palm Beach County to lead lives free from trauma and adversity. The County’s leaders in mental health, business, education, law enforcement, healthcare, and the judiciary assembled to tackle the most pressing public health issue facing our communities today: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which carry lifelong physical and mental health implications and result in exorbitant costs to taxpayers, financially and in terms of social ills. The event was attended by 289 VIPs from across Palm Beach County and beyond.
Based in Palm Beach County, CfCC offers mental health services to children from birth to 18. The nonprofit agency specializes in helping to heal young children exposed to trauma and has emerged as the local leader in the fight against ACEs. They also work to educate the public about the prevalence and profound negative effects of childhood trauma by conducting an awareness campaign focused on training teachers, healthcare providers, and community leaders to view their interactions with people, especially children, through a more trauma-informed lens. This year’s “Lead the Fight” event was aimed at uniting important stakeholders to tackle ACEs by putting research-based plans into action.
CfCC’s CEO, Renée Layman, describes her commitment: “It’s the most crucial work we can do. We raise the future in our children…how we choose to harm or help them determines the kind of future we can bank on. We know that prevention and early intervention is the key to ensuring healthy childhood development, but we keep failing our children even though most societal issues, including soaring rates of teen depression and suicide, school shootings, substance abuse, incarceration, and domestic and community violence, all have their roots in childhood trauma that was never adequately addressed.” In recent years, research has proved that adverse experiences and trauma effect the physiological development of a young child’s brain and cause a lifetime of issues. “We need to prioritize efforts that get help to children when they first need it; we need to fund these efforts.”
The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. Neil Boris, Medical Director of Circle of Security International and President of the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health, who shared the social consequences of missing the opportunity to intervene and help children as early as possible.
Amber Payne, CfCC’s Director of Community Engagement and Development, presented the findings of a White Paper entitled: “A Public Health Approach to Fighting ACEs in Palm Beach County: Opportunities for Levers of Change and Innovation”. The paper which assesses the County’s readiness to respond to this public health crisis, was underwritten by local health funder Quantum Foundation and provides best-practice solutions to help different sectors identify ways to work with children who are facing adversity.
As Ms. Payne explains: “We know that people with high levels of childhood adversity suffer throughout their lives and die, on average, 20 years younger than those without these experiences. There is hope, however, because research shows that introducing just one positive adult influence in a child’s life can make all the difference to the trajectory of that child’s future path. We want to equip people to promote and provide those buffering relationships to our children.”
CfCC offers training opportunities for those who wish to learn more. As Renée Layman explains. “We want people to know their ACE score and understand the implications of that score. Knowledge is power,” she said. “If you can understand how ACEs have affected you and how they might be affecting your children, you’ll be able to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse and start on the road to healing.”