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Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma: Making Leeds aware

Posted by. Dr Pam Jarvis
Posted on 26 September 2018

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On 13 June 2018, a group of children's workforce professionals met at Leeds Civic Hall to discuss the screening of Resilience they had attended, and to brainstorm some ideas for what they now wanted to happen on a journey to making Leeds (and ultimately Yorkshire) an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and Trauma aware city/region. 

These were their ideas, presented here in an unfiltered format, without commentary, for the purpose of feedback and reflection.

Initial Questions

  • How ACEs aware do you think your team/organisation is?
  • What is missing?

Early Years Group Key thoughts

  • Need more space for relationships in day-to-day practice
  • Link ACEs to safeguarding chronologies
  • Early Years Professional Development Networks (PDNs) are not necessarily ACEs aware
  • 'Getting it right' pre-birth: dealing with ACEs issues in the child's family
  • Adoption and fostering agencies should be more ACEs aware

Primary School Group Key thoughts

  • Need to widen schools awareness
  • Speak to MPs about mental health in schools
  • It's not just about 'delivering the curriculum' but also having adults available for children who can support those who are struggling with ACEs related issues

Children and Families Group Key Thoughts

  • Youth Outreach Services have been slashed
  • Children's Social Work Services are not necessarily ACEs/Trauma informed
  • Some practices in the adoption process do not appear to be ACEs/Trauma informed
  • Better definitions of trauma/toxic stress would be useful
  • Prevention strategies in terms of ACEs being communicated generation to generation
  • Prevention in general should be the goal, needs development of a visible network in the city to develop policy

Youth Justice Group Key thoughts

  • Ask 'what's happened to you?' not 'what's wrong with you?'
  • Tick lists can be helpful, but are never definitive
  • School exclusions can create a cascade that ends in the youth justice system - all schools should be ACEs, trauma and attachment informed
  • Spend money on inclusion rather than exclusion
  • Consider also Adverse Community/Adverse Family experiences e.g. violent neighbourhoods, racism, toxic stress and PTSD.
  • Criminalising children does not just happen through the low age of criminal responsibility, but also through zero tolerance systems in schools and community practices

Whole Group: What do we want from a visible network?

  • Leeds-wide trauma informed approach, including mechanisms to share good practice within and across sectors - positive partnerships between education, justice, health and social care; developing our practices together; avoid different professional guidelines becoming a barrier. Comment: 'bringing all the service together to speak with one ACEs/trauma/attachment informed voice'
  • Links with Child Friendly Leeds
  • A general understanding of the biology associated with ACEs, not just a shallow knowledge of the ACEs 'tick list', comments: 'you don't have to be a therapist to be trauma informed, we can all relate to other people primarily as human beings', 'safeguarding practices are not necessarily trauma informed- they should be.' 'Practitioners need to know they can't necessarily remove trauma, it is about understanding how to promote resilience, particularly protecting children from toxic stress'.
  • A general understanding of the links between ACEs and infant attachment
  • An understanding that there needs to be support for the family as well as the child: 'Families First'
  • Some discussion about 'curriculum induced stress' in education (to include SATs, targets, performance management, outcome-driven culture)
  • Professionals to feel safe in the process of doing their job- consider 'blame cultures'
  • 'Feeling safe' should be a paramount consideration for both children's workforce and their clients
  • General recognition of the pivotal role of the 'minimum-one adult' in the provision of attachment and security for children of all ages; adult availability is key
  • ACEs work with children will in the end create a net saving in public funds (less work for the mental health and criminal justice services in particular)
  • New practitioners in education, health, care and justice to be trained in ACEs/ trauma informed practice and in basic child development
  • Trauma informed practices are also important in adult services: breaking the cycle
  • Particular care and consideration for young people who are care-leavers and for parents of children with special needs
  • More showings of the Resilience Documentary
  • Collation of ACEs literature in a database that is generally available

In the near future, there will be an information/training session for the network, which will be convened at Leeds Trinity University. The details will be tweeted, and emailed to those whose details are held on the Leeds ACEs network database as soon as possible.​

If you would like to be informed about the upcoming session, please email or tweet Dr Pam Jarvis.