Creating Trauma-Informed Space

June 9th was our annual Moran Center Clean Up Day. Fresh out of Trauma Workshops, we approached our Clean Up Day with an eye toward creating spaces in which our clients could feel safe. We freshened up our conference room, front office, and social work offices with a calming, warm paint color. We rearranged furniture to promote a sense of personal safety and privacy. We de-cluttered our work spaces to ensure a sense of order and respect. 

Of course, like all good things, we could not have accomplished all of this on our own. We were joined by a dedicated team of volunteers from Accuity. For the past three years, Accuity has supported our mission by providing clean-up volunteers, office furniture, graphic design services and IT support. We are lucky to have them as our friends and neighbors. 

Becoming a Trauma-Informed Community

How can we as a community stop punishing children who have lived punishing lives? Everyone – whether you are a teacher, counselor, coach, parent, classmate, school safety officer, police officer, lawyer, judge, or community member – can benefit from understanding that children who have experienced trauma have learned adaptive behaviors that are “normal” given their circumstances, but often times do not serve them well in school or in other settings. 

“Remembering Trauma” is a 16-minute film highlighting the life of a traumatized youth from his early childhood into older adolescence. The film illustrates the impact of complex trauma and the potential for misdiagnosis across various service systems.

This film was developed by the Center for Child Trauma Assessment, Services, and Interventions (CCTASI) in collaboration with partners from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and creator of the ReMoved film series, Nathanael Matanick.

NOTE: “Remembering Trauma” is inspired by a true story. It contains adult language and includes scenes with family violence and sexual assault, which may be upsetting to watch. It is strongly recommended that you view this film in the presence of a trusted adult that can offer support as needed.

The Invisible Backpack of Childhood Trauma

By Moran Center Executive Director Patrick Keenan-Devlin

Although the school year has just ended and many students have stashed their backpacks away for the summer, I have been thinking a lot about backpacks and what kids bring to school with them every day. I am not referring to books and school supplies. Rather, I am referring to the emotional challenges, distractions, anxieties, triggers, and mental health issues that many kids in our community carry with them every day as a result of experiencing childhood trauma. Imagine the weight of that on the small shoulders of a child!

Consider these startling statistics from SAMHSA:

  • 26% of children in the U.S. will witness or experience a traumatic event before they turn four.
  • Young children exposed to five or more significant adverse experiences in the first three years of childhood face a 76% likelihood of having one or more delays in their language, emotional, or brain development.
  • Youth in detention have experienced an average of six traumatic experiences before detention.

If we can understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences and visualize the weightiness of living with chronic trauma, perhaps we can shift our thinking from, “Why is this child misbehaving? Why can’t they make better choices?” to thinking, “I wonder what experiences have informed this behavior? How can we create an environment that supports their social-emotional learning and allows them to reset their triggers?” 

The Moran Center staff, along with several board members, recently completed three custom workshops on the topic of providing trauma-informed care. These workshops provided a framework for us to apply to every aspect of our work — from our phone interactions, to our intake processes, to how we present cases in court, to how we counsel children and advise parents, and even to our physical office space. 

Thanks to a generous grant from the Evanston Community Foundation, we were able to tap the expertise of several thought leaders and practitioners in childhood trauma:

John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County:
Marjorie Fujara, Pediatrician and Chair, Division of Child Protective Services

Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Center for Childhood Resilience:
Colleen Cicchetti, Ph.D., Executive Director
Tara Hill, Ph.D., Psychologist
Claire Coyne, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology

Partnership for Resilience:
Thomas Lenz, Coordinator

Pictured to the left is me along with Moran Center Deputy Director Kristen Kennard, Colleen Cicchetti, Tom Lenz, and Tara Hill at our workshop hosted by Creative Spaces.

Read on to learn more about how trauma-informed justice changes everything by improving outcomes for children.

Providing Trauma-Informed Care

By Moran Center Deputy Director and Director of Social Work Services Kristen Kennard

In most cases, the first time the Moran Center lawyers and social workers interact with a child, it is after an incident that resulted in court involvement or school discipline. These first interactions often take place in a courthouse, jail or school office. At first glance, our staff may appear to be just another adult who is there to judge or punish them, or perhaps to help them but without truly understanding them. But we have learned to approach these initial interactions by demonstrating that we are interested not just in the incident that led to the “problem” but also in what happened in the days, weeks, and even years leading up to the incident. 

Just as many adults ask the question “why is this young person behaving this way?” or “what is wrong with this young person?”, the young person is usually asking themselves those same questions. By using a trauma-informed approach, the Moran Center has been able to help shift those questions in that young person’s mind by explaining that when someone experiences trauma their brain learns adaptive responses in order to help them deal with and survive in the situation they are in. While everyone’s responses may be different, all are adaptive and this is normal given the circumstance. Moran Center social workers have utilized this trauma-informed approach during therapy and it is clear the relief that is immediately felt by our clients. I observe their shoulders being tense and stiff in the beginning of this conversation and by the end of our session, their shoulders are slowly dropping and relaxed. I can see the sense of relief on their faces with a small smirk while a light bulb goes off in their head reassuring them that they are not bad or different. Their life experiences have caused these adaptive responses. Once this young person is able to recognize this, we can begin the real work of developing new responses that will improve how they feel about themselves and how they interact with others. 

While clients may spend the most time with their social workers, their interactions with their attorneys, is just as crucial. Following our team’s recent trauma trainings, I had a very lengthy meeting with one of our attorneys and a client. This meeting involved discussing some heavy material and talking through some really important decisions that could potentially change the rest of this client’s life. As I observed the interaction between our client and his attorney, I couldn’t help but notice the many different trauma-informed practices that the attorney was using. I watched our client who typically does not feel comfortable opening up to people be extremely open and vulnerable with his attorney. He presented relaxed and comfortable even though the conversation was not an easy one. Following this group meeting, our client confided in me that this meeting felt different to him. He really felt heard and understood by his attorney and he felt that his attorney was extremely patient with him. This resulted in the client feeling more confident in his attorney’s ability to advocate for him. Using a trauma-informed lens contributes to the client’s self-worth and is absolutely invaluable to the relationships we are working to build with our clients.

Understanding Childhood Trauma and ACEs

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.

ACEs include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Mother treated violently
  • Substance misuse within household
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Incarcerated household member

If a child has reactions that impact his/her daily life after a traumatic event, these responses are called child traumatic stress. These reactions may show up in different ways, such as changes in behavior (being irritable, withdrawn, or acting younger than his/her age), difficulties in interactions with others, problems or changes in sleeping or eating patterns, and/or school performance. 

When these stress symptoms develop, they happen automatically (i.e., are not in the child’s conscious control) as the child attempts to manage negative emotions (like fear) that emerge in response to memories of the event. The difficulties or stress symptoms can present immediately or show up later. They may also continue for days, weeks, or months after the traumatic experience and/or may resurface at different periods throughout a young person’s life. 

Learn more about childhood trauma and ACEs here and help us increase recognition that when children or young adults “act out” such actions likely stems from trauma. Childhood trauma is not an excuse for self-destructive behaviors, but an explanation which will hopefully prompt further calls for rehabilitation as opposed to punishment.  

Join Us For Justice!

The excitement is building as we approach the big event on May 11th. We hope you have already purchased your ticket and plan to join us as we come together to change trajectories by supporting justice for youth in our community. Kim Foxx, State’s Attorney for Cook County, will be our special guest and premium ticket purchases will include an intimate cocktail reception with Kim. Entertainment for the evening includes jazz, acoustic guitar from William Dillon, an exonerated felon who served 27 years for murder, and the eclectic hip-hop of Evanston-raised ProbCause. It will be a memorable evening that you will not want to miss!

See details and purchase your tickets here. Can’t attend? We will miss you but hope you will consider making a donation in support of youth justice.

There are also corporate sponsorship opportunities available. Join the Justice League – the superheroes of youth justice whose leadership and corporate citizenry restore hope for children and families and strengthen our community. 

Justice League Heros

  • Hagerty Consulting
  • Strategy Group

Justice League Super Friends

  • Northwestern University
  • Schiff Hardin
  • Vistria

Justice League Advocates

  • Kirkland & Ellis
  • Stone Heritage Properties

In-Kind Donors

  • Hannah Handmade
  • KOVAL Distillery
  • Temperance Brewery
  • Musicians: Jim Tullio, Antoine Day, Eddie Lowery

Janet Alexander Davis: “Evanston-made” Activist and Advocate

Janet Alexander Davis has been a loyal and active member of the Moran Center Board of Directors for nearly 10 years. Janet first met Judge Moran when he was serving on the Evanston City Council. She recalls that he was, “a staunch supporter of rights for youth, showing mercy and real justice.” A few years later, Janet was then introduced to the Moran Center (then named the Evanston Community Defender). Janet had seen first-hand the impact of incarceration on our community and immediately recognized the critical lifeline that the Moran Center could provide to youth by helping them stay in school and out of prison. “The Moran Center is crucial in helping troubled youth get the services they need to disrupt the school to prison pathway so many young people travel. My respect for the staff at the Moran Center is immense. These are not their children, but you wouldn’t know the difference seeing their level of engagement and the lengths to which they will go to help a client.”

Janet is truly “Evanston-made” and as much as the Moran Center is fortunate to have Janet on our board, the entire Evanston community is fortunate to have Janet as an engaged citizen. Janet describes Evanston as a vibrant city with an abundance of social services available and she encourages others to get involved and make a difference. “I believe service is at the core of my spirit and with that, a desire to work with others, accomplishing our work for the good of all. This path has led me to engage myself in myriad ways, always reaching for a higher level of engagement, service and personal growth… My time in Evanston has always been interwoven in activism, from childhood, and as I matured into adulthood, I did not slow down, did not sit down, but rather invested myself more fully into doing the right things in support of others.”

As a child of the 60’s, fighting for civil rights in our public schools, Janet continued and expanded her activism and built a strong network with many other Evanston activists. She became an advocate for youth and a mover and shaker for better education for children, especially those affected by poverty. Below are some of the various roles that Janet has had in making a difference for Evanston.

  • Citizens Greener Evanston – Environmental Justice Committee Member
  • Evanston Human Relations Commission — Board of Directors
  • Evanston United Neighbors — Board of Directors
  • Evanston Youth Initiative — Founding Member
  • Habitat for Humanity: The Evanston Project — Board of Directors
  • McGaw YMCA: Honoring the Emerson Street YMCA Committee
  • Shorefront Journal – Contributing Author
  • WEST – West Evanston Strategic Team — Founding Member, 5th Ward Newsletter Committee 
  • West End Area Block Club – Communications Management

Janet has also received several honors in recognition of her community activism:

  • West End Area Block Club, Hospitality Award 2008
  • Cook County 13th District Commission on Women’s Issues Awardee: Unsung Heroines 1996
  • Outstanding Citizen Award, 2016, Presented by the Yen Family’s Grand Re-Opening of the Evanston Holiday Inn

PizzaFest 2017

We are grateful to be a beneficiary of the Rotary Club of Evanston’s PizzaFest 2017. Join the Rotary Club of Evanston, and our fellow beneficiaries — Mudlark Theater and The Ridgeville Foundation at PizzaFest 2017! This annual all-you-can-eat pizza and pop extravaganza raises funds to support community projects and initiatives vital to the well-being of Evanston. 

All-you-can-eat pizza will be served at Gigio’s Pizza (1001 Davis | Evanston) from 4:30-8:30pm. Adult tickets are $20 and kids tickets are $12. Join us for this fun family-friendly event!

Purchase tickets in support of the Moran Center here.

Learn more about the event here. 

 

Ellie and Patrick Keenan-Devlin at PizzaFest 2016.
 

Ellie Keenan-Devlin at PizzaFest 2015.

 

Stand Against Racism

 

Join the Moran Center and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore as we take a stand against racism.  This has become a fun annual tradition for our community. We usually have a lively crowd gather at our busy corner. Grab your co-workers, friends, family and join us!

Friday, April 28, 2017
11:30am – 11:55am
at the corner of Ridge and Emerson

 

CDBG Funding Crisis – Postcard Campaign

The Moran Center is partnering with local gallery Stumble & Relish for a trunk show featuring local artists Ben Blount and Joanna Kramer. Ten percent of proceeds will be donated to the Moran Center. 

In conjunction with this show, we are also launching a Postcard Campaign, encouraging the community to rally around the Community Development Block Grant Funding crisis that threatens to cut-off funding of critical services to low- and moderate-income individuals. Ben Blount has designed and produced postcards with a strong social justice theme and we suggest that you purchase his postcards for this campaign. Stumble and Relish will donate postcard postage stamps to support the effort.

Click here to read more and download a template that you can use to contact your local representatives.