By Jennifer Jones, director of the Alliance’s Change in Mind Institute
Brain science research will come to prime time during a 60 Minutes segment this Sunday at 6 p.m. CT. Reported by Oprah Winfrey, the story will discuss the prevalence and impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and efforts to build resilience through trauma-informed care. Focusing on Milwaukee, Oprah’s hometown, the episode will feature Alliance for Strong Families and Communities member SaintA.
Those of us who have been working on brain science, ACEs, and trauma for decades might call this a tipping point. To have a voice like Oprah’s advocating for our work and “shouting from the rooftops” about the importance of trauma-informed care is definitely a game changer.
I first met Dr. Bruce Perry, a leading expert on childhood trauma who is interviewed in the 60 Minutes segment, in the early 2000s. I was working for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ child welfare division and weaseled my way into his two-day training for Illinois child welfare staff. That training forever changed the way I viewed the world and altered how I performed my professional duties. Similarly, as Oprah noted in her CBS This Morning interview, Perry changed the way she views the world. She’s decided to use brain science to change and inform the way her school in South Africa operates and all future philanthropic decisions. I’m sure each of you has a similar story to tell—when you first heard about the ACEs study and calculated your own ACEs score—when the light went on and you suddenly understood why. This 60 Minutes segment will hopefully catalyze that same moment for millions of people across the country.
Shortly after I attended the training, staff brought Perry to Wisconsin to share his work. He consulted with state and county child welfare staff on case staffings for some of the most traumatized children in our system, and we did our best to continue to spread the information about ACEs. When I worked at the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund, we held an event with Perry and Dr. Rob Anda, co-principal investigator on the ACEs study. It was the first time they presented together. Wisconsin has a rich history of improving outcomes for children and families in innovative and creative ways, and we have often led the way on trauma-informed care and ACEs interventions and efforts. Alliance member SaintA in Milwaukee, which will be featured in the 60 Minutes segment, has played a crucial role in that Wisconsin history. The organization has quietly been leading the trauma-informed care and ACEs movement in Wisconsin for many years and are very deserving of this recognition of their efforts.
Oprah was inspired by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s article series A Time to Heal, which examines Milwaukee’s history of trauma, poverty, and race. This series was written by John Schmid with contributions from Alliance President and CEO Susan Dreyfus and me, and features SaintA. The Alliance, through our Change in Mind initiative, is committed to using the latest advances in neurosciences to change the way our systems and policies intersect with children, youth, adults, families, and communities.
The Change in Mind initiative, in just a few short years, has demonstrated capacity in integrating brain science and innovative research-based applications within programs and organizations. It also has identified new insights into the longer-term opportunities and challenges of doing so at the systemic and policy levels. The science is very clear, and the case for infusing this knowledge into and throughout our society is compelling. However, the way these ideas manifest themselves concretely in practices and policies must continue to be developed and tailored to suit the unique needs of organizations, governments, and businesses.
Through the Alliance’s new Change in Mind Institute, we strive to achieve a future in which the private- and public-sector systems that interact with people of all ages, as well as many of the businesses that support our workforce and economy, have access to shared knowledge, strategies, and technical assistance that will help them be more effective. We believe through continuous innovation and alignment of practices and policies with knowledge, research, and evidence on how the brain develops, we will enhance the skills and capacities we all need to be healthy, happy, and contributing citizens.
The Alliance operates as a strategic action network, comprised of premier human services community-based organizations like SaintA, to collectively affect positive systemic change across the U.S. Many Alliance member organizations have been working for years to advance trauma-informed care and integrate brain science research within their programs and organizations. They have been leading the way without any recognition because it’s the right thing to do—because brain science is a critical tool for improving outcomes for children and families.
We encourage you to tune into the 60 Minutes episode, contribute your knowledge and experiences to the national conversation, and be proud of everything you have done for the trauma-informed care and brain science movement, and—more importantly—to improve outcomes for children, adults, families, and communities.
Watch the segment online.