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The Power of Connection

On Wednesday, April 26, Vernisha Crawford, Chief Executive Officer at Trauma Informed Institute, facilitated the pre-summit roundtable for the 2023 statewide summit, Leveraging North Carolina's Assets to Prevent Child Trauma. The session featured a diverse group of participants with different viewpoints regarding types and origins of child trauma they believe are most important to address and that require different prevention approaches.

Below, Crawford shares her thoughts on the power of connection in addressing adverse childhood experiences.

Vernisha Crawford on The Power of Connection: Addressing Childhood Adversity at Every Level

As I reflect on my own life and the hardships I experienced as a child, I recognize the remarkable  journey I have undertaken. Despite the overwhelming statistics surrounding adversity, trauma, and racial disparities, I have defied the odds and overcome numerous challenges. Childhood, a crucial period of growth and development, presents opportunities for positive experiences and nurturing relationships that lay the foundation for resilience and future success. However, not all children have access to such support, leading to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that can have profound and lasting effects on their well-being.

The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse childhood experiences encompass a range of challenging circumstances that can significantly impact a child's physical and mental health. These experiences may include exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or growing up in an environment marked by parental stress, substance abuse, or mental health issues. ACEs can shape a child's worldview, influencing their behaviors, emotions, and relationships as they grow into adulthood. It is important to note that parents, who may have experienced trauma themselves, are not to blame for these circumstances.

Intergenerational Trauma and Breaking the Cycle

Understanding intergenerational trauma and fostering societal change is crucial for healing and breaking the cycles of adversity. The concept of intergenerational trauma highlights the transmission of ACEs from one generation to another. When parents struggle to manage their own emotions and behaviors due to their traumatic past, these difficulties can inadvertently affect their children. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma requires recognizing its presence, understanding its roots, and seeking appropriate support and healing. Engaging in open and honest conversations with family, peers, and professionals can provide valuable insights into our own histories and help us navigate our path to healing.

Connection at Every Level

While personal reflection and individual healing are essential, addressing childhood adversity and trauma requires a collective effort at multiple levels of society. It is vital for families, neighborhood leaders, charitable organizations, employers, journalists, clinicians, researchers, funders, and government officials to actively engage in conversations and initiatives aimed at tackling these issues head-on. Recognizing that many individuals in these positions are also parents or caregivers underscores the importance of fostering healing within the systems that perpetuate adversity. By promoting a culture of compassion, support, and well-being, we can create new social norms and cultivate intergenerational wellness. At the heart of healing from adversity and trauma lies the power of connection. Nurturing positive relationships with caring individuals can provide safety, support, and resilience for children and adults alike. Building a network of empathetic and trustworthy connections allows individuals to share their experiences, process their emotions, and develop healthier coping mechanisms. It is why it was so important to bring together so many different individuals and organizations from various spaces for the statewide summit Leveraging North Carolina’s Assets to Prevent Child Trauma, sponsored by the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Through connection, not only can we break the isolation often associated with trauma, but we can also put to bed the belief that it is an individual family issue. Together, we navigate this journey, pooling our collective resources and experiences to cultivate a profound sense of belonging.

The journey from adversity and trauma to healing and resilience is a transformative one. While statistics may suggest otherwise, individuals have the capacity to transcend the challenges they face and create positive outcomes in their lives. Acknowledging the impact of adverse childhood experiences and intergenerational trauma is a crucial step toward breaking the cycles of adversity. By fostering societal awareness, engaging in open dialogue, and promoting connection and healing, we can build a future where childhood adversity becomes less prevalent, intergenerational wellness flourishes, and hope becomes a shared reality.

The UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute's (FPG) FRONTIER program sponsored a statewide summit, “Leveraging North Carolina’s Assets to Prevent Child Trauma,” April 27-28, 2023. Nearly 150 representatives from academia, community and state organizations, lived experience, philanthropy, government agencies, and governing bodies convened in person, and approximately 230 people joined virtually. The summit was organized by Diana “Denni” Fishbein, PhD, director of translational neuro-prevention research at FPG, and Melissa Clepper-Faith, MD, MPH, translational research program and policy coordinator at FPG. This article is one of a series dealing with issues discussed at the summit; find the full series here.