Physical abuse. Sexual abuse. Emotional abuse. Neglect. Exposure to violence and substance abuse. Being separated from a parent. Having a mentally ill or incarcerated parent.
These terrible events impact children in our communities on a daily basis. And they disproportionately affect low-income children and children of color.
That’s why a group of educators, social workers, and health professionals are collaborating to address these events, termed Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) in one of Pontiac’s most challenged communities. The effort is part of the OU/Pontiac Initiative, a coalition between Oakland University and the Pontiac community designed to foster sustainable, mutually beneficial partnerships between the college and the city.
An Early Childhood Group, chaired by Oakland University Associate Professor of Human Development and Child Studies Shannan McNair, is looking to target underserved neighborhoods in Pontiac to bring awareness of resources available to help build resilience in children exposed to ACEs. The group, in partnership with the Dobrusin Law Firm, PC and the Michigan ACE Initiative, is screening the documentary RESILIENCE: THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS & THE SCIENCE OF HOPE in Pontiac this weekend.
Andrea Agboka is a public health nursing supervisor at the Oakland County Health Division and participates in McNair’s group. Metromode spoke with her about why this issue is so crucial in Pontiac, what resources are available to help, and who can benefit from seeing the film.
Metromode: What sort of work are you doing within the Oakland County Health Division to address adverse childhood events and trauma?
Agboka: It started in 2015. We received a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to complete two projects focused on understanding and increasing community awareness of the effect that trauma and toxic stress has on the child and their family unit.
We convened with multiple agencies in our county put together an electronic library of resources so that we could educate ourselves and educate parents and the community about trauma and toxic stress.
And then we held a professional conference, which 260 professionals attended including nurses and people that worked in the education system. They came together and learned about trauma and toxic stress. And we also held several parent education sessions in the community as well.
Metromode: Why do you think that this is an essential topic for this group to address in Pontiac and the broader community?
Agboka: We know from the studies that when someone experiences a negative experience as a child, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional neglect, having a parent with a substance abuse issue, having experience with homelessness as a child, or witnessing domestic violence, that the more negative the experiences or, the greater number of these experiences a child has, the more their risk for negative health outcomes, negative social outcomes, negative educational outcomes is increased.
And so I think that it's very important for us as public health professionals, particularly nurses that go into homes every day, to be able to take that information into homes and to allow the parents to understand the impact that the environment and the experiences have on the development of brains, and the ability for their child to be successful.
Metromode: Your group has been active in Pontiac with outreach through events such as e pop-up preschool. How can those kinds of efforts make a difference and start to educate people and provide resources on this topic?
Agboka: Well, I believe that these type of events provide an opportunity for parents to receive the education. It was not a part of the preschool pop-up, but it was a part of the last event that they held at the Creative Arts Center.
For example, one of the sessions was about stress and stress management. And so it's just great for a parent to be able to come in and receive some education because resilience, the ability for someone who has experienced adversity, to bounce back from that adverse event, to be resilient, to overcome, to flourish, to be successful and move on, is because of knowledge of coping mechanisms so that they have an opportunity to learn about stress release activities and develop some ability, capacity to learn how to cope with things, so then they'll be successful.
Metromode: Who are you hoping to reach with the documentary screenings this weekend, and what people might be able to take away from having seen the film?
Agboka: Well, trauma can sometimes be depressing, right? And it's sort of heavy subject matter. But, to be able to point out that there are specific things that the community can do, an individual can do, to become resilient is very important. There have been other documentaries that I have watched that spoke of trauma, but this one is really focused on how the community, how anybody in the community, a pediatrician, a behavioral health specialist, a home visitor, how they can be involved in building resilience.
And not only how they can talk to people about trauma, but most importantly help move people past trauma and build in those protective factors and help them to become resilient.
So I'm hoping that the entire community will look at the screening of the Resilience and within their scope, within their ability to effect some change, be able to watch the film and walk away with some charge, some idea as to how they can build in resilience for their sector of the community.
Metromode: If people are facing trauma or are aware of children suffering ACEs in metro Detroit, what's the first resource available to them?? Where can they go for help?
Agboka: They are welcome to call the nurse on call at the Oakland County Health Division. The number is 1-800-848-5533, and it’s available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The nurse on call is our information hotline about resources in the community.
RESILIENCE: THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS & THE SCIENCE OF HOPE will be shown Sunday, January 28, 2018, from 3-5 pm at The Crofoot in Pontiac and on Monday, January 29, 2018, from 6-8pm at Oakland University.
Find out more information here, and view the trailer below.
Resilience Trailer - KPJR Films from KPJR FILMS LLC on Vimeo.