Early in January 2023, the Forum on Pennsylvania’s Children (FPaC) planning team gathered around the table once again to recap the inaugural event and envision the 2023 Forum. The objective was straightforward: convene professionals from child-serving sectors in a setting that facilitates learning and fosters connections toward healing childhood trauma. Propelled by positive feedback from the inaugural 2022 event, the team wanted to challenge trauma professionals to continue to build an understanding of trauma issues while developing mutually beneficial connections to enhance and expand their impact.
“There is pain in the world, but there is also strength. Together, we can change the world.”
The second Forum took place November 14, 2023 in State College with more than 100 multidisciplinary professionals attending. Jesse Kohler from the national Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice kicked off the day with his keynote presentation, Building the Movement to Prevent Trauma and Foster Resilience. Jesse’s personal experiences with trauma at an early age, including the tragic death of a close childhood friend, illuminated the lack of systemic supports available to recognize and appropriately respond to his grief. “I returned to school afterward, but what I was going through was so much bigger than what I was learning,” he shared. “I WAS one of Pennsylvania’s children in need of healing.”
Today, through his work at CTIPP, Jess helps develop strategies based on root causes, including trauma, which is typically addressed in silos. “The burden of trauma is usually placed at the individual level,” he explained, “but it also affects families, communities and systems.” Systems (i.e., “good policy” versus “bad policy”) are known to perpetuate the condition. Viewing the condition through a public health lens is proven to cultivate a prevention orientation.
“Trauma is preventable; recovery is possible.”
CTIPP’s campaign, #HopeIsNEAR, examines issues according to neuroscience (N), epigenetics (E), adverse childhood experiences (A) and resilience (R). The bottom line is preventing ACES would create a safer, healthier, more resilient America. The literal bottom line is the economic impact of ACES to society. The cost of lost productivity and healthcare due to trauma experiences is valued in the billions annually and could be saved through prevention strategies.
Jesse released attendees to the remainder of the Forum program with a challenge promoted by the PressOn initiative established through the work of CTIPP's late co-founder, Dan Press. PressOn is a national coalition uniting local, cross-sector trauma-informed coalitions for networking, resource-sharing, and advocacy. “It doesn’t do any good for me to just sit in D.C.,” stated Jesse. “We need FPaC, HEAL PA and more.” These are all examples of action being taken in the Commonwealth to coordinate the work and actions of trauma professionals, promoting collaboration toward a common goal.
We look forward to sharing more about the positive impact of the 2023 FPaC and concrete examples of collaboration birthed from the event. To learn more and participate in the broader conversation around healing trauma, join the Forum on Pennsylvania’s Children LinkedIn group.