Leslie Forstadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension child and family development specialist, is participating in an invitational forum May 13–14 in Philadelphia, Pa., aimed at restoring wellness to children and communities who have experienced trauma.
Forstadt, a co-facilitator of the Maine Resilience Building Network, will attend the National Summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences, where leaders will explore a number of topics, including research, pediatrics, behavioral health and public policy implications.
Forstadt says she looks forward to building nationwide connections and gaining knowledge that can be utilized to benefit Maine children, adults and families.
After conducting a statewide survey with multiple stakeholders, Forstadt and Mark Rains completed a report in 2011 for the Maine Children’s Growth Council titled “Working with Adverse Childhood Experiences: Maine’s History, Present and Future.”
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), include stressful childhood events like physical and emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse and exposure to substance abuse. These early experiences increase the risk of a number of causes of premature death and illness when these children become adults, including attempted suicide, drug and alcohol use, depression and obesity, according to the report.
Childhood trauma, Forstadt says, is a human issue as well as a clinical issue.
“This is about opening a conversation not by ‘what’s wrong with you?’” she says. “Instead, it’s about ‘what happened to you?’ Many (adverse) things happen to us as children and many people are incredibly successful and engaged in the world. The story becomes about what happens to help us build resiliency.”
Sue Mackey Andrews, also a co-facilitator of Maine Resilience Building Network, will present “The Maine Event: Addressing and Preventing ACEs Through Enhanced Statewide Capacity” during a policy and advocacy panel portion of the summit.
The Institute for Safe Families and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are co-hosts of the two-day summit. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy on Violence and Abuse, Futures Without Violence, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Prevent Child Abuse America and Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation are sponsors.