Contact Information

For questions concerning the book or interviews, please contact: Dominic Cappello in Seattle at dom@safetyandsuccess.org or Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD in Santa Fe at kcourtney@santafecf.org.


Press Kit

Download: Press Kit
Includes: FAQs, Author Bios, Reviews, Cover Images and Author Headshots


FAQ

What motivated you to write this book?
From our work in child welfare and public health, it came very clear to us that the nation is in the midst of an epidemic of childhood trauma. With research showing child maltreatment is substantiated for one in eight children in the US, it's clear Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a broader category of experiences than just maltreatment, are at an epidemic scale in our society.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACEs)?
The list includes, in no particular order: physical abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, living in a household with someone who is mentally ill, living in a household with someone who abuses alcohol and/or drugs (legal or not), having a family member sent to prison, and having parents who separated or divorced. There is a ACEs survey that is now used with adults to help them reflect back to their own childhoods and the adversity they might have endured or witnessed. The survey can also be given to children and teens. Some states have done phone surveys to get a better understanding of the magnitude of the childhood adversity. The results are deeply troubling.

What are the consequences of ACEs and child maltreatment?
Through our years of working with the government agencies funded to protect children and the review of the research focused on ACEs, we can see that slowly and silently, these emotionally and physically abusive experiences can have long-term and life-long consequences depending on the survivor's and family's access to treatment. It's important to note that most forms of ACEs are hidden from protective services yet the consequences of untreated childhood trauma can destroy essential relationships, fill our jails, diminish our workforce, inhibit learning in our schools, overtax our emergency rooms, and encourage the sort of hopelessness that drives people to drugs and other self-destructive behaviors. Everyone is harmed, directly or indirectly, as the trauma is passed from generation to generation.

When you describe an epidemic of trauma, what do you expect people to do?
Our government and non-profits need to treat childhood trauma as they would a new transmittable and dangerous virus. If one in eight children suffered from an unknown but debilitating virus, outrage would boil, editorials would harangue public officials, and agencies would mobilize to counter the threat. The CDC would scramble resources to develop and share effective preventive measures while searching for a safe, effective vaccine. We would fight the scourge as we would a war of national survival, reclaiming our children from the grip of this terrible, devastating disease.

What is needed to address the challenges?
We need to do things drastically different. The magnitude of the epidemic of childhood trauma means that we must disrupt the current systems that allow childhood trauma and maltreatment to grow. Everything we've been doing has led to where we are today with alarmingly high rates of childhood adversity, abuse and neglect.

We need to ensure that our most vulnerable children and parents have access to trauma-informed behavioral health care as well as other vital services that can strengthen a family. We detail in the book the ten key community services that are vital and how they strengthen families. Our book offers a way to address the root causes of childhood trauma. After years of working with child welfare systems across the country to create a data-driven approach to addressing child maltreatment, we provide a blueprint for strengthening systems of care that prevent childhood adversity, neglect and abuse before it happens.

Our main thesis, quite simply, is that protecting all our children is entirely possible, but only when we know the scope of the challenges families face. The book provides a detailed, data-driven analysis of the scope of the problem and how to strengthen systems designed to protect our children. The proven strategies proposed have the power to heal families, illustrating how we can all take courageous and compassionate steps toward designing child-friendly, trauma-free communities.

How can we know what services our most vulnerable families need?
One simple survey can give up invaluable information. The book includes our Community Resilient Experience Survey that can help every public health department, child welfare system, family-serving non-profit, youth development program and school district learn what vital services, like behavioral health care and a safe living situation, are accessible to children and families.

Is this a book for the general public, parents, social workers or lawmakers?
The challenges we face require leadership on the highest levels of state and local government in child welfare, public health, education and behavioral health care. This is a book for everyone, every parent, educator, counselor, and all those who work every day with families--those that are doing well and those that our most traumatized families. The public knows something is wrong and are seeking an explanation of how adverse childhood experiences impacts their lives today. Ending the epidemic of childhood trauma will require that all of us, in all public and private sectors, partner with community leaders across the nation, networking together in very new and strategic ways.

Do you think communities can address something as overwhelming as family trauma, especially when so much of the neglect and abuse is hidden from view—whether in mansions, middle class suburbs or housing projects?

We firmly believe that every community can solve problems that were once viewed as unsolvable. The strategies we propose here are tested by decades of work in and out of government agencies. Some places really are getting it right, and we include here stories and interviews from child welfare, public health, and education professionals that illustrate how data can inform effective problem-solving. Often, it's about our own work, or people we know. It will take people demanding action that is backed by research, not spin or PR. We believe our nation is ready for a renewed and genuine commitment to our most vulnerable residents—and making all our children's safety our number one priority.

Whose job is it to protect all our kids?
We all play a role in ending childhood trauma and maltreatment. No finger-pointing here. We all must be courageous and be asking the hard questions of every government agency, non-profit and foundation: is our work measurable and meaningful? To whom and for how long? Questions can be disruptive to dysfunctional out-of-date systems and that's a vital process for much needed innovation and reinvention. From the offices of our governors and mayors to the conference rooms of community agencies, we all are problem-solvers. We wear many hats—lawmaker, parent, teacher, writer and activist—and with our vigilance we can work toward keeping a promise—that every child is healthy, safe and resilient.

How is your book on preventing childhood trauma different from the hundreds of others?
Our book looks at trauma through a systems lens, meaning that we focus on the root causes of trauma, adversity and maltreatment which have to do with the community environments families function in. Most books on childhood trauma focus on the individual from a behavioral health perspective. For those with the resources for long term counseling this can be very helpful. But many people struggle to access mental health care in the US. We won't reduce the epidemic of trauma by treating one client in counseling at a time and viewing trauma as an individual problem alone, instead we need to treat entire city systems. Our book asks all of us to think “big picture” and connect a lot of dots. We illustrate how resilient and healthy children grow up in safe, well-resourced, family-friendly communities. We wrote the book to give everyone a role in the data-driven prevention childhood trauma and maltreatment.

How can we use the book to move our communities to action?
The book was designed to empower readers. We have included discussion questions for work and home book clubs. We also have included an assessment tool that allows communities, cities and counties to measure how accessible vital services like behavioral health care, safe shelter, transportation and family-centered schools are to our families. The authors work with localities in developing a mobilizing project called Resiliency Leaders that is focused on preventing the root causes of childhood trauma and maltreatment. If you are interested in local presentations by the authors and strategizing and brainstorming solutions, please contact Safety+Success Communities.

What is the ultimate goal of the book and your work in preventing childhood trauma?
We envision a well-informed and vigilant public and a government response to the epidemic of trauma. We ultimately want to see public health and local governments taking leadership the way they did during the AIDS epidemic. Imagine, for a moment, that your city has a Department of Family and Community Resilience. The Department’s mission is making sure that every community has the resources to be family-friendly and trauma-free. Until a city has that Department, there isn’t one local government agency assessing the quality of vital family services (like behavioral health care, medical care, parent support, youth mentors, safe shelter, transport, early childhood learning, family-centered schools), nor identifying and fixing gaps.

Childhood trauma will not be prevented by a few sporadic parent workshops, student lessons or a few posts on social media. The work required is long term, just as providing clean drinking water, safe roads and a well-resourced fire department are long-term commitments by the government.

Our community mobilizing and capacity-building program Resilience Leaders will serve as a “virtual” Department of Family and Community Resiliency until one is created. That's the future we are committed to.


Author Details

Katherine Ortega Courtney has a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the Texas Christian University, where she studied at the Institute of Behavioral Research. Dr. Courtney worked with the State of New Mexico for eight years, first as the Juvenile Justice Epidemiologist, then as Bureau Chief of the Child Protective Services Research, Assessment and Data Bureau. An advocate for data-informed decision-making, Dr. Courtney championed and co-developed the Child Protective Service's Data Leaders program, liaising with Casey Family Programs as she oversaw program implementation and the training of the majority of local office managers throughout the state. She currently is the Director of Collective Impact Initiatives with the Santa Fe Community Foundation. Dr. Courtney continues to serve as an advocate for strengthening continuous quality improvement throughout all the sectors that impact children, youth and families.

Dominic Cappello is the co-founder of Safety+Success Communities, a socially-engaged, non-profit strategic planning organization. He has a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Language and Communication from Regis University. He began his work in public service as a health educator in Seattle's juvenile detention facility. He worked for the New Mexico Department of Health Epidemiology and Response Division and the New Mexico Child Protective Services Research, Assessment and Data Bureau, where he collaborated with Casey Family Programs to co-develop the Data Leaders Program that is now implemented in New York City, Connecticut and New Mexico. Cappello is the creator of the Ten Talks book series on family safety that gained a national audience when he discussed his work on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He advocates for continuous quality improvement and a data-driven and systematic approach to promoting health, safety and resiliency so that every family can thrive.


Please contact Dominic Cappello at dom@safetyandsuccess.org.

Now available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions.