Baldwin Trip – Photo Roundup

This trip to visit trauma-informed communities in the Pacific Northwest and Canada has allowed me to travel through some beautiful places, with stunning scenery. Here’s a round-up of photos I’ve taken along the way so far. I’ve put them into photo “albums” on Facebook. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you’ll be able to access all of these albums simply by clicking on the links:

1. The drive from Portland, OR to Columbia Falls, MT (just outside of Glacier National Park): (650 miles; 11 1/2 hours of driving – we only stopped to take photos during the first few hours of the trip, then it was “pedal to the metal” for the rest of the drive!)

2. Glacier National Park in Montana:

3. The drive from Columbia Falls, MT to Canmore, in Alberta, Canada: (310 miles; 6 hours of driving)

4. Canada: Grotto Canyon hike, and the Bow Valley Parkway drive from Banff to Lake Louise through the Banff National Park:

5. Canada: Johnston Canyon hike, scenery from towns of Canmore and Banff, an early morning elk sighting, and sunset on Tunnel Mountain:

6. The drive from Calgary to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (400 miles, 7 1/2 hours) – during this drive, the weather changed (multiple times!) from snow to sleet to torrential rain to sunshine, rainbows and bright blue skies:

That’s it for now. I’ll post some additional photo albums in a few days. Enjoy the virtual trip through the scenery!

A Heart for Children in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho


idaho aces prevention project_safe_image.pngCoeur d’Alene’s journey to implement trauma-informed practices in their schools
and youth-serving agencies got kicked off in a big way with a keynote presentation in October, 2014 to the Idaho School Counselors Association Conference titled “Catching Kids As They Fall.” The speaker was Jim Sporleder, who had spearheaded the trauma-informed turnaround at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington, featured in the documentary film “Paper Tigers.”

Kelli Aiken.jpgCoeur d’Alene school counselor Kelli Aiken had secured Sporleder as the keynote based on the recommendation of her brother, who works in the juvenile justice system in Washington state. Kelli had seen the pervasive effects of trauma in the kids she saw in her office every day and knew the subject of trauma and resilience would resonate with other school counselors.

“We had a great turnout for that event and afterward, people wanted to know what’s next?” Kelli explains. So, after the School Counselors conference, Kelli gathered other partners to start figuring out next steps.

They started a Facebook page called “Idaho ACES Prevention Project”, described as “A group of community leaders, professionals, family members and friends dedicated to reducing exposure to toxic stress and providing trauma informed care.”

There, they started posting relevant articles and resources related to trauma and resilience.

Then the partners co-hosted several other events in quick succession to increase awareness and understanding of trauma and to build momentum for addressing it:

  • April, 2015: a full-day workshop with Jim Sporleder and Teri Barila from Walla Walla, titled “Building a Trauma-Informed Model and Making a Paradigm Shift in Our Communities” – over 400 people attended
  • May, 2015: a presentation by Christian Moore titled “Flipping the Resilience Switch”. Moore is author of “The Resilience Breakthrough” and the “Why Try” curriculum.
  • 2016: several screenings of the film “Paper Tigers”
  • Early 2017: several screenings of the film “Resilience”, attended by more than 600 people

By using the online event planning and registration tool “EventBrite” for all of these events, they’ve been able to build a huge list of interested people and agencies throughout the community who have attended these events. They’re now using that list to keep people informed and engaged with monthly “Lunch & Learn” sessions on various topics related to trauma and resilience, and a monthly newsletter with upcoming events, training opportunities, tips, resources and other information.

Simultaneously, over the past five years or so, staff at Children and Family Services (CFS) were starting to look at the role of trauma in the lives of children they served. They started offering trauma trainings and talking about implementing a trauma-informed approach with child protection workers, therapists, and foster parents. They saw that different agencies that served children, youth and families were each doing their own thing and had different philosophies and approaches.

“We were inspired by the idea of a collaborative community, to adopt and apply a common model across systems, so every child and family being served in the community has consistency of care with all agencies and systems using a common language and philosophy of care,” Andi, from CFS, explains.

They looked at several models, including Bruce Perry’s model, the Sanctuary Model from Sandra Bloom, the “Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC)” model, and an evidence-based approach called “Trust-Based Relational Intervention” (TBRI).  While each model had many similarities, and common core concepts, each model also had different requirements and costs to get trained, certified, and be able to implement.

Ultimately, they decided to adopt TBRI, as it seemed to offer the best balance of accessibility, cost, and relatively low barriers to getting started and full implementation. Initially, Andi and another CFS colleague, Roxanne, went to Texas for a week-long TBRI training.

Roxanne explains, “TBRI incorporates the best of Bruce Perry’s concepts and work, but in layman’s terms and in a very practical and usable way on a day to day basis.” Roxanne described the TBRI training as one of the best trainings of her entire career.

They are now developing a set of standards and guidelines for other agencies in their collaborative that want to implement TBRI to follow. They already have commitments from 8 other agencies to send staff to Texas this autumn for TBRI training, including representatives from the school district, children’s mental health workers, juvenile justice, child protection workers, Head Start, Special Needs recruitment, and therapists from a local shelter home for children in crisis.

“Our long-range goal is to create a collaborative, common system of care across the entire state of Idaho,” Andi explains. “But for right now, we’re working really hard to do this in Coeur D’Alene.”

Leveraging collaboration and brain science to end cycles of poverty and trauma at CUPS-Calgary

CUPS_DSC00453.jpgThe Calgary Urban Project Society, or CUPS, was founded in 1989 with a vision to help people overcome the challenges of poverty and attain brighter futures. Over the past couple of years, with their involvement in the “Change in Mind” initiative, CUPS has updated their approach to incorporate the brain science about trauma and resilience to focus more specifically on helping adults and families in Calgary living with the adversity of poverty and traumatic events to build resilience in 4 key areas:

  • Economic Resilience
  • Social-Emotional Resilience
  • Health Resilience
  • Developmental Resilience

“Many of our clients have huge trauma burdens – and for those who have children, we know the ACEs research shows this impacts their kids as well,” Tanya Leavitt, Mental Health Program Manager, explains.  So CUPS has specifically incorporated a focus on trauma-informed care into their strategic plan and made it an organizational priority.

They have a Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) Team at CUPS with representatives from every department and every program and service in the agency. Their TIC Team also includes five clients who have been participants in various CUPS programs and services, and who represent diverse perspectives in terms of ethnicity, gender and age.

The TIC Team focuses on agency policies and procedures, and how to ensure that everything they do at CUPS is trauma-informed and utilizes the brain science around trauma and developing resilience.

TIC Team members serve a one-year term, then rotate off so other agency staff and clients can become part of the team. Tanya explains, “Our goal is that eventually every single employee here will have served on the TIC team at some point.”

With 166 staff members and 480 volunteers, CUPS served 9,364 clients last year with services that include a primary care healthcare clinic; a women’s health clinic; a dental clinic; mental health care services; substance abuse supports; parenting education; an early intervention child development centre with full day pre-school and kindergarten that includes on-site healthcare, psychological services, speech and language services, occupational therapy and physiotherapy; income and financial supports; education, skills &  training services; food and nutrition services; legal advocacy & justice services; and three housing programs for individuals and families experiencing homelessness (these programs include case management and graduated rent subsidies).

Through close collaboration with many partners, they serve as a “one-stop shop” to offer an integrated set of services that address many of the barriers and needs people living in poverty are facing.

Amanda Rae Storteboom, CUPS Operations Manager, explains that when a client first walks in the door, CUPS staff walk the client through an initial conversation to complete a “Resiliency Matrix” identifying the characteristics the individual possesses across four domains of resilience: economic, social-emotional, health and developmental. “This helps identify all of the different resources and services that may benefit that client,” she adds. Historically, clients would come to CUPS for one particular service or program, but other challenges or barriers in their lives could end up de-railing the progress they might have made through that program or service. They used to have over ten different entry points into CUPS programs and services.  The Resiliency Matrix allows them to get a comprehensive look at all the major aspects of the client’s life, at a single point of entry, so they can take a holistic approach to assisting the client across multiple life domains.

biopsychosocial+model.jpgThis holistic approach is mirrored in the mandatory full-day trauma and resilience training that all CUPS staff must complete.”We’ve basically taken the biopsychosocial model of health, and pulled it apart for this training,” Tanya explains. The training covers trauma, how it can play out in people’s lives, the brain science about trauma and resilience, and scenarios and practical information about what is and is NOT helpful for people to be able to build resilience, overcome adversity and reach their potential. The staff training also covers vicarious and secondary trauma and self-care for staff.

Tanya developed their staff trauma training curriculum using resources from SAMHSA, the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative’s free 30-hour “Brain Story certification” training (available to anyone around the world at no cost!),  Alberta Health Services (here’s a link to an entire issue of their Apple magazine devoted to brain science, trauma and resilience) and the Government of British Columbia’s guide to trauma-informed practice.

The results at CUPS have been impressive. In their housing programs alone, CUPS housed 703 adults and children last year. 95% of the households remained successfully and stably housed or graduated out of the program and no longer require subsidy. Participants have reported significant reductions in their use of public systems, including a 80% decrease in EMS use, 27% reduction in ER visits, and a 76% reduction in interactions with police and the justice system.

Measuring all of their results, specifically related to overcoming trauma and building resilience, has presented some challenges, though.They’ve had to work out information-sharing agreements and client consent/release forms across various programs and services. They’ve had to address issues with the databases and computerized systems they use to capture the right data. And they had to develop a common, comprehensive intake process for every client, regardless of what services or programs the client may have initially come to CUPS for (using the “Resiliency Matrix” mentioned earlier).  They are capturing the scores from that initial Resiliency Matrix assessment, then re-assessing clients every six months to look at gains in resiliency across economic, social-emotional, health and developmental domains.

Both Tanya and Amanda Rae describe what’s happening at CUPS around trauma-informed care and building resiliency as a “work in progress.” Ultimately, their vision is to help the people they serve to end the cycle of poverty and trauma for themselves and their families.

Trauma-informed mentoring at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Calgary


At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, Karen Orser and Cynthia Wild are on a mission:  to make sure all of their staff and their mentors (“Bigs”) understand the brain science that explains how the behaviors of the children they serve (“Littles”) may tell a story of other things going on in the child’s life, including traumatic experiences, toxic stress, and adversity. That knowledge is foundational to their focus on trauma-informed mentoring at BBBS Calgary.


Cynthia, Director of Service Delivery, explains, “It’s been important for us to differentiate between ‘trauma-informed’ and ‘trauma-specific’. At BBBS, we don’t do trauma-specific care or treatment. We don’t do therapy, we don’t focus on the abuse someone has experienced. Our approach is a relational-based intervention that’s trauma-informed. This means recognizing the role trauma has played in the life of that young person and helping our mentors think about and re-frame the behavior they may see with their “Littles”. Instead of thinking “What’s wrong with you?” we want our mentors to think “What has happened to you?” We can’t take the child’s behavior personally.  We want our mentors to engage in specific, practical activities with the child that can help to build the child’s brain architecture.”

They’re developing activities based on Bruce Perry’s “Regulate, Relate and Reason” framework, resources from the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, and the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (AFWI) “Core Story of Brain Development” resources.

Trauma-informed mentoring is changing BBBS Calgary’s organizational narratives in a few key areas:

  • the WHY of mentoring: because relationships with caring, responsive adults (mentors) can help build brain architecture in kids
  • WHAT responsive mentoring looks like: “Bigs” are responsive to “Littles” when they notice and respond to their verbal and non-verbal cues
  • WHO they mentor: a shift away from “any child who needs a mentor gets a mentor” to “we serve children and youth facing adversity”
  • HOW they mentor: being intentional about training mentors to engage in activities with their mentees that build and strengthen Executive Function and Self-Regulation skills

CALGARY_BBBS_Karen-Orser-Headshot-300x300.jpgKaren, BBBS Calgary’s President and CEO, explains, “The focus on trauma-informed mentoring has given us a new language, new resources, and new ways to think about and talk about what’s going on with kids.” She adds that it has also required on-going conversations with staff, board members, volunteers and funders. Those conversations have raised challenging questions like:

  • Are we getting too clinical?
  • Will volunteers not want to volunteer if we’re talking about brain science?
  • Will it seem too hard [for mentors to incorporate brain research into their day to day interactions with kids]?

Both Karen and Cynthia are relatively new to their positions at BBBS. They had worked together previously at the YWCA, serving people experiencing homelessness, addiction, and mental health challenges. There, they saw how trauma played out in the lives of those clients. And in their first year here at BBBS, they’re working to develop an agency culture that isn’t afraid to take risks and to take a new look at long-established agency practices and policies, making changes when necessary.

BBBS Calgary is breaking new ground for Canada’s national Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, and the national office is talking with Karen and Cynthia about how to incorporate brain science into the standard national training given to all BBBS mentors.

And BBBS Calgary is part of a larger three-year initiative with 15 agencies in Alberta and across the United States called Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities. Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with people from CUPS, another of the agencies here in Calgary that’s involved in the Change in Mind initiative. So I’ll post more about Change in Mind as well as CUPS after tomorrow’s meeting.

Karen, Cynthia and their BBBS Calgary team are firmly committed and deeply invested in taking a trauma-informed approach based on the brain research, and they see it as essential to successful intervention with the children and youth they serve in their community. There’s no doubt their investment will reap big benefits for the children, their families, the BBBS mentors, and their entire community.


The Trauma-Informed Communities: Part 2 – and Glacier NP photos!

Here’s a preview of the other trauma-informed communities I’ll be visiting:

Coeur D’Alene, ID: Over the past couple of years, several professionals in Coeur D’Alene and the Northern Idaho schools, mental health systems, healthcare systems, and juvenile justice systems realized each was interested in and looking at the ACEs research and its impact on the people they served. They got together and organized a day-long conference on ACEs and trauma in 2015 to kick off Mental Health Awareness month, and over 400 people attended. Since then, with some help from the folks in nearby Walla Walla, WA, they’ve been working to engage the broader community to develop a trauma-informed community-wide approach.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada: They started a province-wide initiative in 2007 by convening a 3-year series of educational symposia. They invited 100 people to each of the 5-day symposia, and invited nationally & internationally recognized experts on trauma and ACEs research to speak. At each of their symposia, each attendee had to commit to taking the learnings back to their agencies/communities, put them into practice and report back on the results. They’ve focused on the brain research behind trauma, toxic stress, and resilience and have created this excellent 4-minute video that explains it really clearly:

You can find other videos in their series on brain development here

So, these are the communities I’ll be visiting and where I’ll be meeting with lots of different people “doing the work” of trauma-informed care and developing a trauma-informed community. I’ll post updates after each visit.

In the meantime, Hannah and I have gotten to spend some great mother-daughter time together at Glacier National Park – here are some photos!

Lots more to come…thanks for reading!

The Journey & Photos-Part 1: Portland, OR to Columbia Falls, MT

This trip to visit trauma-informed communities is the culmination of a year-long journey I’ve been on, to explore childhood trauma and the myriad ways trauma can impact people’s lives.

I’ve been able to do this thanks to the Lancaster County Community Foundation’s Baldwin Leadership program.  The Baldwin program supports both the personal and professional development of recipients, with the idea that our Baldwin projects will benefit us as individuals, as well as benefit the community.

Part of my exploration this year has been into the multi-generational history of addiction and related trauma among the mothers and daughters in my own family. My mother, my maternal grandmother, and my maternal great-grandmother all struggled their entire lives with serious addiction, and as a result, the mother-daughter relationships through three generations were deeply fractured and painful.  Thankfully, my own daughter, Hannah, and I have been able to break that cycle, and we have a healthy, strong, deeply loving mother-daughter relationship. So it has been especially meaningful and special that she is traveling with me for the first week of this journey.

She and I spent 12 hours driving yesterday, departing around 6:15am (sorry, Hannah!) from Portland, OR. We headed east on I-84, through the Columbia River Gorge (where I’ll be meeting with folks doing trauma-informed community work next week) in rain and fog and early morning rush-hour traffic.

We got off the Interstate at Mosier and took Historic Route 30 up through Mayer State Park to Rowena Crest Viewpoint. The rain stopped long enough for us to get out and take a few photos, which you can see here.

Then we continued east on I-84 before angling northeast into Washington state, where we made a short stop in Walla Walla, WA just to get a feel for the town. (I’ll also be returning there next week for meetings with folks doing trauma-informed work in their schools, healthcare and justice systems, and elsewhere).

After a hearty late morning brunch in Walla Walla at a joint called “Bacon & Eggs” (how could we pass THAT up?), we continued driving up through Spokane, to Coeur D’Alene (another of next week’s trauma-informed community stops), and across the panhandle of Idaho, then into Montana.

We are now in Columbia Falls, MT, just outside of Glacier National Park, where we spent today hiking and exploring on the west side of Glacier, taking an 8-mile hike from Lake McDonald up “Going-to-the-Sun Road”. Tomorrow we plan to explore the east side of Glacier, up to St Mary’s. I’ll post photos from Glacier tomorrow….

The Trauma-Informed Communities: Overview-Part 1

The trauma-informed communities I’ll be visiting over the next 3 weeks are:

  • Portland, OR
  • The Dalles, OR
  • Columbia River Gorge, OR
  • Walla Walla, WA
  • Coeur D’Alene, ID
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Here are a few overview tidbits about the Oregon and Washington communities. I’ll post brief overviews about Coeur D’Alene and Calgary later this week, then once I’ve met with the various people in each place, I’ll post separate detailed updates about each community.

Portland, OR: Portland State University is serving as the lead agency for “Trauma-Informed Oregon”, a  statewide collaboration to promote and sustain trauma-informed care across child- and family-serving systems. They started in 2014 and expanded in 2015 to include adult-serving behavioral health systems. Portland State serves as a centralized source of information and resources and coordinates and provides training for healthcare and related systems. They work with state agencies, state and local providers, communities, family and youth organizations, and diverse constituents to bring many voices and perspectives to the table to learn from one another and to advocate for informed policies and practices to promote healing and support well-being for all of Oregon’s children, adults, and families.

The Dalles, OR: Their efforts started in 2008 with a 5-year SAMHSA Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant. The grant specified that law enforcement, mental health, juvenile justice and education agencies work together to make schools safer and students healthier.   This city of 13,000 is the first in the nation to seek certification from the Sanctuary Institute— (created by Sandra Bloom at Drexel University), a model of organizational change that challenges every part of the community to examine and remake itself through an understanding of trauma..

Columbia River Gorge, OR: The Multnomah County Department of Community Justice is incorporating a trauma-informed approach into their juvenile & adult criminal justice and reentry systems. While I’m visiting them, I’ll be attending a day-long forum on trauma-informed criminal justice that happened to be scheduled for the same timeframe as my visit!

Walla Walla, WA: Their “Trauma-informed community” effort started in 2008 when local non-profit executive Teri Barila attended a conference where she learned about ACEs. She came back to Walla Walla & organized a community meeting in early 2008 and brought Dr Robert Anda in for a two-and-a-half-hour seminar.  165 people came. Walla Walla is featured in the documentaries “Paper Tigers” and “Resilience”. Walla Walla has a population of 32,000 people. They have 3 colleges, yet one out of four of their children live in poverty, 65% of its residents have not attended college, and gangs and drugs are common.

Again, these are a few initial bits of info. Much more to come! Stay tuned!