What You Missed at Our Trauma-Informed Care Conference

October 6, 2022
Emily Win

On Wednesday, September 28, Children’s Institute held our annual Trauma Informed Care Conference, where we spoke with leading professionals about actionable insights for healing collective trauma. Nearly 600 participants heard from our brilliant keynote presenters Andrea Elliott and Michael D. Tubbs as well as our incredible panelists Dr. Angela Venegas-Murillo and Alain Datcher. As a leader in trauma-informed care and evidence-based clinical treatment, Children’s Institute trains thousands of professionals and caregivers each year—including our own teachers, therapists, care coordinators and others. This annual conference is central to that work, because it challenges us to bring the most innovative thinkers together with the front-line professionals who are dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and caregivers who experience trauma, violence and adversity.

This year, teachers, healthcare workers, mental health workers, and other frontline professionals heard about what lived experience can teach us in moments of compassion fatigue and persistence in fighting for social justice. Children’s Institute’s very own Behavioral Health and Wellness Manager for our Head Start Program, Dr. Brandi Eichstedt, led us through a conversation with Pulitzer Prizing winning journalist, author, and keynote speaker Andrea Elliott, who spoke on her long-term immersion work following an impoverished family in New York City.

Andrea shared her journey following Dasani, the eldest of her 7 brothers and sisters, her parents Chanel and Supreme and their heartbreaking and inspiring experience with homeless shelters in New York city. She highlighted the patterns of trauma and systemic racism contributing to the cycle of poverty the family faced. Andera reflected, “when you are too busy surviving, you cannot thrive,” which was painfully true for Dasani’s family. Despite disheartening stories of loss and struggle, Andrea also highlighted all of the power and strength she witnessed in Dasani, providing a more complete and compassionate portrait of a family that otherwise may have remained invisible in a society that devalues and dehumanizes the poor. Andrea reflected, “People often talk about the cycle of poverty. I also see the family story as the cycle of power. The cycle of resilience.” Brandi and Andrea discussed this resilience present in less privileged families and spoke about what types of resources, services, and system reformation we can work towards to ensure equity for all families.

Brandi and Andrea then joined panelists Dr. Angela Venegas-Murillo, Assistant Professor and General Pediatrician in the Department of Pediatrics and Urban Health Institute at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and Alain Datcher, former executive director of the Los Angeles County Youth Commission. Together, the panel discussed the dynamic between the family and the systems we currently have in place to support families and children. Alain continued to touch on Dasani’s story, noting that “how the system interacted with [her] family is also part of the trauma. That cannot be overstated.” Angela agreed in that we are already working towards empowered communities, but “the justice side is what we need to work on.” All of our experts shared their experiences in working with populations who have collective trauma, and agreed that we must continue to meet families where they are, every day, if we want to make sustainable change. As learners and educators, their discussion armed front-line professionals with new ways to frame challenges and opportunities in their everyday advocacy for system-involved children and families.

In our final keynote presentation, former Mayor of Stockton, CA and youngest Mayor of any major city in American history, Michael D. Tubbs utilized parables, personal experience and policy perspective to demonstrate the critical need to shift to a human-centered response to poverty and trauma. Mayor Tubbs shared his lived experience growing up in poverty and why he eventually went on to create the first mayor-led guaranteed income pilot in the US. He spoke to the core issue of perpetuating cycles of injustice, to which he commented, “part of the Good Samaritan impulse is to have pity for people…it can lead us to think that the people are the problem.” Mayor Tubbs reminded us that at the center of systems and services are people. He said, “the best way to respond to trauma is to see folks as fully human, particularly because we know trauma is dehumanizing.” CII President and CEO Martine Singer and Mayor Tubbs finished the conference by speaking to the empathy and compassion it takes for everyone on the frontlines to do the work we do.

We want to thank everyone for coming to this year’s conference, and we hope to see you again next year!