Annual Key Leaders Summit explores ways to create a healthy community

Each year the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network hosts a Valley-wide Key Leaders Summit, with the goal of connecting and engaging all sectors of the community in relevant conversations about the health and welfare of children and families.

This year, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) were the focus of the event. The Network aspired, not only to create an awareness of the ACEs research and findings, but also to help participants embrace the question of how to contribute to the health of the community and help create resiliency to these adverse experiences.

Laura Porter, director of ACE Partnerships for the Department of Social and Health Services was the keynote speaker for the event.

In introducing Porter, Network Executive Director Laura Smith said "Laura Porter has been instrumental in bringing the Adverse Childhood Research to Washington state. Our state is now leading the way in putting this information to work in meaningful and life changing ways."

The first ACEs study, started in the 1990s, revealed that there is a connection between the number of adverse childhood experiences a person has and their long-term heath. The more ACEs a person has experienced, the more long-term health problems such as obesity, hyper-tension, and depression, they can develop. ACEs considered in the original study included child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, child emotional abuse, neglect, living with a mentally ill, depressed or suicidal person in the home, having a drug-addicted or alcoholic family member, witnessing domestic violence against the mother, parental discord as indicated by divorce, separation or abandonment, and incarceration of any family member.

More than 63 percent of the 17,000 participants in the original study reported experiencing at least one adverse childhood experience, and more than 20 percent of them reported experiencing more than three. Data from Washington state reveal that 42 percent of high school sophomores and seniors have three or more ACEs, a rate higher than what adults in the state report.

Much has been learned in recent years about how to create and promote resiliency for children, especially those who face ACEs. Following the ACEs presentation, participants discussed their personal contributions, community contributions, and resiliency-supporting programs that are already in place. Then the group discussed ways to extend resiliency support throughout the Valley.

Conditions that support and build resiliency include those that provide social-emotional support, encourage people to feel optimism, and provide hope. Opportunities for youth to get involved in the community, local teen events, parent-support groups, park/recreation programs, hospital outreach care, healthy family relationships, senior centers, toddler groups, childcare facilities, neighborhood connections, public school programs, church outreach programs, and mentor opportunities can all support resiliency. These conditions encourage and promote healthy social and emotional connections at every age.

Summit participants left knowing that there is already much in place in the valley that promotes resiliency, and with new ideas to expand and improve those efforts.

Riverview parent, Laura Tisdale said, "As a parent in the Valley, I appreciated the question of how can we contribute to the health of our treasured community. It is a question we try to instill in our family values…. When attending the Key Leaders Summit, we all had the chance to come from a personal perspective, recommit and take action."

In closing, SVCN Director Laura Smith reflected, "We focused on the ACES information for this year’s summit because the link between ACEs and health is abundantly clear. It is our hope that seeds were planted at this event and those seeds will grow throughout the valley as individuals and organizations expand their commitment to keeping youth connected.”


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