Wouldn’t Focusing on One Service Be Much Easier?
We are often asked, why ten services? Wouldn't it be easier to just focus on one at a time? The truth is, what's easy isn't always better.
If you have ever attended an Anna, Age Eight event, whether online or in person, you have probably heard this anecdote. When we were just starting with this initiative we were repeatedly met with cynicism. “Ten? You want to ensure access to ten services? That’s too hard. Why don’t you just focus on one?”
Our response was always the same. “Because people need 10.”
Believe me, focusing on one would have been much easier. We probably would have gotten more funding and gotten it faster if we had done that. But our goal wasn’t to get funding. Our goal was to address the root causes of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) so that we could prevent childhood trauma.
We tell this story a lot because it’s relevant almost every single day. Focusing on root causes is hard, and very few people want to do it. I totally get that. I didn’t want to do it either. When Dom and I started writing Anna Age Eight, we hoped we would find a model of ACEs prevention that was easy to adopt. One didn’t exist, so we had to invent one.
We talk and hear about trauma a lot. What we don’t hear a lot about is how to prevent it.
Several articles have come out in the last couple of days identifying very important holes in our systems. And while they are very important, they are lacking any mention of what the underlying causes of these problems are.
They don’t talk about how to address the root causes of child abuse and alcohol misuse. Yes, we need to address the problems that have already occurred. Yes, it is absolutely important to create smart policies around alcoholism and child abuse. But they aren’t the core cause. Trauma is. So why can’t we, at the same time, work to prevent trauma itself from happening in the first place?
I will continue to say this until I’m blue in the face: prevention is hard. But it is so much easier, cheaper, and healthier to prevent trauma than address it. No matter how you look at it, prevention is worth the effort.
I recently became a certified life coach and through that program have met people all over the world who are trying to help people break through their experiences of trauma and help prevent trauma from occurring in the first place.
They all agree that if we could create the conditions that allow people access to safe and healthy childhoods, we can prevent trauma. And yes, that includes addressing the trauma of the parents. But we have to take a wider view. We have to ensure that kids have the opportunity to grow up in communities that provide access to vital surviving and thriving services. You can call it social determinants of health, you can call it healthy communities, you can call it anything you like, but it is the key to preventing so many of the problems we face today.
We want to prevent child abuse. We want to prevent alcohol misuse. We want to prevent drug addiction. All of these are horrible things.
But we need to address why people abuse their kids, and why people drink and do drugs. If we lose sight of the why, we will lose this battle. The answer to the “why” is almost always childhood trauma and a lack of access to resources. So why not focus on preventing that?
The good news is, it is happening. In communities all around New Mexico, community members are coming together in real, tangible ways to prevent trauma and abuse. There aren’t a lot of major news stories about the good things happening, but you can learn a lot about the ones that are at 100NM.org.
There are now people all over New Mexico focusing on ten services. Not because it’s easy, but because people need all ten. These people will get the job done because, even though they know the job is hard, they know success is possible.
They know that when communities come together with a common vision, nothing is impossible.
For those seeking to join our bold transformation, you can find your county’s 100% New Mexico initiative on our map. Join an existing county initiative or start one. You may also review our latest research brief, evaluating our work. For those wanting a more in-depth look into the initiative, you are welcome to enroll in our free self-guided course A Child’s Right to Survive and Thrive. We welcome those courageous New Mexicans who believe that every child should have access to the services for surviving and thriving.
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The 100% New Mexico initiative is a program of the Anna, Age Eight Institute at New Mexico State University, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit annaageeight.nmsu.edu to learn more.