DCCC, Dragonfly House form unique partnership

Published 9:46 am Friday, November 30, 2018

“We truly want to make an impact on the community and this is a great way to start.”

That’s how Joey Goodman, Davidson County Community College Program Director for School of Workforce Development, Continuing Education and Academic Support, and Brandi Reagan, executive director of The Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center, described the new partnership developing between the two agencies that extends into the communities they serve.

Goodman and Reagan co-chair a team of professionals made up of DCCC faculty, Dragonfly House staff, and community partners who are spearheading a new initiative designed to bring about education and awareness regarding childhood trauma.

At the end of June, the college and agency started to learn the potential for Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) as a curriculum program at DCCC. Child Advocacy Studies focuses on developing students’ understanding of the factors that lead to child maltreatment and ways to respond to those incidents. The program is designed for any system and course of study that interacts with children including healthcare, criminal justice, social services, early childhood education, etc.

Not long after that first meeting, the group was presented with a chance to apply for a grant that would implement a workforce development version of the CAST curriculum called Project FORECAST, which stands for Foundations for Outreach through Experiential Child Advocacy Studies Training. The grant program is offered through the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), focused on training undergraduate college students and community professionals in problem-based learning simulations to develop trauma-informed experiential reasoning skills, allowing them to be capable and competent at responding to trauma in a manner that promotes resiliency and reduces further trauma.

Real-life simulation labs would better train those who work with children, bring about awareness of childhood trauma, and prepare individuals to respond appropriately.

To meet the criteria for the gran, a team had to be established to participate in conference calls and submit a request. For year 2019, three teams were selected for Project FORECAST implementation, including Davidson County Community College and The Dragonfly House.

This makes the partnership the first of its kind in North Carolina and the college the first in NC to implement Project FORECAST.

It will take 12 months to establish.

“We value the ability to bring this team together to collectively influence change as a group as opposed to change as individuals through our independent agencies. For the community college to provide this vehicle for that training is an honor,” said Rose Runion McDaniel, dean for the school of health, wellness, and public safety. The team has met, talked about goals and created a vision statement: “To prepare the community through education and awareness to appropriately respond to childhood trauma and reduce its long-term effects.”

An influence on the goals of the team, as well as the overall goals of the project, is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente in the mid-90s and focused on 10 factors of adversity: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, mother treated violently, substance misuse within household, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce, and/or incarcerated household member. The outcomes of this study changed the landscape for children who have experienced trauma and those who work to help them.

Research shows a relationship between ACEs, substance use disorders, and behavioral problems.

When children are exposed to chronic stressful events, their brain development can be disrupted and the ability to cope with negative emotions may be impaired. Over time, and often during adolescence, the child may adopt negative coping skills, such as substance use or self-harm, or develop mental health concerns due to those negative coping skills. Eventually, these experiences can contribute to disease, disability, and social problems, as well as premature death.

A child who has experienced 6 or more ACEs is 24 times more likely to attempt suicide. On average, 85% of opiate addicts and 81% of alcoholics have experienced at least one ACE. Adverse childhood experiences can contribute to workplace absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical expenses, totaling a loss to the community of as much as $44 billion per year, according to the study.

Since opening its doors in 2010, The Dragonfly House has provided services to more than 3,000 children. In many cases, a person suspected abuse was occurring, but did not know how to respond.

Regina Hayes, counselor with Davie County Schools, was appointed to serve on this team by Dr. Darrin Hartness, Davie County Schools superintendent and incoming president of Davidson County Community Colleg. He is also a member of The Dragonfly House board of directors. Hayes has worked with high school students in Davie and Davidson counties who experienced adversity and trauma. Hayes sees the impact this project could make on the lives of the children she works with every day.

“If the community, and those who not only cross paths with children, but are also tasked in working with children, have a better understanding of trauma, adverse experiences, negative outcomes, and how to appropriately react to trauma and positively impact the child, then negative outcomes can be changed and the long-term effects can be drastically reduced,” she said.

Project FORECAST aims to introduce real-life, trauma-informed, work-based simulation labs with the goal to improve the community’s response to child maltreatment.

Katrina McMasters, social work program administrator at Davidson County Department of Social Services and a member of the board at The Dragonfly House, was excited about the project.

“With this partnership, the benefits are limitless; when true collaboration happens to create the type of trauma aware community needed to promote healing, we all win,” said McMasters.

Reagan agreed. “This is just the beginning to an upstream approach to trauma in our community. The goals under Project FORECAST are to sustain stronger communities, equip youth serving professionals, and empower our children.”

Up next for the team is a multi-day training workshop in January.

Team members include: Reagan; Goodman; Elizabeth Schenck, program director and faculty, DCCC Human and Social Services Technology; Sheria White, community educator, The Dragonfly House; Katrina McMasters, social work program administrator, Davidson Social Services and  Dragonfly House board; David Blake, detective, Davidson Sheriff’s Office; Annemarie Ernst, assistant district attorney, District 22B; Regina Hayes, Davie County Schools counselor; and Chunda Teal, management specialist, Smart Start of Davidson County.