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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL)

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House Select Committee on Racial Justice explores Adverse Childhood Experiences

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – In its second meeting today, the Minnesota House Select Committee on Racial Justice discussed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and how trauma and adversity intersect with racism and inequities. The committee learned about how parents, families, and communities often encounter adverse experiences and environments, which affect child development and often present other negative lifelong impacts. 

“Every child deserves a healthy, prosperous future, but many of the adverse experiences they face are directly due to inequitable environments that have flourished for generations,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL – Saint Paul), co-chair of the committee. “We must all work together to invest in community resiliency as part of our broader goals to break down racist structures and eliminate inequities.”

Adverse childhood experiences – which lead to poor health and economic outcomes – can be traced to institutional racism. For example, childhood trauma such as abuse and neglect or parental substance abuse often occur within inequitable community environments such as those with high concentrations of poverty, violence, or poor housing conditions. The result of long-standing public policies, including inequitable education funding, criminal justice enforcement and incarceration, and discriminatory lending practices can explain the racial and economic disparities we still see today.

“We have changed the paradigm in ACES from asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what has happened to you?’” said co-chair Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL – Mendota Heights). “ACES get under the skin and can have intergenerational impacts and more community based solutions are needed to prevent ACES and to mitigate the effects.”

Through buffers and supports that foster resilience, communities can overcome adverse environments such as concentrated poverty. Dr. William H. Dietz and Dr. Wendy Ellis of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University discussed the Building Community Resilience (BCR) model to transform systems to improve the health and life outcomes of children, families, and communities. By creating connected systems within communities – across health care, food security, housing, employment, and education – the BCR model can help develop supportive adults and healthy households, which can result in benefits such as fewer children in foster care, reduced crime,  fewer mental health crises among youth, and increased steady employment.

"Our children deserve every opportunity to succeed, but it's clear that many children and families in Minnesota are dealing with trauma and adversity directly caused by racial inequities," said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. "We have to address the inequities that are holding back our kids and damaging our future." 

Linsey McMurrin, Director of Prevention Initiatives & Tribal Projects at FamilyWise Services - Prevent Child Abuse America, also provided testimony. Documents referenced during the hearing can be accessed on the committee’s webpage. Video of the hearing will be available on the House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel and Facebook page.

The committee will hold its next hearing on Tuesday, October 6 with a focus on historical traumas. A hearing scheduled for October 13 will be dedicated to collecting public testimony. Minnesotans who wish to provide public testimony can contact Committee Legislative Assistant Binta Kanteh at Binta.Kanteh@house.mn or call 651-296-8827 for further information.