PACT for Families Collaborative

Report date
September 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Our data gathering phase not only helped illustrate the needs in our community but also summarize what we thought we knew about issues in our community. We knew trauma was impacting children and families in our community but what we heard from families was so valuable. Often providers believe they know that the key barriers are for families in growing or building resiliency but what we learned from parents is what they feel their needs are don't always match what providers believe. By having listening sessions with a variety of groups, we learned where information sharing is needed. School staff often feel they are not equipped to support children and families because trauma is not necessarily in their wheelhouse of information. The data indicate that they don't know where to refer children and families who may be experiencing trauma and have high needs. The data supported much of the same information for family practice doctors as well. only about 33% of doctors indicated they knew how to support families they may see with trauma needs. We used this additional data in our planning of our planning meetings.
To generate ideas, we made use of a two meeting format. We divided our 5 counties into East and West. The East consisted of Meeker and McLeod Counties and the West of Renville, Yellow Medicine and Kandiyohi Counties. Each group met for a full day- twice over a two month period. The first meeting was to set the stage with the issues and the second to move the issues into a general plan. We used the “Pro Action Café” model that provided the opportunity for participants to suggest ideas that addressed the need and discussion from the first meeting, and then had participants identify specific projects or ideas they felt could fill a gap in resources and support kids impacted by ACEs. This process generated ideas from the two regional groups that are in the process of being implemented. Each project has been carried forward by a ‘champion’ and a small group of people who are working out the details of the project. Two were started over the summer, ready to be implemented with the start of school, three others have been planning their next steps and one is looking for ways to better focus their ideas.
Sharing the data and our progress with partners and the general community has brought even more perspective for us as an agency. As we have shared our work on this project, we have been surprised, pleased and challenged to learn about other activities taking place across our five counties. Other's are also supporting kids and families impacted by ACEs. Surprised as we heard about training or programming a school or organization was initiating that we hadn’t heard about until it was well underway. Pleased that they were taking place and reaching more people, and challenged to find ways to help communicate and connect activities together to maximize dollar resources and impact. We are excited about the possibilities that can come from greater collaboration and planning, but also challenged on how to keep all the parts connected. We would like to make use of a ‘Strategy Map’ to help bring the ideas together and use to help people and organizations see they can work on specific projects and areas of concern, and yet be working to support a common interest of helping kids and families succeed and not duplicate efforts.

Key lessons learned

Time: Helping to bring change within community systems takes time – often more than you project or anticipate. It also means staff need to take time ‘away’ from their job to come to meetings and get involved. Our geography of five counties and individual program budgets make it imperative to have meetings that work efficiently and effectively. Timing: with kids birth through age 8 as our primary focus, engaging schools was essential in our process. Working around the school year has it’s own challenges. There are really only about 6 ½ months that school staff can really get involved, and the key staff we want to involve are often those who have a difficult time leaving the building for any length of time. School staff and agency staff work under different scheduling and meeting expectations that adds to the planning process. If you really want to get some key staff involved, you need to work through some of these issues.
We do not see anything so far as a ‘ failure’ – we are excited about what has been started so far. Putting a puzzle together of resources and agencies to optimize capacity can be complicated but rewarding. How we have been able to connect our project with other events/projects taking place is complicated but exciting. We have been able to bring ACE information to the Southwest Initiative Foundation. Through their Grow Our Own initiative, they have provided additional support to two of our projects. One that is taking place at an elementary school and another to implement training and resources for doctors and clinic staff in a local clinic. We have been working with Minnesota Communitites Caring for Children to utilize resources they can provide for ACEs training into our communities to support our “Train the Trainer” initiative identified through our planning. We have been networking with our local mental health center as they work with two schools to implement a more comprehensive approach to addressing the mental health needs of all students.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Each of the three elements has been important at some point in the process with our project. Our project was designed to make use of each of the three elements, understanding that one leads into the next. And that at some point, these all are taking place at the same time. Within the three, our focus has been to strengthen collaboration across service providers, and look for ways to include new partners in the conversation and planning and implementation. We have been intentional in reaching out to different service perspectives to include in our planning process, and have encouraged the groups to utilize our existing resources as part of their project. We have identified key missing partners in our work so far, and are looking at options to engage them more fully in continued planning. We are making use of other initiatives that are happening within other entities where we can utilize or promote. Through this process, we are able to see more ways to partner directly on initiatives that support the goals of our project. Data we gathered indicated that doctors lack information on trauma. A local clinic was looking for information. One of our projects aligns with their goal.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Data gathering before you dive in has once again been illustrated. We really felt we knew some key pieces in our community before we started. However, we didn't know all of the information and taking the time on the front end to gather data, really has driven the project forward. Taking the time to think through what we wanted to learn and to test our ideas with data helped our planning meetings become focused. As an agency we oversaw the data collection. However, we made a decision to present the raw data to the planning groups and walked them through the process of taking that data and interpreting. I think this process encouraged the group to really think through the information and ultimately helped them think of appropriate projects.

Understanding the problem

Our work so far has certainly reinforced the need to better understand the impact of ACEs on kids and families and the opportunity we have to support building resilience through different community resources and perspectives. ACE information can be a powerful tool to help individuals see the impact of trauma in different ways, yet find common ground on strategies to support responding in positive ways. Developing and enhancing supportive relationships can happen through all aspects of the community through both formal and informal supports. The discussion so far has also illustrated the need for some sort of ‘backbone’ organization or coordinating entity to keep information flowing across different community systems and look for ways to support both informing and coordinating activities when it makes sense. Our work has also helped us see that there are key community resources that have very little understanding of ACEs and why it does have relevance for all us in some way. Making use of ‘building resilience’ has the greatest potential to impact the whole community positively. It can speak to the business community, health providers, parents, schools and other service providers.

If you could do it all over again...

In a perfect scenario we would add more resources for data collection. This has been an invaluable resource and to have more time to dive into the data and expand a bit more on the front end may be very helpful in going forward. That takes time and resources. It takes time on the front end, but also on the back end. Taking time to revisit and the data, the projects and the lessons learned would be extremely helpful, especially as we see so many parts of the community wanting to expand their work. This project has grown into such a large community networking and idea sharing because of the conversations from data. Having time and resources for evaluation has been very helpful. Having more time to devote would be great.