ENGLEWOOD — Some children who have experienced rape or domestic violence often mask the painful memories later in life with alcohol, drugs or suffer stress-related diseases.
While it’s easier to identify childhood trauma with emotional and sexual abuse, bullying, domestic violence or divorce, Kay Tvaroch, executive director of the Englewood Community Coalition, says there’s many more symptoms.
“When a family lives in substandard housing or there’s a lack of local jobs, substandard pay, lack of community resources for education, health and recreation children can suffer,” she said. “We know negativity impacts a child their whole life and can lead to teen pregnancies, substance abuse, mental health issues, heart disease and high blood pressure. We know the economy can be impacted as well as a community.
“We can’t prevent all bad things that happen to kids, but we can work to identify childhood trauma in people,” she said. “Instead of asking what’s wrong with that person, we can say what happened to that person and offer real resources to help.”
On Tuesday, Tvaroch told members of the Englewood Community Health Action Team, there’s a new program designed to help locals suffering from childhood trauma. Adverse Childhood Experiences training helps identify family dysfunction and community-level stressors, negatively impacting the health and well being of children throughout the life course.
The ACES program through the Charlotte County Health Department is linking community organizations to help with resources for people suffering from childhood trauma.
“When these areas are not addressed, toxic stress can build up and impact, not just our children but as adults they have a hard time getting a good job, suffer from substance abuse, cancer, heart disease and suicide,” she said.
Survivors process trauma in different ways. Tvaroch said a lack of transportation and mental health services in Englewood must be addressed.
“If there’s anything we learned during the pandemic is Englewood relies too much on tourism,” she said. “When COVID-19 hit, tourism died for a long time. We know we should rebuild differently. In a recent survey we did, we found 46% of the people answered they had moved here in the last five years.
“We have a younger population coming here,” she said. “We need jobs for our young people. We need more affordable recreational activities and we need the transportation to get them to these events. Otherwise we see this cycle of children who suffered trauma and have little resources or activities to allow them to cope.”
Through the community partnerships, local agencies are adding educational components and incorporating how to recognize signs of childhood trauma as part of a plan for Charlotte County to become a Trauma-Informed Community.
On Aug. 18, Tvaroch is planning a training session for anyone interested in addressing trauma informed care. For more information, call 941-681-0091.