Children’s Resilience Initiative

Building Trust and Empathy into the lives of children through the Children’s Resilience Initiative. This Initiative creates teaching materials, lesson cards, and videos to be used in Education and Wellness Programs in our hometown and across the nation.

The Children’s Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla WA. is gaining national attention for its focus on resilience strategies that can buffer the consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs include physical, sexual and emotional abuse; neglect; loss of a parent; and substance use, drugs or mental illness within a family. The ACE study showed the correlation of ACEs in childhood to mental and physical health, illnesses, suicide, and even early death. Building on the momentum created by our unique website, and the social media response to two postings about CRI’s impact in the community on another website (, CRI plans to create additional tools to those already available online that will focus on high school students. From our three year experience in creating “a community conversant in ACES and Resilience”, CRI has learned the value of relationship as the major factor in a student’s sense of safety and thus the ability to then focus on learning. Lincoln High School and the adjacent Health Center at Lincoln are demonstrating the impact of relationship in working daily with students. If CRI can help increase coping strategies for those students dealing with changes in brain development due to trauma, then we can help increase the likelihood of a more successful life course, including graduation from high school. The Centers for Disease Control state that a high school degree is the number one predictor for human health; thus, building relationship skills, especially for those who have experienced significant trauma, is a priority. We know that for this population, teaching skill sets missed in early life is the alternative to the use of punishment or shaming for skills that are absent or primitive. The biggest impact we see in working with parents, in fact, is the realization that it is the lack of skills, not intentional misbehavior, that creates much of the behavior viewed as negative or anti-social. If we can help students understand that they are not responsible for the family they were born into but that they ARE responsible for taking ownership for who they will become, we can begin to help students reach the social/emotional competence that is critical for success.

We have spent the last three years creating a community conversant in ACES and Resilience. Our primary strategy has been in place at Lincoln Alternative High School and the adjacent Lincoln Health Center. CRI has helped to facilitate the understanding of the power of relationships with students, staff, and the larger community, and all are beginning to speak the same language to help understand and transform the challenged lives of traumatized children. This article:
is evidence that illustrates that when children understand what ACEs have occurred and oftentimes are continuing to occur in their lives, they can lessen the impact of ACE’s on their behaviors- it truly changes their lives! Knowledge is power and bringing light into the dark areas of life frees one from carrying the pain alone. It can truly make life-long change happen! The statistics below show the effects of our program in one of the most high-need schools in our system. Since the implementation of trauma-informed training, a paradigm shift has occurred with dramatic results for students and staff alike.

2009-2010 – Prior to Shift
798 suspensions (days students were out of school)
50 expulsions
600 written referrals

2010-2011 – After Shift
135 suspensions (days students were out of school)
30 expulsions
320 written referrals

When students recognize and learn a new way of responding to their unique challenges, they seek ways to move beyond obstacles and change the focus of their lives. It is at this moment that they need tools and support to assist them in their transition to a new, positive awareness.

The CRI deck of cards is used to help parents, staff, guardians and community members deal with negative behaviors. The cards help them realize that a lack of coping skills produces “negative” behaviors and that misbehavior is not the intention of the child! Explosive behavior, whether directed internally or externally, is a reasonable outcome of the stress they are under. By taking the shame from a child and allowing them to see how their negative behaviors are expressing a deeper need, CRI will help them develop emotional regulation skills. We help establish check points for assessing their own feelings/actions in the moment and options for handling their pain in a productive, non abusive way toward themselves and others. These sets of cards are purchased through our website and are becoming a regular part of the requests we get from the greater community.

CRI is in the process of developing videos, training modules, a blog, a Facebook presence, and a theatre/art program to help our students recognize the risks of ACE’s and the value of developing Resilience.
We are in need of a fourth portal on our website designed specifically for teens and young adults. This portal would provide a place for this population to turn for help in dealing with an alcoholic parent, an abusive parent, situations of neglect, or when a parent is incarcerated. These are every day challenges in the lives of the children of our Valley, and this portal is a vital next step for CRI. Often times, we are asked why it is not already there. The support of the 1440 Foundation would provide the funding needed to develop this undernourished area in our program.

CRI has been invited to several national conferences to speak, train, and share our information and success stories about our community-wide effort to reduce ACEs and foster resilience. This recognition is continuing to grow regionally and nationally, and we are determined to share what we have learned along the way. There are countless communities requesting help in building community support and developing strategies to foster resilience. The support of the 1440 Foundation would help sustain CRI’s work, supporting staff and developing materials to further the Initiative’s vital effort.

Here at CRI, we are a grassroots organization of workers/volunteers who are dedicated to the belief that resilience truly DOES trump ACES. ACEs are not a life sentence, but without an awareness of the potential negative health outcomes of ACEs and a conscious choice to move toward healthier ways, ACEsWILL have heavy negative effects on individuals for the rest of their lives. After we bring initial awareness regarding the ACE research findings, we then shift to resilience research that proves one can successfully buffer and moderate the impact of these otherwise daunting challenges!
It is our hope and desire to model nurturance and in return others will carry this nurturance to the next generation. Our interactions with students, teens, and adults provide countless opportunities to share hope, restoration, and a sense of renewal daily in our hometown! We hope that the 1440 Foundation will see the value of our effort and support our effort to further our work to create communities conversant in ACEs and resilience – in our Valley and across the nation.


Teri Barila is coordinator of the Walla Walla County Community Network, part of the Washington State Family Policy Council system. Together, this family-community-state partnership reduces expensive social problems by involving each community in finding its own unique pathway to thriving families. Building community capacity is a key element of the Network’s mission, and we are bringing awareness of the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences as the major determinant of adult- and public- health to our community through the Children’s Resilience Initiative. Teri has a Masters of Science in Fisheries Management and a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Mark Brown has been the Executive Director of Friends of Children of Walla Walla, a mentoring organization serving 130 matches in the Walla Walla Valley, for the past four years. Prior to moving to Eastern Washington, he served as the director of a mental health clinic for children and families and as the associate director for emergency services for Hopelink in Bellevue, WA. Mark has a Masters degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Michelle Scarborough has worked in numerous group homes across the United States establishing house programs of self-respect, responsibility, and community awareness to offset painful early life experiences. She received her B.S. in Family and Human Services and earned a Masters Degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.


Upon notification of award, development of content material for portal begins. Application to Lincoln High School students spans the 2012-2013 school calendar year.

Budget: $25,000 award will be used for salary support for Barila, Brown and Scarborough for implementation of task identified in this document.