Thriving Kids Event Follow Up: Understanding POTENTIAL

20180723_Interprofessional Group_0333_.jpg

Guest Post by Mary Donnelly-Crocker

One of my most favorite words in our whole lexicon is-POTENTIAL! I love the whole idea of…what …might be. When I see a new baby, smelling of that newness, all wrinkly and completely dependent-I think-POTENTIAL. What will this new little life become? Whose life might they touch? What new ways of thinking might emerge from that still-developing newborn brain? Will they be funny? Will they have a penchant for music or science or even lady bugs? What will captivate them?

When I see a toddler wield the most powerful word in the universe…..NO-my heart smiles because I know they are on their way to being in charge of their lives.

When I see kindergarteners lining up on the first day of school, with brand new butterfly backpacks, nervous giggles, little feet in brand new shoes and  parents in the wings, maybe looking more distraught than the five year olds--- I think POTENTIAL! Potential to have the world opened to them in big and small ways. I see potential for parents to learn to hold on and let go at the same time.

When I see seventeen year old, in the full throes of the angst involved in writing a college essay, I think to myself----you, just have no idea WHAT POTENTIAL you have!

Potential, Potential, Potential.

 My heart gets broken regularly when I witness potential being crushed. When a crying baby is endlessly ignored or a toddler is punished for trying out their independence a little abrasion forms on my soul. That little abrasion is expanded when adults ignore or worse yet, punish curiosity. My soul feels bruised when I witness the effects of child abuse and neglect. It hurts to the core of my being to see potential limited.

Luckily---tenacity, optimism and a sense of humor were bred into me ! (Thank You Dad)

So what, it’s a little hard to change things….so what, I can’t magically make all child abuse stop….so what!      So What……..

There are things we CAN DO---and it inspires me every day to see adults decide in very conscious ways to DO things –little things-big things- that will help children thrive. THRIVE, in my dictionary is a verb and collectively we can all contribute to children who thrive and to a community that thrives. Young & Healthy is embarking on a new small project….you know, just CHANGE THE WORLD…or at least our little corner of it. I really do believe—that collectively-we can do this. Our “collective” is anyone who cares about the well-being of children…so that includes you—right? 

Young & Healthy is working toward building relationships everywhere we go, so that we can learn together to be a community that builds resilience and minimizes the effects of trauma in our children. We are using a public health model to achieve this-KAP, Knowledge, Attitude and Practice. We are first building knowledge about brain development, how it is negatively affected by exposure to toxic stress, the behaviors that often come with it---and most importantly, what we can all do to mitigate the effects of that trauma in children and adults. We want to change attitudes, shifting from “What’s wrong with that kid”to “I wonder what happened to them”. That small change---shifts everything. It allows us to have a broader understanding of behavior as communication and deepens our compassion. Finally, we want day to day practices to change. 

This is the most exciting…inspiring part----it is working! We are seeing changes!

School principals are learning to be curious about behaviors instead of leaping quickly to punishment. Classroom teachers are learning that a few minutes of a mindfulness practice can increase kindness and calm in their classrooms. Parents are learning ways to communicate in ways that can provide emotional safety andset boundaries. Hospital staffs are more and more tuned into the emotional lives of their patients---showing deep caring. Even swim instructors have adapted some of their teaching to be more accepting and nurturing with children who “come from hard places”. Professionals from psychiatrists to case managers to police officers are hungry for more and more education on trauma and resilience.

Pasadena is on its way to becoming a Trauma Informed and Resilient Community….It will take a million little shifts in attitude and millions of small actions to make it so. But I have to tell you---every single time a see an old method of being questioned or new kinder version emerge, I do a little happy dance. I seem to dancing quite a lot lately.

Mary Donnelly-Crocker received both her B.A. and M.A. in Child Development at CSULA. Working in children’s health care for over 39 years, she was a Child Life Specialist at Huntington Memorial Hospital for ten years. She has taught at California State University of Los Angeles and the University of La Verne in the areas of child development, hospitalized children and nonprofit management. 

Mary is the Executive Director of Young & Healthy, a nationally recognized program that connects low-income uninsured children with volunterr doctors who will provide them care at NO CAST. She has been a local leader in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act - helping our community partners enroll over 15,000 people into health insurance in the last two years. Recently, Young & Healthy has recevied numerous awards and recognitions, both nationally and locally. In 2015, Young & Healthy was named Pasadena's BEST NONPROFIT. Young & Healthy is currently embarking on a program, bringing new research and best practices around the concepts of Trauna Informed Care. While awards are wonderful, it is the need of one child at a time that drives Mary’s passion for the work. 

Mary is most proud to be the parent to one great nephew, three adult children...and if that wasn’t happy enough--Mary is grandma to the cutest toddler in the world!