The Monroe County Childhood Conditions Summit 2017 was held December 7 2017. Attendees and presenters have been asked to share their thoughts on the experience.

REFLECTIONS OF A TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE

By Lillian Henegar, Bloomington Township Trustee

Bloomington Township closed its Office so that all staff could attend the Monroe County Childhood Conditions Summit 2017 on December 7, 2017.

I joined the BTCC Core Team and later signed Bloomington Township Office up as a Cross Sector Team Member with Monroe County’s Healthy Cities and Counties Challenge because I wanted to see how a governmental entity can support safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for its community. My guiding belief is that to do so that one must create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environment for staff. I believe that professional development and opportunities to do things as a team contribute toward that goal. Thus, all staff, including the bookkeeper, attended the Summit.

The Township Trustee is charged with providing emergency assistance to those in need and to responsibly steward the Township taxpayers’ dollars.  Assistance can be for rent, utilities, and some medical needs; we can also help with burying the dead. In Bloomington Township’s case, a staff of 6 fulfill this charge.

Bloomington Township comprises 36 square miles in the center of Monroe County and has approximately 45,000 residents.  In 2017, 677 households scheduled appointments to complete applications for help; of which, 422 completed the application.  The Township runs a food pantry and serves a monthly average of 217 households or 593 individuals.

Mary Balle’s session, “Addressing the Needs of Individuals who have Experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Holistic Approach,” described ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). In an intense hour and a half, she explored trauma, the current supporting science, and emerging treatment modalities. A practitioner with diverse field experience, she illuminated the facts and science and theory with her experiences. Her presentation clarified how important it is to ensure that the Office atmosphere is calm and welcoming. We also must be mindful of how difficult it is to comprehend and use information when an applicant is in crisis.

Georg’ann Cattelona stayed true to her promise.  Her presentation, “Let’s Put the “Birth” Back in “Birth to Five”: a crash course on why the perinatal period matters and what to do about it,” was full of information supporting her assertion and engaging her audience in asking the questions and finding the answers.  

While “Finding Your ACE Score” questionnaire doesn’t include any questions about whether or not you were left to “cry it out” as an infant or whether or not your caregivers were leaving you with babysitters (or nannies) during your first 3 months, I believe that it should. I’ve been able to be with my daughter and her family in the first month following each of my grandsons’ births, which has brought home to me the truth of what Ms. Cattelona is teaching.

I have watched these little wriggly, sleepy, hungry creatures and their parents. I witness how much support they need to be present for that emerging human being. I see firsthand why the mother and baby should be viewed as a unit.  It makes sense to me that the first three months of life are the fourth trimester of pregnancy. Mothers and fathers returning to their “regular” routine so quickly, discouraged from skin to skin contact with their infants, encouraged to let them “cry it out,” and doing all this without support from society is a traumatic experience with long term consequences for both the parents and the children, and ultimately for society.  When young children and babies cry in the Office, I can hear the impact of this trauma in the pitch and substance of those cries.  I worry about them, their parents, and our community.

The third class I attended was led by the capable SCCAP team, Katie Rodriguez and Hannah Watt. They shared that 13% of Monroe Countians do not have health insurance. Their session, “The Gauntlet: Accessing Health Insurance in Indiana,” described the obstacles facing the Monroe Countians without workplace health “insurance” and how their team helps them navigate this system and get access to healthcare. They asked us to go through the application process giving us a taste of the challenges people applying for HIP 2.0 face.

I expected the MC3 Summit would be an exciting combination of new knowledge, thought provoking content, and practical applications.  The Summit lived up to these expectations for myself and the members of the Township staff. Everyone returned excited about what they’d learn or done that day.  One outstanding takeaway was expanding our knowledge of community resources available to the people coming to us for help.  It is challenging to incorporate what we learned into our work as a governmental entity where our practices are often dictated by state laws and policies based on the belief that poverty and bad decisions should be punished and shamed (as well as on outdated science). Nevertheless, we persist, continuing to make our township office a safe, stable, nurturing place where people matter.

MC3 2017: REFLECTIONS OF A TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE