Ideas Worth Sharing: Children’s Advocacy Days 2019

ACE Awareness Foundation Executive Director Renée Wilson-Simmons addressing an audience of more than 600 advocates and community leaders at Children’s Advocacy Days, held on March 12-13 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

More than 600 child advocates, service providers, and supporters from across Tennessee convened in the state capital this month for Children’s Advocacy Days 2019. Hosted by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the annual event is meant to spotlight perspectives on child and family issues and provide an opportunity for advocates to engage state legislators. The two-day event began with welcoming remarks from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee, who congratulated the commission on its 30-year history of equipping child advocates with information and skills to help them speak out on behalf of the state’s children. “The future of Tennessee lies in the future of our children,” said Governor Lee. “If we don’t advocate for, put policy around, and place emphasis on the children — all children in our state — then that future is at risk. You mitigate that risk by the very work that you do.”

This year’s theme, “Ideas Worth Sharing,” was centered around a series of CAD Talks — passionate, short, and carefully crafted presentations styled after the famous TEDTalks — on issues ranging from the need for trauma-informed schools to how the faith community can help address child trauma. ACE Awareness Foundation Executive Director Renée Wilson-Simmons delivered a CAD Talk on the slate of parenting and counseling resources available to Memphis families through the organization’s partnership with Sesame Street in Communities. The Foundation announced in December that it would embed Sesame Street in Communities resources into programming at its four Universal Parenting Places (UPPs) in Memphis.

Dr. Wilson-Simmons told the audience that leveraging Sesame Street’s unparalleled brand would help the Foundation and the UPPs further promote nurturing connections between the important adults in children’s lives in all areas of their development. “When you say, ‘Sesame Street,’ people know what that is,” she said. “This made sense for us because we weren’t being asked to implement a new program; we were being provided with valuable resources, more information, more support so that we can do our job better.”

Her full presentation is available on the TCCY website, along with all of the CAD Talks and speeches from Children’s Advocacy Days 2019.


Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Names Mayor A C Wharton “Public Official of the Year”

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

Former Memphis and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton was among those honored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth at CAD 2019 for his work as a champion of children’s issues. Mayor Wharton was given the Senator Douglas Henry Public Official of the Year Award, named for the longest-serving member in the history of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“He was a true and steadfast champion for quality education and the overall welfare of all children,” Mayor Wharton said of Senator Henry. “And because of my long tenure on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission — as well as my career-long crusade for the protection of all children — it’s only natural that I would view him as a role model.”

Senator Douglas Henry represented the 21st Senatorial District in Nashville for 44 years, serving in the 87th through the 108th General Assemblies. He also served in the House of
Representatives in the 79th General Assembly. TCCY Executive Director Richard Kennedy said that the award was named for Senator Henry because he was “an outstanding advocate for good public policies and funding for essential services and supports for children and families who championed a myriad of strategies to improve outcomes and the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.” Since 2014, the TCCY has given the Senator Douglas Henry Outstanding Public Official Award each year to honor an elected official or government employee who has made a difference for children.

“During his many years of service to the citizens of Memphis, Shelby County and the State of Tennessee, Mayor A.C. Wharton lived the spirit of the Senator Douglas Henry Public Official Award,” said Kennedy. “Mayor Wharton’s focus on juvenile justice, infant mortality and preventing and mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences ensure countless children, youth and families have a greater quality of life and opportunities to achieve their fullest potential. The Commission on Children and Youth is incredibly pleased to recognize Mayor Wharton and his lifelong work with this award.”

For more information, visit


New Programs Coming to the Universal Parenting Places

While individual therapeutic counseling is considered the primary way to address ACEs for families, the Universal Parenting Place teams introduce more positive parenting methods and stress-reduction techniques through a menu of alternative therapies developed as part of their programming. This spring, the UPPs will add several new alternative therapies to the list of programs available to Memphis families free of charge. From April 26 through May 31, fitness instructor Celinda Smith will lead moms with kids through a full-body conditioning workout during a new weekly Stroller Strides class coming to the UPP at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women. Zumba classes are returning to the UPP at Knowledge Quest with the arrival of new instructor Martha Springfield. Finally, nutrition and wellness instructor Yolanda Manning will launch a new cooking class for UPP participants later this spring.

For the latest schedule of programs, visit the UPP Facebook page.


CTIPP Applauded for Contributions to Psychology

The American Psychological Association (APA) announced this month that its 2019 Distinguished Service Award would go to the Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy & Practice (CTIPP). CTIPP is a collective of individuals and groups working to create a better future by promoting trauma-informed policy and practice. The organization does this through promoting policy and practice that reduce trauma exposure, enhance resilience, mitigate impacts of trauma exposure, and enhance access to trauma-focused services.

“As a board member of the Coalition for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, I’m honored by this recent award,” said ACE Awareness Foundation Executive Director Renée Wilson-Simmons. “It’s extremely rewarding to know that the coalition’s advocacy for public policies and programs that incorporate the latest scientific findings on trauma and their associations with a range of social and health problems is being acknowledged.”

According to the APA website, the award is intended to recognize substantial contributions to the division that further the goals of theoretical and philosophical psychology. For more information, visit


ACEs In The News

Photo courtesy of

If teachers aren’t equipped to help trauma victims, students suffer
Former Shelby County kindergarten teacher Candace Hines offered her perspective on the importance of trauma-informed training for educators in a recent column published by Chalkbeat. Hines recounted the challenges she faced balancing her own history of trauma with the realities and needs of her students — and the improvements that she noticed after incorporating more trauma-informed practices in her classroom. “Over time, I learned that almost all students are more receptive when they feel they have a real relationship with the teacher,” she wrote.” One student may benefit from gentle reminders, private conversations, or “social stories” that underscore the moral of a situation. Another student may respond to firm consequences, consistent routines, or reflection journals.”


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FDA approves first drug for postpartum depression
The first drug for women suffering from postpartum depression received federal approval this month, the New York Times reported. Experts told the Times that brexanolone, which will be marketed as Zulresso, works within 48 hours — a significant improvement over currently available antidepressants, which can take two to four weeks to have an effect, if they work at all. The new treatment is expected to provide immediate relief for the 1 in 7 women whose depression keeps them from providing their babies with the care, bonding and nurturing that is crucial for healthy development.


Mark Your Calendars

  • The Universal Parenting Places are offering free workshops and support groups throughout April! Visit the UPP Facebook page  for a calendar of events happening at the Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, Christ Community Health Services, and Knowledge Quest locations.
  • Register today for ACEs Symposium: Awareness to Action, to be held on Friday, April 5, 8:00 am-noon at the Holiday Inn Ballroom, 3700 Central Avenue. Sponsored by the University of Memphis Loewenberg College of Nursing, in collaboration with the Institute for Interdisciplinary Memphis Partnerships to Advance Community Transformation (iIMPACT), the event will include a keynote address by Wendy Ellis, DrPH (C), MPH, project director of the Building Community Resilience Collaborative at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. Building Community Resilience is a national collaborative and that seeks to improve the health of children, families, and communities by fostering engagement among grassroots community services and public and private systems to develop a protective buffer against ACEs occurring in adverse community environments.
  • Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is inviting members of the community to attend Action for Hope and Healing: Responses to Community Violence on Saturday, April 6 from 9:00am – noon. This free summit will feature panel discussions facilitated by Otis Sanford of the Daily Memphian and the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Memphis and Regina Walker, president/CEO of R.D. Walker & Associates and retired senior vice president of United Way of the Mid-South. For details, visit
  • April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Memphis Child Advocacy Center will host its annual Children’s Memorial Flagraising on Wednesday, April 10, in memory of the seven Shelby County children who died in the past year because of abuse or neglect by a parent or caretaker. At noon outside of Memphis City Hall, Mayor Jim Strickland, United Way of the Mid-South President/CEO Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., and MCAC Executive Director Virginia Stallworth will share remarks about defending the safety, self-worth, and potential of all children, For more information, visit