Meet the Foundation

 

About ACE Awareness

We need communities where all people feel supported and connected. To get there, we must build safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments in every household.

Just like a solid foundation is critical for a house, children who grow up surrounded by positive, stable relationships have a solid base for processing the world around them. From birth through adulthood, consistent, positive interactions with parents and caretakers of children allow them to develop essential cognitive and social-emotional skills to help them successfully navigate the world.

Traumatic events like abuse, neglect, or family difficulties can disrupt the environments that children need to thrive. These adverse childhood experiences — also called ACEs — create dangerous levels of toxic stress that can derail healthy brain development in children.

ACE Awareness and the Movement to Support Tennessee’s Children

Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Awareness is helping to create a Greater Memphis community — and catalyze a statewide movement — that understands the deep and long-lasting impact that childhood trauma can have across the lifespan and supports innovative strategies that prevent toxic stress or lessen its effects on children and their families.

Chronic exposure to trauma can literally change a child’s brain chemistry and influence who they have the capacity to become. Decades of research have shown that as the number of ACEs a child has experienced increases, so too does the risk for a range of negative health and mental health outcomes.

However, ACEs are not destiny. By supporting children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development, we can help set them on a solid path to a productive adulthood.

Our Approach

To support the healthy development of Memphis children, their families, and the community, ACE Awareness developed Universal Parenting Places — UPPs. These judgment-free zones are places where parents, grandparents, and other caregivers receive professional counseling with a licensed therapist; information, emotional support, and referrals for family-related issues and concerns; as well as participate in stress-reduction and parent-child bonding activities — all at no cost.

In the same way that visits to the pediatrician help parents with common medical concerns related to physical illness, the UPPs use the latest brain science and best practices in family therapy to solve common concerns affecting children’s social- emotional health.

UPPs provide preventive, relationship-based opportunities for parents and caregivers to get answers to questions about common challenges and sources of stress that affect them and their children, including:

■ Positive discipline strategies

■ Conflict between parents, such as divorce

■ Bullying and aggression

■ Peer or sibling problems

■ School adjustment issues

■ Welcoming a new baby or entering into a blended family

■ New parent feeling overwhelmed or depressed

Individual counseling is the primary way the sites help parents address ACEs. However, each UPP incorporates interactive arts — improvisational theater, music, drum circles, and exercise classes — into some of its stress-reducing, skill-building group sessions through relationships with community partners.

Today, there are four UPPs in Memphis:

    1. UPP at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women (6225 Humphreys Blvd., 5th floor), the only freestanding women’s hospital in Memphis.
    2. UPP at Knowledge Quest (990 College Park Drive, Suite 104), a longstanding nonprofit organization that promotes youth and community development in South Memphis.
    3. UPP at Perea School (1250 Vollintine Ave., 2nd floor), operated by Church Health, the largest faith- based healthcare organization of its type in the nation.
    4. UPP at Christ Community Health Services (3481 Austin Peay Highway), the largest primary healthcare provider in Shelby County.

In 2017, the foundation awarded funds to Leland Medical Clinic in Leland, Mississippi, to establish a fifth Universal Parenting Place. Though based on the original UPP model, the site operates independently in that community.

For information about the therapies available at each UPP location, the current schedule of events, or to schedule a meeting with a counselor, visit www.TheUPPs.org.

Our History

In 2014, the Shelby County ACE Awareness Task Force was formed to determine the prevalence and impact of toxic stress on the health and well- being of the community. That same year, the task force, composed of community leaders, activists, providers, and representatives from public and private institutions, commissioned a random-digit-dial telephone survey of Shelby County residents. The survey contained questions about childhood maltreatment, family difficulties, and neighborhood safety, as well as current health status and behaviors.

The responses of 1,506 Shelby County residents revealed not only that ACEs are common, but also that adults of all races and ethnicities experienced ACEs.

The task force released the survey findings, which showed links between chronic exposure to traumatic events throughout childhood and negative behaviors or health conditions as adults.

The results convinced task force members that focusing on preventing trauma during a child’s early years and providing support for parents would increase the chances for children’s successful transitions from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.

That decision led to the establishment of the ACE Awareness Foundation in 2015, with a focus on three major objectives:

1. Educate Greater Memphis about adverse childhood experiences
2. Support the healthy development of children and their families in order to prevent ACEs and mitigate their negative effects
3. Work to change local and state systems and practices to support prevention efforts

The Road to ACE Awareness in Action