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UKB ICW receives grant to study adverse childhood experiences

By Troy Littledeer

@troylittledeer | UKB Media

March 1, 2024


TAHLEQUAH — The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Indian Child Welfare has received a grant for $74,079 to determine how adverse childhood experiences affect families and, more specifically, children. UKB ICW Director Rolanda Aimerson explained the process began by hiring a prevention specialist to research the topic by administering the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey, or ACE Survey. The survey is a widely used and validated tool to gather information to be used by trained providers to measure the impact of childhood abuse and neglect on health and well-being. The surveys are completely anonymous. 

Funds from the Telligen Community Initiative will be utilized to develop a survey to collect data on the issue. Telligen Community Initiative (TCI) is the charitable foundation of Telligen, Inc., a private, nonprofit healthcare intelligence company. Since its inception in 2005, TCI has provided financial grants to support organizations and projects that strive to improve the health of the communities Telligen serves. TCI’s overall goal is to ensure opportunities for health are available and accessible to everyone. The foundation provides funding to health-related projects and organizations in Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

The end goal of the UKB research is to see which communities are affected by these adverse childhood experiences in hopes of improving domestic relationships between parents or guardians and their children, Director Aimerson said.

“They may not know they’re abusing their kids,” Aimerson said. “But after learning from this, they may step back, realize, and start building on more positive reinforcement.” 

Aimerson states that one main objective is to prevent the removal of children from their homes.

ACE surveys can be utilized as tools in many ways. Some agencies administer the ACE surveys to discover how a patient’s childhood could have been and how it contributes to behavioral health or physical health issues.

The grant requires UKB ICW’s prevention specialist to get out into communities, with a goal of at least 150 UKB members participating. Aimerson says ICW has been at several district meeting with the survey and the ACE presentation.

The grant can also be used for attending conferences and training purposes a mentor program, which will utilize our traditional elders to help mentor our UKB foster kids. One conference that’s already been scheduled and made possible through the grant will be in Billings, Montana. UKB ICW representatives will attend parenting classes and training that are all focused on Native parenting. The research data gathered from these events will help UKB ICW identify which UKB districts may need more assistance in parenting classes or other UKB services, such as education and housing.

The grant allowed the recent hiring of Janelle Adair as the Prevention Specialist to organize the surveys and ACE presentation.

"The places we've been have been really receptive to the information we're putting out in our communities, which is exciting for me," UKB ICW Prevention Specialist, Janelle Adair said. "I'm a parent. I know how hard it can be raising our children; no one gives you a manual on raising our kids when they're born. Education is the current piece of the grant I'm working on, letting people know that adverse childhood experiences are common across the board, not just here in Oklahoma."

The history of Indigenous communities shows that Native Americans probably have more adverse childhood experiences than the typical average American, Adair said.

"No one wants to hurt our children, even unknowingly," Adair said. "This grant will allow us to gather data on what our Keetoowah communities have experienced, educate on how toxic stress that happens to us as children continues to affect us and our behaviors as adults, and what we can do for and with our young people to prevent continuing the cycle of adverse childhood experiences."

Adair mentioned that research has shown us that even with a high ACE score, all it takes is one adult in a child's life who supports them in a healthy way to give them the resiliency and esteem to achieve their best self in life.

"All information collected is anonymous, and no one has to participate. However, if anyone would like more information on adverse childhood experiences and what we can do to prevent them, please contact me or our department, and I would be more than happy to chat," Adair said.

Aimerson and Adair plan to be on hand at as many district meetings as they can.

"I will also be setting up times to be in the communities and will post on social media or through council reps when I'll be out, Adair said. "I'm open to communities inviting me out to do my presentation on adverse childhood experiences and offering our surveys as well."

UKB ICW will be on hand with surveys at the UKB EGG-STRAVAGANZA on March 16 at the UKB Celebration Grounds, the Echota Behavioral Health Youth Event on March 21, and Help-In-Crisis’s CASA Rally in April. Survey participants can receive an umbrella, a small UKB tumbler, or a UKB journal notebook for completing the survey. 




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