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Melissa McPheeters
Mar 15, 2019
In Reflections
I originally shared the following reflection on the Tacoma-Pierce County ACEs Connection page here: This school year, an endeavor of the Franklin Pierce Hewins Early Learning Center (ELC) was to bring Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resilience to the preschool families. What began as a broad idea soon turned into an exciting project: “Rise to Resilience & Hope”. Our ELC has had a Kids at Hope culture for many years – believing that all children are capable of success, with no exceptions. With Kids at Hope, the adults are Treasure Hunters, seeking out and recognizing the positive qualities of children (and families!). The core team working on this project was myself (Melissa) and another Family Support Specialist, Marlys Fisher, with support from our Center Coordinator, Sandy Dickson. In the months leading up to the presentation, we corresponded with many other individuals and programs to get feedback based on their experiences. Our largest area of concern was the potential to leave the audience feeling poorly about their own experiences and health. We had reassurance again and again that placing an emphasis on resilience and hope would be important in keeping our concern from becoming reality. Fortunately, our experiences with Kids at Hope and being a strengths-based program helped us reach a place of comfort in the material. Partnering with a local therapy organization, Life Transitions, we also had licensed therapists available at the presentation in case anyone was feeling overwhelmed. Parent and guardian interest and attendance was exceptional. Though “Snowmageddon 2019” caused some delays and rescheduling, we are pleased to have completed both evenings. In Part 1, creating space to review the context of ACEs and focus heavily on resilience – the resilience already present in children and families, as well as how to continue building capacities. In Part 2, the opportunity for the adults to learn more of the science of the research, as well as brainstorm concrete changes that they can make moving forward. One parent who was unable to join us for Part 1 even came in to catch up on what was missed so that she was able to attend Part 2 without confusion. The families who attended also expressed interest in continuing to meet in the future, and our plan is to help facilitate those gatherings using the 5 Protective Factors framework from Strengthening Families with the Parent Café In a Box cards from Be Strong Families. We learned an incredible amount from the start to finish of this project and will continue to offer the Parent Nights annually for each new group of families that enroll. There are not enough words to express gratitude to all of the individuals who spent time speaking with us, sharing ideas and information, and helping us build a safe space for parents and guardians to learn about ACEs, the impact of toxic stress, neuroscience, but perhaps most importantly: resilience and hope. The Franklin Pierce Hewins Early Learning Center is a preschool located in the Franklin Pierce School District, offering Head Start, ECEAP, Title 1, and Developmental Preschool services. For more information, visit For more information about Kids at Hope and becoming a Treasure Hunter, visit

Melissa McPheeters

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