ACEs, Trauma, and Response Symposium Draws Over 400 to University at Albany's Downtown Campus

On March 4th, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Trauma, and Response: A Capital District Symposium welcomed national and state experts from a variety of scientific, psychological, social service and educational fields who study the emerging connections between trauma and social, psychological, and physical health across the lifespan as well as explore the rapidly expanding science of brain development and the impact of trauma on the developing brain.

The day-long symposium was hosted by the LaSalle School Foundation in conjunction with the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare, the COFCCA Center for Excellence, and The Counseling Center at LaSalle.

The keynote address was given by Susan Dreyfus, president and chief executive officer of the national Alliance for Children and Families, a 500-member, Milwaukee-based organization operating in more than 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

“I am so pleased to come to the Capital Region of New York at the invitation of Albany’s LaSalle School and the terrific network that has been assembled here. There are only a few areas in the U.S., where non-profit, human serving agencies are partnering with universities to ensure that research and science increasingly guide our practice,” Dreyfus said. “What we know about trauma and its impact on brain development is changing how we work, and this conference is a great example of how that knowledge and information is shared. The objective, of course, is that children and families are better served and live better lives, and that government resources are put to the best use.”

The evening before the symposium, Dreyfus told over 70 Capital District agency executives, family court judges, and public officials that “there is absolute misalignment between what science tells us and what policy does.”

In her address, Dreyfus made the science of ACEs real to clinicians and practitioners from the standpoint of practice and policy, and challenged attendees to keep open minds and think differently about their therapeutic services with youth and families given the advances being made in ACEs research.

Dreyfus’ perspectives on local practices and policy were particularly relevant to attendees and indicative of the Alliance’s mission to provide high-impact human services designed to build stronger, healthier communities for children, adults and families by reducing incidents of poverty, increasing family and household stability, and creating pathways for educational and employment success. Prior to joining the Alliance, Dreyfus led the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, and the Wisconsin Division of Children and Family Services.

David Wallace, clinical director at LaSalle School, illustrated the emerging connections between trauma and social, psychological, and physical health across the lifespan. He linked higher ACE scores with increased risks for unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse and smoking, poor self-images, physical inactivity, and obesity.

Wallace concluded by identifying practical ways policy makers and practitioners can positively impact youth and families.

After lunch, Mary Sise, director of the Center for Integrative Psychotherapy, described the rapidly changing science of brain research, rewiring, elasticity and resilience as well as practical implications of brain research on ACEs related topics.

UAlbanySchool of Social Welfare Associate Professor Heather Larkin wrapped up the day-long conference by moderating an 11-person panel describing how ACEs is impacting their work with children, youth, seniors, and families. She said that “Albany agencies are leading the way in developing programs that respond to adverse childhood experiences by engaging the whole agency and the whole community in serving the whole person.”

In regard to UAlbany ’s work, Professor Larkin added that “the School of Social Welfare studies elements of these promising answers to dealing with trauma across the lifespan, and we are working with agencies to both inform and translate research while they put the pieces together for a comprehensive and holistic approach to helping.”

LaSalle, which serves junior high and high school-aged children, is a recognized national leader in addressing the needs of at-risk children and their families. LaSalle has been serving adolescent boys on its Pine Hills neighborhood campus since its founding in 1854.

LaSalle school officials were joined by other representatives and panelists from the Counsel of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), the UAlbany School of Social Welfare and ACE Response – a research and educational service devoted to similar populations.

Bill Wolff, LaSalle School executive director, said, “The children served by LaSalle and agencies like it are among the most challenged in our communities, and at the same time they are filled with tremendous potential. The ACES research, the study of trauma and what’s been learned about brain development, are helping us to understand even better what has happened to the young people coming into care and how we can better respond. The trajectories that the lives of these children and their families are on are being changed every day.”

Symposium resources and videos


National Perspectives on Local Practice & Policies: Capitalizing on Strengths, Science, & Core Values
Susan Dreyfus, presenting

Beyond ACE Research: Transforming Policy, Programming, and Practice
David Wallace, presenting

Rewire your Brain: Practical Implications of Brain Research Mary Sise, presenting

ACEs Research Panel Discussion

For further information, please contact

Heather Larkin
Associate Professor
School of Social Welfare
University at Albany
(518) 591-8779


For more news see the SSW News Archive