“It only takes one moment, one caring adult, and a slight shift in the cosmos to change the course of a
lifetime.” These words belong to the multi-talented Johnny O’Brien, a long-time champion and friend of ours who penned Semisweet, his true story about growing up as an orphan in the Milton Hershey School for Boys. Johnny O, as he prefers to be called, honored us by speaking at our Celebration of Children Holiday Luncheon in December. Eloquent, courageously honest, and natural at the microphone, Johnny O allowed listeners a glimpse of the painful challenges that defined his childhood. Despite a multitude of obstacles, Johnny O not only survived, but he was also able to thrive. His explanation as to why this was so is both poignant and simple. “Adversity, when paired with an advocate, becomes a strength,” says Johnny O, whose life story offers hope to our children, families, and communities. His message emphasizes the crucial role that advocacy has for a child who is dealing with adversity. Johnny O links his message to CASA’s mission, and he is spot-on when he says that Court Appointed Special Advocates can effect positive change for children.
In keeping with this theme, I was fortunate to recently participate in a statewide Master Training
The initiative, ACE Interface. This initiative highlights an important public health issue that is explained through results from the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study. For detailed information about this study, please visit www.cdc.gov/violence prevention/acestudy. As described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).”
The CDC states that “Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death.” As the number of ACEs increases so does the risk for these outcomes. Key components from this study found that ACEs: (a) are more common than originally thought, affecting individuals from all socio-economic groups and backgrounds; (b) have a significant impact on public health throughout our nation; (c) can become a bridge for increased communication between people from diverse communities; (d) are affected in a good way by resilience initiatives; and (e) can help us better protect our children by empowering the improved overall health and the wellbeing of our communities. Armed with this information, CASA of the Mid-Shore joins partners throughout Maryland in promoting lifelong health and well-being through assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. “Essentials for Childhood,” can have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential. Findings from the ACE Study and goals
of Essentials for Childhood reinforce the mission that has guided us for almost 28 years. Johnny O sums up our mission eloquently when he reminds us that strength can result when adversity is paired with advocacy.