Have you ever heard of a Champion for Children Foundation community initiative called Hope for Highlands? You might have seen our Monthly Highlights in social media or on display in different businesses and offices throughout our community. Or, you might have met and talked with us at different community events. If you have, then you know our goal is to build a trauma-informed community, one that supports having healthy, safe and caring adults, and healthy, safe, happy, loved and cared for children.
It is important to understand what psychological trauma is and what it means, because it can negatively affect us in many ways. Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.
Building a trauma-informed community is a huge project, but not a new concept. Tarpon Springs began discussions of building a trauma-informed community in 2010 and kicked it off as a community project in early 2011. Since then, after seeing the benefits, more and more communities in our state, and our Nation, have followed their lead. Building a trauma-informed community is not an easy step-by-step laid out process as each individual community has their own concerns, needs, foundation, and culture; the process and goals are therefore a little bit different between communities. However, the overall goal for creating a trauma-informed community is the same: to create an awareness and understanding of trauma, to bring hope and healing to those affected, to create resilience, and to prevent trauma and re-traumatization.
It’s been two years now since the Champion for Children Foundation decided to take the lead on this exciting journey of bringing awareness and understanding of psychological trauma to the community of Highlands County and its individuals and families that we serve. Within a few years prior to 2021, there had been various countywide discussions about the need of creating a more trauma-informed community in Highlands County. Several organizations and various community members, to include the Highlands County Children’s Services Council, recognized the need to create a trauma-informed community as trauma related concerns, and adverse effects of trauma, affected community members’ health, safety, and wellbeing.
Organizations and community members are invited to participate in our Hope for Highlands Task Force. We currently consist of about 80 community members with over 35 organizations represented. It’s a true inspiration seeing people from all walks of life, representing a diverse and growing community, get involved wanting to help create a positive social change.
Want to meet us? A great opportunity to come and see us, and talk to us in person, will be at the Pin Wheelz for Kidz Festival on April 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., downtown Sebring. We will be there to help kick off Child Abuse Prevention month with fun activities and free food for the kids.
Madeleine “Anna” Leonhardt is the director of Children’s Services with the Champion for Children Foundation.