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The Washington State Family Policy Council Legacy

In 1992, the state of Washington passed RCW.190 into law, authorizing the creation of the state-level Washington State Family Policy Council. From 1994 to 2012, the Family Policy Council played a key role in mitigating and reducing adverse childhood experiences (ACE) throughout Washington State. Guided by the notion that change must be driven by people in their communities, not by government programs alone, the Family Policy Council mobilized collaborative community response to complex ACE-related social problems. This community empowerment approach comprises an empirically supported model of ACE Response, which is among the first of its kind in the country specifically addressing ACEs and their consequences at the community level.

The Family Policy Council acted as a leading interagency council partnering with forty-two local affiliates called Community Public Health and Safety Networks (Networks). Through collaborative community partnerships, Networks restructured natural supports and improved services and policies necessary to reduce the rates of seven major social problems: child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, youth violence, youth substance abuse, dropping out of school, teen pregnancy and youth suicide. These problems interrelate, can set-up costly multi-generational harm, and are supported by very different professional disciplines - with different theoretical models for prevention and intervention, research evidence and evaluation standards, and local constituencies.

The ACE Study brought cohesion and synergy to work throughout the state with its finding that the cumulative stress of ACEs are the most powerful determinate of the public's health and the strongest common driver of mental, physical and behavioral health costs. The gray area across the pie chart below represents the portion of risk attributable to ACEs. Like an oil spill, it defies predetermined boundaries and becomes everyone's problem.

A centerpiece of the Family Policy Council's work is the translation of ACE study findings into education materials. For nearly a decade the Family Policy Council education taxonomy emphasized research about infant and childhood brain development, ACEs, resilience and systems theory. This research combined with the Family Policy Council Community Capacity Development Model, a four-phased process to produce healthy and productive adults regardless of the circumstances into which they are born, has created powerful results. Many communities are now employing a two-generation approach to their strategies for combating poverty, creating healthy foundations for development and expanding educational opportunity.

In 2009 Washington became one of the first states to add ACE questions to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey - a random telephone survey of adults. In 2010 the Co-Principle Investigator of the original ACE Study led analysis of the Washington State data from adults throughout the state, making Washington the first state to have detailed baseline information about the most powerful determinate of health.

The analysis of this data comes at a time when over a decade of community capacity measurements from the Networks show evidence of a tipping point in reducing multiple high cost problem behaviors simultaneously. The Family Policy Council has been able to link community capacity building with the reduction of ACEs and problems associated with ACEs.


The Family Policy Council Network alignment at the local level created a legacy of collective action for collective impact. By amassing an inventory of service change based on or consistent with research disseminated about brain science, ACEs, historical trauma and resilience we can see where and how science based practice changes are saturating the state. Systems impacted by improvements include: Children's Commission, Childcare Providers, Community Colleges, Community Center, Criminal Justice, Child Protective Services, Children's Home Society, Childs Welfare, Department of Corrections, Early Learning, Employment, Faith-Based Services, Foster and Residential Care, Head Start, Juvenile Justice, K-12, Law Enforcement, Maternal Child Health, Parks and Recreation, Parent Programs, Public Health, Readiness to Learn, Substance Abuse Prevention, Tribal Community Health, Housing, and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children).

Vital to healthcare reform and economic recovery is the ability to re-set the public's role in building the foundations of healthy development and improving the community's capacity to partner in ways that help their residents. As a health care reform implementation strategy, shifting the ways that government relates to, and supports, families, communities and private partners will help orchestrate promotion of universal wellbeing, prevention of health problems, expansion of natural supports for chronic disease management, and optimize health in the next generation.

Broad ways of working to build community capacity and reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences generate locally tailored strategies with evidence of stunning rate reduction, estimated at a cost savings of $55.87 million in 2009-2011. The following approaches have become reliable, adaptive and embedded practices.



The ACEs Public-Private Partnership Initiative

Following the implementation of House Bill 1965 in 2012, state support of Family Policy Council operations discontinued, resulting in the closure of multiple Networks throughout Washington State. However, the legacy of the Family Policy Council lives on through the remaining Networks it helped create and efforts of the Washington State ACEs Public-Private Partnership Initiative (APPI).

APPI is a coalition of public, private, and community organizations in Washington State united in a common goal: to reduce ACEs and prevent their negative outcomes through cross-system collaboration. To achieve this goal, APPI has provided three-year grants to five communities located in rural Seattle: North Central Washington (Wenatchee), Okanogan, Skagit, Walla Walla, and Whatcom. Like the Family Policy Council, APPI brings these sites and the broader community together to facilitate collaboration, learning and dialogue.

To advance existing knowledge on ACE Response strategies, APPI has been conducting a cross-site retrospective evaluation of APPI sites. Results of this evaluation will be available at the end of 2015. An interim evaluation report on APPI sites' community contexts and methods used to mitigate ACEs and initiate multilevel community change can be viewed here.

Yet another noteworthy example of community development out of Washington State can be found in the County of Kitsap. A former Family Policy Council Network, Kitsap's unyielding resilience over the years has helped give rise to the Kitsap Strong collective impact initiative - a collaborative made up of the Kitsap Community Foundation, the United Way of Kitsap County, the Suquamish Tribe, and the Kitsap Public Health District. The collaborative has taken a number of innovative steps to mobilize ACE Response and build resilience in Kitsap County. To read about Kitsap Strong and its history, click here.



"Trust the people of the State of Washington to use this information. What's happening here with the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study is extraordinary; it exceeds all expectations."

Dr. Rob Anda, Co-Principle Investigator of the original Adverse Childhood Experiences Study