In our book Anna Age Eight, we discuss how safe families produce successful students and thriving communities. Unfortunately, across our towns and cities, family households are not places where all children are safe.
Instead, children endure adverse childhood experiences—or ACEs. There are ten ACEs that include physical and emotional neglect; physical, emotional and sexual abuse; and living in households where adults misuse substances, have mental health challenges, are violent to partners, parents are separated, or a family member is incarcerated.
Addressing ACEs provides an incredible opportunity to redesign our towns and cities into communities that are not only family-friendly but thrive economically.
For those city leaders eager to generate more prosperity, we have the technology at hand but what defines a family-friendly city?
When we say 'family-friendly' we mean a village, town or urban center where it is easy to:
To get there, we must first recognize that what we NEED from our family-friendly cities has changed.
With our mobile devices, we don’t need a physical space to bank, send packages, get a degree, or complete government forms. We can order almost everything we want online so traditional main streets and big malls have lost their purpose and make us wonder if we really need public spaces anyway.
But in our communities, we still seek human interaction. We may not need traditional physical services but we still crave face-to-face contact and a connection to the community around our homes.
To achieve this, we need to rethink how our cities serve parents and children. We need sidewalks for strollers, safe routes to schools, shuttles that can take baby carriages, systems that allow easy online enrollment for early childhood learning programs, andour family-friendly schools need onsite wellness centers to make engaging with medical, mental or dental care easy for both student and parent
To keep our teens safe and healthy, we need bike paths and free shuttles to allow students to safely and easily reach activity centers where teens want to hang out: complete with sports, maker spaces, and educational activities to fill every evening and weekend.
We then provide a clear path to a positive, productive future as teens grow into adulthood. In our family-friendly city, business owners, farmers and artists work together to organize youth to help with community projects and introduce teens to apprenticeships with mentors of all types.
To make a city’s economic engine hum, city leaders and business people come together to identify each region’s assets. In New Mexico, that can mean marketing must-see destinations where road trips lead to sun, fun, vintage stores, pop up diners, farmer’s markets and recreational activities—all available to preview and discover on an app.
Throw in a dash of tech-infused features like AirBnBs, uber drivers, apps with self-guided historical and nature tours, and even the smallest of towns can be a magnet for tourism.
A collaborative approach can lead to economic development that focuses on local talent and innovation year round. As we create a thriving economy, we reduce many of the problems that can lead to childhood trauma.
New Mexico has an opportunity to reinvigorate all our urban and rural centers.
To make this a reality, we propose establishing the Anna, Age Eight Institute guided by the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment.
The Institute will focus on strengthening community systems and lifelong learning to create:
Join us in this groundbreaking work developing a first-of-its kind center devoted exclusively to family safety and success.
For questions or to help establish the Anna, Age Eight Institute, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Anna, Age Eight Institute is guided by the strategies presented in the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment by Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello. You can download the book free-of-charge here: www.AnnaAgeEight.org/anna.