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Press Release: Institute for Safe Families awarded Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to investigate the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences...

Emily's picture
Written by Emily
Published on 9/17/2012


The Institute for Safe Families (ISF), a Philadelphia based non-profit organization dedicated to preventing family violence and child abuse, has been awarded a $156,120 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to investigate the extent of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among Philadelphians and to plan for a sustainable ACE-informed care infrastructure.

The RWJF grant will strengthen work being done by the ISF-led Philadelphia ACE Task Force. Over the next year, the task force will be developing assessment and intervention strategies for families who have been exposed to adverse experiences, such as abuse, witnessing violence, persistent poverty, or having a parent with mental illness or substance abuse.

The work of the task force is guided by the ongoing ACE Study, which is coordinated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study demonstrates that toxic stress and traumatic childhood experiences can lead to significant social, emotional and cognitive impairments; chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors across the life span. By educating professionals and community members about the ACE Study, and facilitating partnerships between practitioners and major thought leaders in the field, ISF is emerging as the regional think tank for ACErelated research, policy and practice.

The ACE Task Force, a partnership between practitioners, public health leadership and advocates, is co-chaired by: Sandra Bloom, MD, Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy and Co-Director of the Center for NonViolence and Social Justice at Drexel University; Joel Fein, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Attending Physician in the Division of Emergency Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center; and Lee Pachter, DO, Chief of General Pediatrics and Associate Chair for Community Pediatrics at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and Professor of Pediatrics at Drexel University’s College of Medicine.

"This grant from the RWJF represents an investment in our city and an amazing opportunity for Philadelphia"

- Martha Davis and Sandy Dempsey, Co-Directors of ISF.


The Philadelphia ACE Task Force has the added benefit of senior mentorship from Robert Anda, MD, MS, CoPrincipal Investigator of the ACE Study and Linda Chamberlain, PhD, MPH, the Inaugural Scattergood Foundation Scholar. Emily Wilson, MS, MPH, CHES, a 2013 Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow, will help ISF coordinate efforts.

“This grant from the RWJF represents an investment in our city and an amazing opportunity for Philadelphia to be in the forefront of the ACE revolution that is sweeping this country and providing the science about the life-long negative eects of early toxic stress,” said Martha Davis and Sandy Dempsey, Co-Directors of ISF. “We now have the time and support to investigate and develop best practices within pediatric settings, which will mitigate the harmful eects of ACEs on families.”

In addition to support provided by the RWJF, local Philadelphia funders such as the Scattergood Foundation, the Stoneleigh Foundation and the First Hospital Foundation are deeply committed to the initiative. This work is also supported by the William Penn Foundation and the CHG Charitable Trust. Cathy Weiss, Executive Director of the Stoneleigh Foundation said: “The ACE Study is one of the most important to link childhood experience to adult outcomes. As Frederick Douglass said, ‘It is easier to build strong children then to repair broken men (and women)’. With this work, Stoneleigh Foundation hopes to improve life outcomes for vulnerable youth.”

“The Scattergood Foundation is committed to this strategic partnership, to promote knowledge and learning about ACEs in order to help advance the policies and practices, which recognize that behavioral health impacts the overall health and future wellbeing of children and families,” said Joe Pyle, President of the Scattergood Foundation.