Dear Oprah, Anna was eight years old when her mother kicked her to death
But we know how to save all the other Annas out there. We just need to do it.
The “video letter” below is from author and child safety proponent, Dominic Cappello, to Oprah Winfrey. Twenty years ago, Dominic had an entire Oprah Winfrey Show devoted to his best-selling book series Ten Talks Parents Must Have With Their Children. Now, he has teamed up with with Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney, to establish an institute with a clear goal: end childhood trauma. You can read about their plan in the book Anna, Age Eight: The Data-driven Prevention of Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment (available as a free download or hardback)
“Anna was in and out of the child welfare system eight times before being returned to her mother who kicked her to death.”
Establishing the Anna, Age Eight Institute is not the longshot it may sound like. There is currently a bill making its way through committees in the New Mexico State Senate (SB 370). It has bipartisan support and has a chance to make it to a floor vote, but nothing is guaranteed. The majority of bills never reach a vote. Something as small as a personal email from Oprah Winfrey could guarantee that the bill gets a floor vote and is funded.
You don’t live in New Mexico and neither does Oprah, so why should you or she care if the Anna, Age Eight Institute is funded in that often overlooked western state? Because it’s a model for a system that is repeatable in your state. Not only does it save the lives of children like Anna, it stops hundreds of millions of dollars (hundreds of billions, nationally) of taxpayer money being spent on the tragic and violent results of what is collectively termed “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs).
Take 3 minutes to watch the video. If you want to support the bill, go to the Anna, Age Eight Institute website. If you know Oprah Winfrey (heck, I used to drive past her house in California on my way to work) or simply follow her in social media, ask her to help.
Please forgive my rather unconventional way of reaching out to you. It has been almost twenty years since we met and you created an entire program around my book series Ten Talks Parents Must Have With Their Children — focused on parent-child communication to promote healthy relationships and keeping children safe from violence and drug misuse.
After my appearance on your show, I became the developer for a ten year national campaign called “Can we talk?” funded by the Centers for Disease Control, to set up training in 100 cities to teach parents how to talk with their children about health, relationships and preventing the epidemic of AIDS and HIV.
Now, twenty years later, another epidemic is here: an epidemic of childhood trauma.
I have been living in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the last decade working in public health and child welfare. Here, as across the nation, large segments of the child populations are enduring adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) — which as you well know, means various forms of abuse, neglect and trauma that can keep students from learning and may lead families members to substance misuse and untreated mental health challenges. In some classrooms, as many as three quarters of the students have three or more ACEs.
The cycle of trauma — passed from parent to child, generation after generation — continues to diminish families across our state known, somewhat ironically, as “the land of enchantment.”
To address the magnitude of childhood trauma, I co-wrote the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment (with Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney. In it we share the story of eight-year old Anna (a fictional character based on a very real child). Anna was in and out of the child welfare system eight times before being returned to her mother who kicked her to death. The public outcry was loud but no significant reforms took place. There are so many “Annas” here in New Mexico, with most of their traumatized lives flying under the radar of child protective services and their teachers.
Our book, made free of charge to the public, has been the catalyst for creating the Anna, Age Eight Institute, that could support each county in becoming family-friendly and trauma-free. I am asking you to consider visiting New Mexico as your power to inspire and unite people would be transformative and begin a profound healing.
With respect and gratitude,
You can download the book Anna, Age Eight free of charge.
Video created by Gregory Sherrow for the Safety+Success Communities 501(c)(3) non-profit.