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Chicago-Area Film Screenings Advance Conversation on Childhood Trauma

Maggie Litgen
December 23, 2015
In early November, the Illinois ACE Response Collaborative – a diverse group of organizations and agencies committed to expanding and deepening the understanding of the impact of childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on the health and wellbeing of Illinois residents and their communities—welcomed over 500 community members for five local screenings of the documentary Paper Tigers.

From Director James Redford and Executive Producer Karen Pritzker, Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Walla Walla, WA, that used the science and framework of ACEs to radically change its approach to student relationships and discipline, and in the process has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families. (Learn more about the film here.)

As part of our mission to expand dialogue around of the impact of ACEs, the Collaborative’s screening targeted different audiences and sectors from restorative justice practitioners, to educators and administrators, lawyers, law enforcement professionals, healthcare providers, and employers as well as civic and community leaders. All told, over 500 people attended the screenings—many of which drew a standing room only crowd—at venues across the area including Loyola University Chicago School of Law, UIC School of Public Health, Chicago State University, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Screenings were followed by discussions from panels of experts who addressed the power of utilizing trauma-informed approaches within the education, justice, and health fields.  Jim Sporleder, the principal highlighted in the film, spoke about his approach during the panel discussion at Loyola Law. At the Chicago State discussion, moderator Dr. Kim Mann led a lively and heartfelt audience conversation as attendees noted that although the setting for Paper Tigers seems much different from our community, the challenges facing Chicago students and schools are very similar to in the film—particularly the prevalence of violence in the community as well as the impact of experiencing racial discrimination as a major ACE.

An immense interest in ACEs-related work was cultivated at the screenings and inquiries to build collaboration across sectors to address ACEs and build resiliency were a direct outcome. An evaluation of participants indicated that 73% of respondents have already made changes to their professional practice based on the findings of the ACE Study. Additionally, 89% of respondents indicated that this film made them feel more willing to contribute time to help ensure that the troubled children and youth in their community are treated from a trauma-informed model.

Over 100 people gave specific examples of how they would improve their response to people impacted by trauma in light of the film, including screening for ACEs in multiple service settings, advocating for expanded trauma-informed approaches, adjusting discipline policies, integrating behavioral health into more settings. One respondent noted that she will now “strive to work from a place of unconditional love and compassion when engaging with my students.”

Based on the robust interest in the screenings and the productive conversations they yielded, the Collaborative plans to host additional community events in the months ahead. Those interested in learning more about the Collaborative and upcoming activities are invited to contact Maggie Litgen at

Thank you to our film screening Co-Sponsors:
CBA Young Lawyers Section - Health & Hospital Law Committee
Chicago Department of Public Health
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Chicago Body Mind Trauma Study Group
Chicago State University
Civitas ChildLaw Center, Loyola University Law School
CPS Office of Social and Emotional Learning
Health & Medicine Policy Research Group
Illinois Collaboration on Youth
Illinois Education Association
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Prevent Child Abuse America
Prevent School Violence Illinois
PROTECT, an initiative of ICAAP
UIC School of Public Health
UIC SPH Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health
UIC College of Education Youth Development Program