Q&A with Stacie Kinlaw: ‘ROARing’ for years to come in Robeson County

By Kerria Weaver


Stacie Kinlaw of Bladen County has worked for various nonprofits in southeastern North Carolina. She is currently the community engagement assistant director for the Robeson County Partnership for Children.

Kinlaw works to grow awareness of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resilience. She hopes the prevention of ACEs will also lead to other positive outcomes, such as lower violence and crime and decreased child abuse cases.

Kinlaw works alongside a stakeholder group called ROAR (Robeson Overcoming Adversity Through Resilience). The Border Belt Independent spoke with Kinlaw to hear more about this coalition and its impact on the community.

Q. How long has ROAR been running? How long have you been a part of the coalition?

Robeson County has been working in a partnership to increase resilience since 2016-2017 when this was identified as a key area that impacts children and families by multiple groups like Healthy Start, Robeson County Health Department, and even our judicial partners. In 2019, our county was grouped with Bladen and Columbus counties to receive funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. We work alongside Prevent Child Abuse NC to create collaborative work groups and a community action plan to help prevent abuse and neglect by raising awareness of ACEs and growing resilience in our region and in our counties particularly.

I came on board in August of 2021. By this point, the Robeson County Partnership for Children, where I am employed, was named as the backbone agency to steer the coalition and action planning work in Robeson County. We had developed a network of partners and were meeting via Zoom monthly. That fall we not only successfully compiled our Community Prevention Action Plan, but the coalition also settled on an official name,  ROAR – Robeson Overcoming Adversity Through Resilience.

Q. What is the mission of the coalition?

ROAR meets regularly to learn, to partner, and to help build awareness of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and grow resilience for our community by focusing on five protective factors known to help buffer the effects of ACEs and essentially prevent child abuse and neglect. 

Our mission is to educate, connect and empower the people of Robeson County by increasing awareness and understanding of adverse childhood and community experiences and teaching skills for building resilience.

Our major goals are to build resilience and awareness of ACEs in schools, families and the community, to create a safe, nurturing physical and emotional environment at home, at school and in the community, and to use data to inform collective action. 

Q. How many partners are currently a part of the coalition’s work? How do you accept new partners or volunteers?

Since 2021, we have had more than 100 representatives from more than 60 different businesses and organizations throughout our county, region, and state participate in ROAR by either coming to at least one monthly meeting, joining our listserve along with newsletters, or signing one of our membership resolutions. It is very easy to become a partner in our work.

First, you just have to have personal or professional interest in building resilience in Robeson County. Then you can complete our official membership resolution agreement (found here:  https://roarinrobeson.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/FINAL-ROAR-Resolution-and-Member-agreement.pdf

Most importantly, you want to send an email to skinlaw@rcpartnership4children.org to be added to our email listing. We are continuously building and growing our network of coalition partners as we are committed to growing resiliency by building relationships and connecting to resources.

Q. What age group does the program focus on (youth, adult, etc,)?

ROAR is not limited to a certain segment of the population. We have trained RCPC staff and ROAR partners, including myself, who can come to schools, churches, businesses, organizations, and communities to offer facilitator-led educational programs. These can help people learn more about brain science related to stress and trauma, the history and future impacts of both positive and negative childhood experiences, how hope is built through connections in our brains and connections within community, and so much more. I am excited to bring these trainings to the community members in Robeson County while working in collaboration to see our vision come to life

ROAR members share in the vision that every person in Robeson County will have the tools they need to recognize, process and overcome their own adversities and that individual, familial and community resilience will thrive.

Resilience and the prevention of ACEs should be everyone’s job and I truly believe that when our community is empowered to take their strength back – other good things will follow, including lower violence and crime, improved health outcomes, decreased child abuse cases, decreased addiction and substance abuse, increased recreation and community offerings and others. 

Q. Does the coalition hold events? If so, what kind of events? Are you known for something specific?

ROAR has hosted resilience film viewings, protective factor and community resiliency model trainings in the past; however, we find it best to work within our network of partners to take our facilitated education to spaces and places with people. Some examples include training early childhood educators that participate in NC PreK or seek certification credits through EQST (Environment Quality Star Tracks), providing community resiliency model training for foster parents with DSS and staff at Lumberton Junior High School, working with local schools to present Connections Matter at their parent nights and training youth involved in the CONNECT community with community resiliency model. 

This past year, we did work alongside our regional partners, Bladen and Columbus counties, to host the first Tri-County Resiliency Summit. More than 150 people attended. It was a great success. 

One key project that ROAR has invested in this year to help build resilience for families and children is Bright By Text. Parents, grandparents, early educators, and others are encouraged to connect to our network via text by sending the word ROAR in a text to the number 274448 or completing our online form: https://app.brightbytext.org/sign-up/a2752c88-8ce9-4071-b764-ceccd82faf9e/_/f868276a-f333-46c5-949c-ab60de533197/1

Bright By Text brings proven research  and relevant tips from national sources to your fingertips via regular text messaging. The messages are directed according to the specific age and stage of the children in your care. Additionally, local community partners can even use this service to help highlight and inform our residents about free resources and events. This is truly a way to connect and educate parents and grow resilience in Robeson County. (See more information about Bright By Text project here:  https://roarinrobeson.org/resources/

Q. What are some strengths and weaknesses when it comes to coordinating the coalition?

The coalition itself is blessed to unite great organizations, collaborative spirits, and community-minded individuals around our common mission and vision. Some personal gifts that I have that support my role as the coordinator include my ability to develop and network with partners. I truly embrace the idea that ROAR is collaborative and our impact is strengthened by highlighting and supporting the work of our community partners. Additionally, this work aligns with my personal mission to improve the lives of children and families, so I am personally passionate and  try to invite this passion in others everywhere I go.

I cannot acknowledge my strengths as a coordinator without examining weaknesses. Managing time and priorities for a project as big as ROAR is complicated. Sometimes communication and opportunities fall through the cracks. During my career as a 4-H Agent, I began to truly embrace the idea that we learn best by doing, so I try not to take these blunders too personally and just make extra efforts to do better the next time. If resilience work has taught me anything, it’s that we are all interacting with each other in rough draft, so I need to offer grace to others and especially to myself. 

Q. How do you see ROAR improving in the future?

ROAR is consistently growing the network of resources and relationships. One way that we seek to improve is to continuously look for ways to sustain this work. Thankfully this year we have secured an additional three years of support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Additionally, one of our partners, the NC Youth Violence Prevention Center, secured funding from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and included support for ROAR in their ReCAST Robeson proposal as well. This year, we offered a first round of grassroots community mini grants with the ReCAST funds. This is a unique strategy to help support smaller organizations and projects in our community that are building on positive experiences and protective factors to help buffer impacts of violence and stress for individuals and families. This is a strategy I hope we are able to continue to support as a coalition. Another growing edge for our coalition is to compartmentalize the work a little more by developing smaller sub-committees. Resilience is broad and we can already identify within our network some smaller concentrated efforts that could naturally support sub groups. Our steering committee has envisioned at least 4-5 smaller committees such as Resilience in Education, Disaster Prevention and Response, Data and Evaluation, Resilience within our legal system – Crime and Violence Prevention, and even a health prevention focus.

Q. What impact is ROAR having on the community? Do you see the coalition making a difference in the community?

Impact on resilience in our community at this point is still very difficult to measure, but based on some important key elements and measures, I think we have increased our capacity to build resilience by leaps and bounds.

We have successfully grown our resilience coalition email list from around 50 to more than 175 in the last three years. We have supported the investment in training certification for more than 20 partners in multiple resilience-based curriculums and practices. We have invested in a nationally based text messaging service that can successfully get crucial, critical parenting/caregiving messaging into the palms of the hands of families in Robeson County with more than 150 registered users in less than nine months. We consistently get feedback from evaluations of our educational programs that our participants are not only increasing their knowledge but also learning valuable tools they will use in their personal or professional lives. We are building capacity to assist local organizations and businesses to learn to self assess for trauma awareness and start to build action for improvement in their environment, staff and client services. We are still consistently hosting hybrid coalition meetings monthly. Last year an average of 24 individuals participated in our meetings. 

We are literally on the cusp of even more great things. Within the last month, we have secured invites to work with faith leaders, school counselors, and other nonprofits to help build individual skills using our community resiliency Model training. This training is so powerful for individuals and helps offer skills and confidence that can be shared with others. I believe we  will be ROARing for years to come in Robeson County.

Members of ROAR hold blue pinwheels used to raise awareness about Child Abuse Prevention Month. Kinlaw is second from left. Contributed photo