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Turning Childhood Trauma Into Helping Children

Traumatic events are life-changing, and move a person down roads that may be limited and shadowed, or vast and empowering. For children who experience family loss, how they are supported by the child welfare system can make a huge difference in these life paths.

For Bill Gould, ensuring that these children get the help they need has been a major focus in his career. This includes serving as the Emancipation Director for foster youth at Casey Family Programs and now as the program officer for First 5 LA’s substance abuse prevention program and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy program – a $20 million, five-year collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the UC Davis PCIT Training Center.

Bill’s dedication and commitment to working with children is grounded in having grown up in a family with a history of activism and social justice. It is also informed by his own experience with trauma, after losing an arm in a traumatic childhood injury.

“When you talk about this kind of major loss, there are many parallels to family loss,” said Bill.  “I could relate, and it enabled me to connect with kids who needed that extra help, and make more progress for kids in the system.”

Children come into the child welfare system with many different experiences, but Bill says what they have in common is a lot of resilience and that is what inspires him to continue doing this work.

“They can overcome odds,” Bill said. “They can overcome adversity. It shows how people of any age can continue to strive and move forward.  Having the ability to contribute to this and to their lives, helping them to get a better start in life – it’s fantastic.”

“When you talk about this kind of major loss, there are many parallels to family loss” -Bill Gould

“Bill brings a distinctive and valuable perspective to First 5 LA and the new Strategic Plan with his prior experience with the L.A. County foster care system and current management of two critical behavioral health initiatives,” said Lee Werbel, First 5 LA Senior Program Officer.

Resilience is in Bill’s genes. His great-great-grandfather escaped out of slavery and fought in the Civil War. Bill’s mother survived living in England during a time of rationing and went on to obtain a master’s degree in economic history from the London School of Economics and, most importantly, raised three boys. His father, William Gould, is a renowned Stanford law professor who teaches about labor, sports law and civil rights, and won groundbreaking employment discrimination cases in the 1970s.

As a father of two young children, Bill tries to impart to them the same values he learned growing up and that he carries with him every day as an advocate for children. When asked about his vision and hope for children ages 0-5, Bill stated: “That each one has a safe start, the opportunity to realize his or her dreams and make a contribution to society in the future.”

The Fast Five:

What are the top five things on your bucket list?

  1. Be a part of my kids doing well in life – through adulthood and civic engagement
  2. Make a significant contribution to children broadly and to child welfare field
  3. Produce and film a documentary about my great-great-grandfather
  4. Travel around the world
  5. Attend a Super Bowl


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