One of the most difficult challenges the children we serve face is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs are trauma that takes place in a child’s life before the age of 18. Trauma can look like many different things and is not always abuse or neglect. ACEs are attributed to any child who is exposed to:
- alcohol or drug abuse in the home
- a mother who is treated violently
- emotional or physical neglect
- a family member with depression or mental illness
- absent, separated or divorced parents
- physical, emotional or sexual abuse
The link between ACEs and mental health development has always been prevalent, but research has uncovered ACEs has a direct correlation to health and well-being in adulthood. The ACE Study began in 1995 and is a long-term collaboration between Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to analyze this relationship. The ACE Study provides compelling evidence that the likelihood of depression, alcoholism and health issues, such as, cancer diabetes and heart disease, increases based on the number of ACEs a child experiences.
As children grow, the environment around them plays a role in the development of resilience and cognitive and emotional skills. When prolonged childhood trauma exists, it activates the stress response system, disrupting brain and organ development, and producing toxic levels of stress in children. Toxic stress is defined as long-term changes in brain architecture and organ systems that develop after extreme, prolonged and repeated stress goes untreated. Research about the biology of stress has shown toxic stress can hinder brain and organ development, leading to health problems and risky behavior as an adult.
The good news is, the cycle can be broken. By creating a stable, nurturing environment and focusing on safe relationships the long-term effect of ACEs can be minimized. Other tips to prevent and combat ACES:
- Trauma-informed counseling – call 480.834.9424 to find counseling in your area.
- Building a healthy support network – Child Crisis Arizona provides many opportunities to connect with a strong support system, contact us at 480.834.9424.
- Connecting with emergency financial assistance resources – to find financial assistance, visit: azdes.gov/Financial_Supports/
- Taking parenting education classes – to view the current Child Crisis Arizona classes and workshops schedule, visit: https://childcrisisaz.org/wp-content/uploads/FallFRCschedule2015.pdf.
- focusing on self-care
- Obtaining appropriate medical care – to find medical care in your area, visit:azdes.gov/medical_assistance/
Child Crisis Arizona is part of the ACE Consortium in Arizona, along with many other dedicated organizations, to provide quality information and help alleviate the effects of ACEs in our community. To learn more about ACEs, visit: