We are constantly warned about many things that contribute to poor health – bad diet, smoking, a lack of exercise. However, most don’t know about something else that dramatically impacts health and effects nearly two in three adults – exposure to childhood trauma.
Adverse Childhood Experiences, referred to as ACEs, are traumatic events that can profoundly impact a child’s developing brain and overwhelm their ability to cope. ACEs include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, domestic violence, and substance abuse. ACEs make children more likely to act out, be violent, or have social difficulties, and are linked to risky behaviors, chronic illness, and early death.
The Centers for Disease Control analyzed exposure to ACEs in the late 1990s. The ACE Study’s 17,000 participants were educated (over 75% attended college), mostly middle to upper class, and 74% white. As it turns out, ACEs are extremely common. 64% have at least one and if you have one, there’s an 87% chance you have two or more.
This and other research shows undeniable connections between unresolved childhood trauma and poor mental and physical health. Having four or more ACEs increases the chance of suicide by 1,200%, the risk of emphysema by 400%, makes you twice as likely to be a smoker, and seven times more likely to be an alcoholic. Adults with high ACE scores are more likely to be depressed, to have heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes, to abuse substances or other people, and to have more marriages, broken bones, and cancers.
Click here to get your own ACE Score and learn more about ACEs.
The good news? Children are amazingly resilient and professionals have found ways to counter the negative consequences of trauma. Trauma-informed practices have proven successful in reducing problem behaviors, allowing kids to improve their health and wellness and reach their full potential. “This approach understands that children are not trying to push buttons or be bad with their behaviors but are reacting to triggers they associate with trauma,” Child and Family Services’ Executive Director Gina Aranki explains. “Most behaviors happen when a child’s survival instinct kicks in. They feel threatened somehow and trauma-informed care helps them gain a bit of control.”
This understanding is changing the way organizations like Child and Family Services view and treat traumatized children, like those in foster care. “We train our therapists, foster care staff, and foster parents to use a trauma-informed approach,” says Aranki. “Instead of asking ‘what did you do?’ we ask ‘what happened to you?’ and provide tools for healing and growth.”
The Brown Bag Campaign is Child and Family Services’ effort to call attention to children in foster care, and to the constant need for foster and adoptive parents to help care for them. Please contribute to Child and Family Services’ work to provide children in foster care and other programs with opportunities to heal and thrive.
Click the button below to donate now. To learn more, please call Child and Family Services at (231) 946-8975 or visit www.cfsnwmi.org/brownbag.