Most of us can point to a time in our life, when we were at a crossroads. Maybe it was deciding where to go to college or whether to accept that marriage proposal. Maybe a teacher that saw a spark in you – that you couldn’t see for yourself – helped guide your education or your career path. Sometimes too, the difficult times, leave their mark and shape our life.
What about children who have experienced abuse or trauma? How do these childhood experiences affect the future of these children?
It turns out, that researchers are starting to learn the impact of these types of events, beginning with a landmark study of over 17,000 patients in Southern California. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experience Study asked participants if they had experienced any of 10 types of childhood trauma, called adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. The study looked at three categories of adverse experience:
- Childhood Abuse, which includes emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
- Neglect, including physical and emotional neglect.
- Household Challenges, which include growing up in a household where there was substance abuse, mental illness, violent treatment of a mother or stepmother, parental separation/divorce or had a member of the household go to prison.
Respondents were given an ACE Score between 0 and 10 based on how many of the these 10 types of adverse experience they reported being exposed to. The ACE Study showed dramatic links between adverse childhood experiences and risky behavior, psychological issues, serious illness and the leading causes of death.
People with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier on average than those without ACEs.
These wide-ranging health and social consequences underscore the importance of preventing ACEs before they happen. Safe, stable and nurturing relationships can have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential. Strategies that address the needs of children and their families include:
- Parenting Training Programs
- Intimate Partner Violence Prevention
- Social Supports for Parents
- Mental Illness Treatment
- Substance Abuse Treatment
Our dream is that no child ever has to experience the devastating impact of childhood abuse or other adverse childhood experiences. Until that time comes, we know that the response we provide following trauma can help shape the path these children and their families take. That’s why Ray of Hope is committed to providing a quality forensic interview that allows children to tell their story. We make sure that every child and their protecting caregivers have the opportunity to receive victim support and advocacy. We’re working hard to develop community partnerships that will ensure that children and families have access to quality, trauma-informed mental health treatment and support groups.
We absolutely believe in the HOPE of a better path for every child that has experienced trauma. Research tells us that we can make a difference in the way that we respond – and you can too. Look for ways to support a family that seems to be struggling to make connections. Or, help a mom who has limited support systems. You never know, you just may be that person who changes the course of a child’s life for the better.