Research demonstrates the long-lasting negative impact trauma has on children’s health, learning and emotional well-being. Adding up Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is one way to categorize and measure childhood trauma. It’s estimated that 18 percent of California children – over one and a half million – have had at least two Adverse Childhood Experiences in their lives.
Trauma undermines long-term health. For example, children with four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences are over twice as likely to suffer from heart disease and almost twice as likely to have diabetes as those who have not experienced traumatic events.
Trauma can also interfere with memory development and emotional regulation, and often causes children trouble at school. One study showed that kids with three or more adverse childhood experiences were three times more likely to fail academically, five times more likely to be chronically absent and six times more likely to have behavioral problems like disruptive or violent outbursts.
Some health centers and educational organizations have taken the lead on addressing trauma and increasing children’s resilience. The Children’s Clinic in Long Beach and the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco provide kids and families with trauma-focused services like cognitive behavioral therapy, Child Parent Psychotherapy and Cue-Centered Therapy. The University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco Unified School District are collaborating to offer trauma-informed therapy in local schools. Providing students with emotional support and teaching them how to manage their emotions has made a huge difference in San Francisco schools, including an 89% drop in suspension rates in one elementary school as well as a reported 42 percent decline in violent student incidents.
Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda
California should promote policies and programs that build on child, caregiver, and community strengths to support trauma prevention, healing and resilience, particularly for traditionally underserved populations.
Work is underway on several fronts to reduce kids’ exposure to trauma and increase individual, family and community resilience. Several initiatives, including the Adverse Childhood Experiences Policy Working Group, the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative, and the Defending Childhood Initiative are working on statewide policy solutions across early childhood, health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice and other systems serving California kids and families.