ACEs Adverse Childhood Experiences with Eddie Stephens.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events from one’s childhood that can have long-lasting, lifetime effects on a person’s life. They are common, and pervasive, with about 61% of surveyed adults in twenty-five states reporting that they have experienced at least one type of ACE in their childhood. Studies have shown that ACEs have a direct connection to a person’s increased likelihood of chronic health problems, mental illness or their own substance abuse issues in adulthood. ACEs were the subject of research conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control, with researchers focusing on seven specific categories of ACEs, including the impact of divorce on a child’s life. Some common categories and examples of ACEs identified in these studies include a child witnessing domestic violence in the home, having a family member die by suicide, substance abuse issues in the home, or the child being a victim of violence or abuse. One of the most significant ACEs that can impact a child’s life is divorce. The traumatic conflict and stress experienced by children whose parents are divorcing is intense and severe. For these children, they are often experiencing instability and uncertainty in their family and at home for the first time in their lives. Quite often the parents display extreme rage, and the economic stress of divorce takes its toll on the entire household. Children often find themselves being bounced back and forth between different houses, are often faced with moving out of the only home they have known, and are being separated from one or both parents during this chaotic time. While some children are resilient and may handle the divorce of their parents better than others (or at least appear to be handling handle the divorce better), we should not underestimate the long- lasting effect that divorce has on these children, and why divorce is one of the most significant ACEs in childhood. Family law practitioners may consider resiliency in children as their ability to “bounce back” from stress, adversity, and even trauma—but not every child “bounces back” in the same way as another child might. With 40-50% of marriages in the United States today ending in divorce, it is highly likely that many children will be directly impacted by this significant ACE. “Exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is the greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.” – Robert Block, MD, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sustained toxic stress early in life, without buffering relationships, can significantly alter the brain’s architecture, development, and health throughout the lifespan. The immediate and long-term effects of unaddressed ACEs can manifest in everything from preschool expulsion to school violence, addiction, depression, chronic disease, unemployment, and early death. To break the Inter-generational cycle of trauma and ACEs, a cross-sector Public Health prevention approach must be used. This session will explain ACEs, their impact on the brain, and examine trauma-informed approaches to care. Participants will learn how ACE’s impact our society and what divorce professionals should know. Learn more about preventing ACEs in your community by assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments.

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