Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impact an individual long-term. Dr. Vince Felitti from Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Bob Anda from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a research to study how childhood trauma impacts health outcomes. In their investigation, they tracked the number of ACEs of over seventeen thousand individuals and then compared these to the participants’ health outcomes. The study has shown a correlation between adverse childhood experiences and the health and social problems an individual encounters over his or her lifetime.

The potential ill effects of childhood trauma are troubling. ACEs can dramatically increase the risk for seven out of ten of the leading causes of death in the United States. Childhood trauma can impact the development of the brain and the immune system. There are also findings that individuals who experienced childhood trauma are at a triple risk for heart disease and lung cancer. Other areas where risks are increased include hepatitis, ischemic heart disease, depression, and suicide. The impact of childhood trauma is not confined to an individual’s health prospects, however, and also spills over into other areas.

In her TED talk, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris breaks down how the stresses associated with abuse, neglect, and parental difficulties—which can range from mental health or substance abuse struggles to separation or domestic violence—affect a child in the short and long term. Yet, she points out that in spite of these high stakes, doctors are not yet trained in routing screening or treatment of this ailment. She then recounts her personal journey to discovering the impact of childhood trauma and explains how she implements this knowledge to screen and address the ramifications of ACEs. Ultimately, Dr. Burke advocates for increased awareness regarding this threat, as well as a proactive approach to addressing it in order to minimize its potential detrimental effects.

However, we cannot leave it to the medical field to address and work towards eradicating the ill effects of childhood trauma. Rather, it will take a concerted effort from all actors that are able to help secure safe environments and provide appropriate interventions when necessary. For this reason, the Center for Children, Law & Policy’s Zealous Advocacy Conference later this summer will be focusing on adverse childhood experiences. Please be on the lookout over the next few weeks for more information regarding specific conference details.

 

ACEs

Image from http://news.rutgers.edu/news/study-links-early-childhood-trauma-kindergarten-behavior-problems-poor-performance/20160118#.VxOvMGMoFSU.

Weekly Roundup

Photo Exhibit, film, speaker to address juvenile justice issues, Eric Jome, Illinois State University, March 1, 2016.

A photo exhibition focused on juvenile detention centers, the screening of a documentary on the lives of troubled young women, and a presentation on a prison art program will draw attention to issues surrounding the American juvenile justice system. The events, held in March, are presented in collaboration with Illinois State University’s 2016 Social Work Day Conference, which focuses on ways to keep youth out of the justice system.

ADHD in Juvenile Offenders: Treatment Issues Nurses Need to Know, Deborah Shelton, PhD, RN, BC; Gerald Pearson, PhD, APRN, March 5, 2016

It is estimated that 45% to 75% of the young people in the juvenile justice system have one or more disabilities (National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice, 2001; Shelton, 2001), including emotional and behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and developmental disabilities. The most common diagnoses are ADHD, learning disabilities, depression, developmental disabilities, conduct disorder, anxiety disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many cases, young people are dually diagnosed and experience co-occurring emotional and substance abuse problems; more than half also have a diagnosis of chemical dependence (Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2003). Among juvenile offenders, it is estimated that more than 30% may have ADHD (Shelton, in press,), and 40% of boys with untreated ADHD will be arrested for a felony by the time they reach their 16th birthdays (Wasserman, Miller, & Cothern, 2000).

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China’s Two-Child Policy: What’s Next? By Emily Feng, March 4, 2016.

Policies to promote gender equality and support non-marital births have had better luck achieving tangible results in the Scandinavian and European countries, but these policies are unlikely to be adopted by China. “I suspect there will be a bit of a backlash against the gains made by women, similar to the backlash in U.S. post world war when men returned from war and there was pushback for women to resume maternal, homemaker roles,” says Mei Fong, a journalist whose forthcoming book One Child draws from her extensive reporting on the policy. In China, couples who give birth out of wedlock are still fined and their children denied hukou,making them ineligible to access basic social services such as public education.

However, the greatest obstacle to creating programs and provincial laws to implement the two-child policy is economic inequality. The brunt of the demographic imbalance has been dealt unequally among China’s provinces. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing attract millions of transplants and migrant workers each year and have been cushioned from the effects of the labor shortage. Higher living costs and better social welfare systems (for those who have urban hukou, at least) have caused many of China’s urban middle class to voluntarily forgohaving more than one child. Meanwhile, couples in areas like Anhui or Shandong who supply much of the labor that powers China’s labor-intensive industries are more likely to have more than one child – but gauging exactly how much material support and through what channels that support should be offered is unclear. The cost of having a second child can be so prohibitive that some couples who would otherwise want to raise two childrenmay not be able to afford to.

House votes 117-0 to approve Juvenile Detention Cost Sharing Bill, By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, March 9, 2016.

A bill intended to end the fight over juvenile detention costs is headed to the governor.The Florida House voted 117-0 to approve the measure (SB 1322). The approval came just days after the Florida Senate voted 38-0 to approve the bill. The proposal requires counties that aren’t considered fiscally constrained, usually more affluent, urban areas, to pay $42.5 million for all detention costs in fiscal 2016-17. The state would pay the remaining costs. In the years that follow, the state would spit detention costs 50-50. The state would continue to cover the costs for detention facilities in fiscally constrained counties, usually poorer or rural areas. The state would also cover the cost of detaining juveniles who are out of state.

Poisoned Children in Flint, Michigan

Jake May | AP Photo

Beyoncé, celebrity singer, recently announced her financial support towards the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, bringing more attention to the the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The poisonous water issue came to light in fall of 2015, when researchers concluded the tap water residents were drinking was causing elevated lead levels in children’s blood. Since 2013, Flint had changed their water source. Instead of getting the city’s drinking water from Lake Huron, the city treated water from the Flint river. The lead originated from the corrosive treated water as it leached from the pipes and soldering.

State and federal government failed to address the water crisis in time. The Flint population is concerned that the test results of unfiltered tap water remain high. Although residents have received filters to remove that level of lead, officials maintain that children under 6 and pregnant women should only use and drink bottled water.

About 8,000 children under 6 may have been exposed to the poisoned water, which may have caused irreparable damage to their developing brains and nervous systems. The research indicating a link between lead levels and learning disabilities, violent behavior, attention problem and motor coordination is alarming. Young children under 6 are particularly vulnerable since they are still developing.

Many residents and advocates have expressed their anger towards the government, while also bringing up the racial prejudice and the difficult economic background of Flint residents. Would this have happened if the city was primarly composed of middle class white americans? Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said it would cost $1.5 billion to repair the city’s water infrastructure, and too expensive to switch back to Lake Huron water. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder finally declared a state of emergency and summoned the National Guard to distribute clean water.

Legal routes include an investigation to determine whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by not treating the Flint Water with an anti-corrosive agent. Additionally, the ACLU intend to sue state and city officials for “fail[ing| to cure their noncompliance with the (Safe Drinking Water Act) within 60 days.” There could even be criminal allegations towards lawmakes for negligence and indifference.

With the state emergency money and some charitable funds, Dr. Hanna-Attisha hopes they can seize this opportunity to create a new public health program with psychiatrists, nutritionists and child development experts. She was at the forefront of documenting the blood lead levels in children and is getting together resources to assist with these children’s learning and medical problems.

Our government will have to provide the adequate care and services to help the children in Flint, but also work to prevent this life altering crisis from happening again.