In the 20 years since the first study into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), health care professionals, educators, and policy makers have become increasingly aware of the long-term consequences of exposure to adversity on children’s health and development. As state lawmakers increasingly call for routine screenings of children to identify ACEs, Child Trends has released a new report cautioning about the limitations of a screening-only approach and providing recommendations to address childhood adversity that go beyond screening. 

Titled “Childhood adversity screenings are just one part of an effective policy response to childhood trauma,” the report offers the following strategies to more effectively address ACEs: 

  • Train service providers across child and family service systems in trauma-informed care.
  • Promote adversity screening only as one component of a comprehensive, trauma-informed, strengths-based approach to addressing childhood adversity.
  • Support research to develop more sensitive tools for assessing adversity exposure in young children.
  • Increase the availability and accessibility of evidence-based therapies.
  • Implement preventive strategies that reduce the likelihood of early adversity and its harmful effects on children and promote resilience in development. 

Elena Rivera, Children’s Institute’s senior health policy & program advisor, explains the connection between this new report and our health work: 

Children’s Institute believes that all children deserve the best start in life, and we are working across systems, policies, and programs to ensure all children have access to supportive early environments and relationships that prevent adversity, as well as services to address and mitigate the harmful long-term effects of adversity that children have already faced. Children’s Institute and our partners successfully advocated for a historic state investment in early childhood and family support services in the 2019 legislative session, many of which seek to address the root causes of child adversity and provide essential support to families. In addition, through our Health and Learning Initiative we are collaborating with partners to improve health care service delivery and coordination for children. Our goal is to ensure all children have access to health care that supports their physical, oral, and social-emotional well-being in the first few years of life, when children’s foundation for all future learning is being laid.

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