Why should policymakers focus on preventing childhood trauma and promoting resilience?
Research shows that chronic, severe stressors in childhood can cause toxic, traumatic biological responses to the developing brain, often with long-term consequences for health and wellness. Yet this research also tells us that responsive relationships with caregivers and strong community supports can buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), allowing children to develop to their potential. ACEs are potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian. A growing body of research, based on the ground-breaking 1998 CDC and Kaiser Permanente study, has sought to quantify the prevalence of ACEs and illuminate their connection to negative behavioral and health outcomes, such as obesity, depression, and other chronic health conditions that may be developed later in life.
ACEs do not have to dictate the future of the child. Children can thrive despite trauma in their lives.
A child’s first five years of life are the most critical period for brain development. Research has demonstrated long-term and devastating impacts of ACEs. But despite trauma, children are resilient and can thrive if the right supports are in place in their family and their community. Recognizing that children – and adults – are experiencing trauma, many child-serving systems now aim to become better informed on the effects of trauma. They can adopt measures to strengthen the resilience of the youth they serve, thereby helping to improve outcomes for children from early childhood education, to schools, to foster care, and to the juvenile justice system.
As Voices engages partners to create a unified policy agenda for trauma-informed policies, we will share proposals with our partners to help identify priorities. Thus far, we have identified the following topics that have the potential to become policy recommendations for 2018-19:
- Improve mental health supports for students to promote school safety and student wellness
- Investments in prevention of trauma that help parents and communities ensure children are off to a strong start
- Greater awareness of trauma-informed care principles among all child-serving professionals
- Additional supports for communities to adopt and innovate trauma-informed approaches
- Defining trauma-informed, professional certifications, and/or other professional standards across systems
Help support our Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia by sharing your story about trauma-informed community initiatives, resiliency, and/or the impact of adverse childhood experiences. Stay updated by subscribing to our advocacy updates, and we will keep you informed!