Our Fighting ACEs Approach

Every child is filled with tremendous promise – and, as a community, we have a shared obligation to foster their potential.

Fighting ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Initiative, launched in 2016 through funding from Quantum Foundation, promotes a Public Health Approach to preventing and healing the effects of early adversity and trauma at the individual, family, and community levels.

The foundation of this approach is working with our partners to build healthier, safer, more nurturing families and communities — where all children have the opportunity to thrive.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are common – and in the absence of support, they can cause long-lasting harm. They include experiences such as witnessing violence or growing up in a household with a family member with a serious mental illness. When children experience multiple negative events like these, their bodies can be flooded with stress hormones, increasing their risk for later health problems like heart disease, diabetes, or depression.

Our overarching goal is to build caregiver and community capacity to create buffering relationships for our most vulnerable children.

In close partnership with other community-wide efforts, such as Birth to 22, and the communities served, Fighting ACEs aims to stop the intergenerational cycle of abuse and violence; prevent mental and physical health concerns that develop as a result of ACEs and trauma; eliminate racial and ethnic barriers to accessing prevention and early intervention activities; while building awareness and the capacity of each community to effectively buffer ACEs through a trauma-informed equity lens.

CLICK HERE to view The Pair of ACEs and Resilience Tree.

It is every child’s right to grow up feeling safe and nurtured, in communities where that can thrive. We believe our children and the next generation deserve better and we know we can effectively address this public health crisis together.

Why is this Important?

A leading nation gives children the opportunity to grow up in a healthy, happy environment. Children thrive when they have regular interactions with responsive, caring adults.

Investing in children improves lifelong wellness, resilience, and prospects for a successful future. Caring for vulnerable children helps prevent the need for more costly intervention and treatment later in life.

How Does this Affect Me?
ACEs can lead to a lifetime of issues for individuals including mental and physical health difficulties and a shorter life expectancy. As a result, ACEs impacts the health of families, businesses, and society in general.

Prevention and Early Intervention is Crucial

Unaddressed adversity and trauma in childhood can have a devastating impact on the minds and bodies of children. If we ensure that every community is equipped to support people who have experienced traumatic events like abuse or witnessing violence, we make resilience a real possibility.

The good news? A child’s developing brain has a great deal of plasticity (meaning it can adapt and change easily) and wants to heal. The brain is continually changing in response to the environment. If toxic stress stops and is replaced by practices that build resilience, the brain can slowly undo many of the stress-induced changes.

Why Do We Focus On Young Children?

Early relational health matters, setting the foundation for the rest of our lives. Efforts made at the earliest developmental stages lay the foundation for lifelong health and wellness. In addition, they yield the greatest likelihood for positive child, family, and community outcomes. Prevention and early intervention is critical because:

  • By 8 months of age, brain synapses have increased from 50 to 1000 trillion.
  • A child’s early experiences actually build the architecture of the brain.
  • Young children who are not touched have brains that are 20-30% smaller.
  • Adversity in early childhood can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems.
  • Supportive, loving caregivers can actually buffer the effects of toxic environmental stress.

Fighting ACEs builds on the work Center for Child Counseling has been doing in Palm Beach County since 1999.

One of the primary goals of Fighting ACEs is for providers, educators, caregivers, and child-serving systems to shift their practice (or ‘way of being’ with children, families, and communities who have experienced adversity and trauma) from a “What’s wrong with you?” to a “What happened to you?” approach—but going much deeper, using a prevention and healing-centered lens that focuses on changing the systems that keep adversity and trauma firmly in place. The core of this approach is looking at how we, as a community, can address the pair of ACEs (Adverse Community Environments AND Adverse Childhood Experiences) to disrupt the cycles of adversity and trauma.

VISIT OUR FIGHTING ACEs IN PBC blog to learn more about community efforts and activities.

ACEs and Lifelong Health

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