Delaware kids are experiencing trauma at alarming rates.
Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are alarmingly prevalent among Delaware’s children. One out of five kids in Delaware have experienced two or more ACEs.
However, it’s not just low-income kids or kids of color that are afflicted. Trauma and ACEs impact all children, regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or ability.
Trauma doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors, either. Educators grapple with the effects of trauma in the classroom, and ACEs can have a negative effect on the cognitive, social and emotional development of children. Trauma can have a significant impact on school performance, including school engagement and academic achievement.
The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health created this brief on ACEs among Delaware kids. Below is a deeper look at what it says and what it means for Delaware kids.
A Look Across Delaware and the U.S.
The highest rate of ACEs is in Sussex County, with 26 percent of children experiencing two or more ACEs.
ACE is a term given to describe all types of abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences that happen to individuals under the age of 18 years old. ACEs surveys measure experiences such as living in poverty, divorce and separation, neighborhood violence, parent serving time in jail, racial discrimination, and domestic abuse. ACEs are often reported by adults, who are asked to recall their own childhood experiences. Researchers then cross-examine those results with any existing chronic conditions and economic outcomes of those being surveyed.
ACEs have the power to alter the course of childhood development and lifetime outcomes. Trauma and toxic stress can impact healthy brain development, leading to chronic issues, such as social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. Kids with ACEs are more likely to have chronic health problems and to have parents with poor health, according to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health brief on ACEs.
In Wilmington, more than one third (34 percent) of children report experiencing extreme economic hardship. That is nearly eight percentage points above the national average of 26 percent. More than 4,600 children living in the city of Wilmington reported having two or more ACEs.
We can prevent ACEs, and promote resilience.
The social and emotional development of kids sometimes falls by the wayside in schools. However, social and emotional learning (SEL), a focus on the whole child, and approaches to teaching that take into consideration the effect of a student’s environment and social factors are just some of the ways that ACEs can be prevented. As educators, parents, and service providers continue to grapple with children experiencing trauma, a stronger focus on SEL will be necessary.
- Promote and encourage positive, protective childhood experiences. Protective childhood experiences (PCEs) counter the effects trauma by providing a buffer for toxic stress. This can include support from family and friends, a sense of belonging and acceptance, stability at home, and clear rules and expectations from parents. See more about positive childhood experiences in the report, Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE.
- Resilience to traumatic experiences matter, and so do preventative measures to trauma. Building resilience and establishing coping mechanisms is important for students living with trauma. However, an exclusive focus on resilience can miss the role vulnerability plays. Some children are more susceptible to chronic, toxic stress and trauma, particularly those that are living in poverty and others living in the margins of society. Alongside the individualized approach that PCEs offer, a focus on changing the social factors that contribute to trauma is essential. By mitigating the factors that place kids at risk of experiencing trauma and toxic stress, such as poverty and discrimination, we can take a more preventative approach to ACEs.
- Bring trauma-informed practices into classrooms. A trauma-informed view shifts an educators thinking from “What is wrong with this student?” to “What happened to this student?”