Home > Uncategorized > Childhood Trauma Survey Underscores Need for School Services

Childhood Trauma Survey Underscores Need for School Services

A quick review of the data from a recent National Survey on Children’s Health underscores the daunting challenges schools face in dealing with problems children bring to the classroom. The most compelling chart from the report was one that provided information on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) among children in the US. ACEs “…include a range of experiences that can lead to trauma and toxic stress and impact children’s brain development and physical, social, mental, emotional, and behavioral health and well-being” and include a lengthy list of incidents ranging from economic hardships to the death of a parent. Researchers have determined that “… the impact of ACEs extends beyond children and can have far-reaching consequences for entire communities” and given this impact addressing the consequences requires a coordinated effort on the part of various service providers and agencies. Most important in reviewing the findings is the “…growing evidence that it is the general experience of multiple ACEs, rather than the specific individual impact of any one experience, that matters.”

That finding is crucial because according to the survey findings, 46% of the children in this country have had at least one ACE during their school experiences and over 21% of the children have had more than two ACEs. That means that 1 out of five students have experienced more than two “experiences that can lead to trauma and toxic stress and impact children’s brain development and physical, social, mental, emotional, and behavioral health and well-being.” 

And while schools are not solely responsible for addressing these childhood traumas, they feel the impact of them far more than any other public institution… and today they are effectively held accountable for the adverse consequences that result from these ACEs. Two findings underscore this reality:

  • More than three in four (76.3 percent) U.S. children ages 3-5 who were expelled (“asked to stay home”) from preschool had ACEs.
  • Children ages 6-17 with no ACEs are half as likely to be disengaged in school compared to those with 2+ACEs (24.1 percent vs. 49.0 percent).

And the link between poverty and race and ACEs is also noteworthy, with 58 percent of U.S. children with ACEs coming from homes with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and an astounding 6 out of 10 black children experiencing ACEs.

Armed with these facts one would expect states to increase funding for social services and health services to schools serving children raised in poverty and black children. But these facts are evidently less important than standardized test scores when it comes to determining the well-being of students and the success of schools. Instead of moving in the direction of neighborhood schools that provide comprehensive health and social services, though, we are giving parents “choices” in schools— none of which provide a choice that includes the kind of nurturing environment needed to address children who have experienced ACEs.

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  1. Elyssa Gersen-Thurman
    October 20, 2017 at 11:21 am

    I went to a conference and learned all about the ACE. I am probably now working with many adults who never received social services to address trauma when they were young.

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