Adverse Childhood Experiences

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic experiences and events that occur during childhood and are caused by household, community, or environmental factors. Examples of ACEs include abuse, neglect, separation from a parent, racism, bullying, and community violence. These experiences can have negative, lasting effects on a person’s health and well-being in childhood or later in life.

Who is impacted by ACEs?

The ACEs Aware Initiative, led by the Department of Health Care Services and the Office of the California Surgeon General, identified the following: “More than 60 percent of Californians have experienced at least one ACE, and 16.7 percent have experienced four or more.”

Groups that are historically more vulnerable have been disproportionately affected by ACEs in communities across California. For example, ACEs have a significant impact on Black and Latino communities, women, and low-income families.

Kinship children are also more susceptible to ACEs due to the transient nature of moving from home to home. Displacement can have lasting negative consequences on a family structure as well as cause a child to feel unsafe. Kinship children have also frequently experienced one or more ACEs associated with separation from a parent and possible abuse and neglect.

What can a kinship family do about ACEs?

There is hope in reversing the effects of ACEs for kinship children and families. Providing a safe, supportive, stable home environment for a kinship child can mitigate the negative impact of ACEs, reduce the risk of childhood trauma, and help reverse damage to health and well-being over time. Believing that one can get better and stay safe is one of the first steps towards healing. Supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can also prevent or reverse the damaging effects of a toxic stress response.

Informal kinship communities also have many strengths that can help mitigate the impact of ACEs. For example, a kinship group may help guild resiliency, support, and hope through informal means, such as spiritual practices, interpersonal connections, and  mutual care-giving support in the midst of life challenges.

Find out if you or your kinship child have ACEs!

You can take a quick ACEs screener to see if you or your kinship child has adverse childhood experiences and how many. For your convenience, we have linked the screeners below.

The PEARLS screener is for children and is downloadable. The ACEs screener can be used for adults or children. Once you know your ACEs score, find resources on the Kinship Navigator which relate to the specific ACEs experienced by you or your kinship child.

Here are the ACEs Screeners as approved by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

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