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Letter: Prevent adverse childhood experiences before they happen

November 11, 2018

For children, an absent loved one is like death. Not understanding why separation occurred, children likely blame themselves. National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports separation from primary caregivers is potent traumatic stress for children. Impact on well-being is immediate and long lasting, but with proper care recovery is possible.

Adverse childhood experiences include family separations. In Olmsted, 32 percent of adolescents report ACEs, parent incarceration the most reported parent separation.

ACEs link long-term emotional, behavioral and health problems. Real/perceived dangers create barriers to memory/learning that can be permanent. Difficulty trusting/relating lends to problems making friends and participating in healthy recreation. Feeling safe overrides, leading to impulsivity, criminal conduct, substance abuse and adolescent pregnancy. Health problems include heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune activity, some cancers. Traumatic stress overwhelms nervous and vascular systems, releasing glucose, causing inflammation similar to minor infection.

Though research indicates people can be resilient, there are cumulative effects. More traumas or younger they were, the worse outcomes can be.

As a licensed therapist at Family Service Rochester certified in trauma therapy, I know recovery can occur with developmentally and culturally appropriate evidence-based trauma-focused services. Child Trends reports that supportive relationship with one or more adults is primary importance preventing and ameliorating ACEs effects. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes long-term emotional, behavioral, and health concerns should direct us to preventing ACEs before they happen.

Laura Dusso, Rochester

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