Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: ACE Is Not The Case

http://www.citylab.com; February 21, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday some it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before Yours Truly gets started, a friendly reminder that Mid-Term Election primary season is almost here.  Are your registered to vote?  You are not?  No worries, you can go to USA.gov/register-to-vote for any and all information.  If you are registered, good for you, now go out and make your voice heard loud and proud.  

Now, more than ever, it is important to make your voice heard.  The good citizens of Parkland, Florida are still reeling for the horrific school shooting on February 14, 2018.  We know the details, an armed former student entered Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School and went on a shooting spree.  By the time the shooter, Nikolas Cruz (a pock on his name), was done seventeen people were dead, including hero Aaron Feis (a blessing on his name), a coach and security guard who shielded students form this monster.  What followed was the usual routine of insipid moments of silence, thoughts and prayers.  Crisis counsellors were dispatched, funerals and vigils planned.  However, the survivors refused to sit quietly in the corner, mourning their losses, instead they took action.  Led by Emma Gonzales and David Hogg, the students, their parents, and concerned citizens rallied to call for sensible gun control laws.  These are the kind of laws that make it harder for people to own semi-automatic weapons and ammunition, like the kind used in Parkland and Las Vegas.  Even more heinous are the blithe dismissals of these brave young Floridians as "crisis-actors" or "having been indoctrinated into left-wing ideas about gun control."  Before yours truly moves onto the next thought, please support the March for Our Lives on Saturday March 24, 2018.  For more information check your social media pages and eventbrite.com.

While Parkland officials figure out what to do about the aftermath: inspect the school for any physical damage and decide whether or not to re-open the campus.  The harder job is assessing the long-term psychological damage done to the students, teachers, staff, and community.  Mimi Kirk writes in her CityLab article "Where American Kids Are In Crisis," "Among kids exposed to traumatic violence, short-term symptoms immediately after such incidents include trouble focusing, managing emotions, and negotiating relationships.  The effects of childhood trauma also show up later in life [citylab.com; Dec. 4, 2017; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018]: As adults, children who witness violence will be more likely to suffer who witnessed violence will be more likely to suffer from depression, deal with substance abuse, and struggle with obesity."

Amazingly, American school shootings are quite a rare form of childhood trauma--perhaps "less so than they used to be [pbs.org; Feb.14, 2018; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018]."  Other experiences can leaving a lasting psychological impact: Parental incarnation and economic hardship, are far more common.  Ms. Kirk shares a new report from Child Trends (childtrends.org; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018),a Bethesada, Maryland-based non-profit that does research on ways to improve children's lives. Ms. Kirk reports, "[Child Trend says] almost half of all American children have experienced at least one potentially traumatic 'adverse childhood experience,' or ACE."

In The Prevalence of Advers Childhood Experiences, Nationally, by State, and by Race or Ethnicity (Ibid; Feb. 20, 2018), co-authors Vanessa Sacks and David Murphey incorporated data from the 2016 National Survey of Children's Heath (cdc.gov; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018) to reveal which children 17 and younger are more likely to experience some trauma, and where these children live.

The co-authors focused on information regarding the ACEs:
Parental divorce or separation
Parental death
Parental incarceration
Violence among adults in the home
Victim or witness to neighborhood violence
Living with a mentally ill adult
LIving with someone who who has a substance abuse problem
Experiencing economic hardship often, such as the family finding it difficult to afford food and housing.

Ms. Sacks noted that these are not the only sets of ACEs, they change over time as more scholarship on trauma becomes available.  Mimi Kirk writes, "For instance, experiencing violence in one's neighborhood and homelessness didn't used to be considered ACEs; they are now."  Some scholars are now calling for racism to be added to the list.  One thing is certain, "The more ACEs a child experiences, rather than any one particular one, the more likely they are struggle later."

The most common ACEs experience by American children are economic hardship and divorce or parental separation.  Specifically, "one in every nine kids has experienced three or more of them."  Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota led the way with most children with no ACEs, however, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, and Ohio saw one and seven children experiencing three or more ACEs.  Ms. Kirk writes, "Arkansas had the most ACEs, with 56 percent of all children experiencing at least one, and Minnesota had the least at 37 percent--which still more than a third of the state's children."

Vanessa Sacks told CityLab, "it's difficult to ascertain what cause such stark differences among states, one factor stands out: Some of the state's with the most ACEs are also those with a high rate of child poverty."  While Ms. Sacks and Mr. Murphey did not study the differences between urban and rural children, the 2011-12 National Survey of Children's Health, The Health and Well-Being in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation 2011-2012, concluded that rural children were more likely to undergo ACEs than urban children--partly due to the fact that rural children are more likely to live in poverty than urban children (mchb.hrsa.gov; April 2015; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018.

Race is also determinant of whether a child is more likely to experiences ACEs.  Ms. Sacks told CityLab,

In almost every group of states we looked at, as well as nationally, white and Asian children have the lowest of ACEs, while black and Hispanic children tend to have the highest.

if we quantify this, it translates to "61 percent of black children, 51 percent of Latino children, 40 percent of white children, and 23 percent of Asian children having at least one adverse experience"

After economic hardship, separation or divorce, Caucasian children are most likely to experience an adult with mental illness or substance abuse, for African-American children are more likely to experience parental incarceration, the second most common ACE.  African-American children are also more likely to experience the death of a parent or guardian.  For Latino children, the next most common ACEs are: living with an adult dealing with substance abuse and parental incarceration.

The last Survey of Children Health was done in 2011-12, but the ACE statistics have remained consistent.  Ms. Sacks said,

This sobering,.... The persistent percentage of children with three or more ACEs is particularly distressing, because we know the host of negative outcomes associated with having multiple experiences.

To better understand the overwhelming nature of the problem, the American Academy of Pediatrics and issued a call for doctors to screen their patients for possible traumatic experiences, going as far as to publish guides on how to proceed (aap.org; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018).  Mimi Kirk reports, "Screening can involve looking for signs of stress, such as recurring nightmares or thoughts, or re-enacting Taurus through play.  Children can also appear withdrawn or preoccupied.  Stanford University child psychologist Hilit Kletter told National Public Radio, Teachers will tell parents [their child] seems to be in a daze in the classroom (npr.org; March 2, 2015; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018).

Professionals who work with children--such as pediatricians and social workers--can refer those families who they have identified as dealing with ACEs to the proper services, like counsellors to help deal with a parent or guardian's mental illness or the right office through which to apply for food assistance.  However, there is a very simple straightforward way to help: "If a child has just one caring trusting adult in their life, research show [link.springer.com; Aug. 11, 2015; date accessed Feb. 21, 2018] that the relationship can buffer the effects of trauma."

They key to this highly vexing situation is ending the cycle.  Mimi Kirk writes, "When a parent has experienced a high number of ACEs, chances are their children will as well--often the same ones, such as depression or substance abuse."  Further, there studies that indicate that "when a woman experiences topic stress during pregnancy, it acts as a kind of prenatal ACE, interfering with the fetal development and negatively affecting outcomes later in life, such as educational attainment and income."  Ms. Sacks adds, When pediatricians are screening the child,..., they're really screening the household.

Although most pediatricians do not routinely screen for ACEs, Vanessa Sacks is optimistic, as policy wonks, state and civic officials are increasingly calling attention to youth trauma.  Mimi Kirk reports, "...as of 2017, 20 states had passed or had pending legislation that mentions ACEs, including bills that set aside funds for research and prevention of social problems like opioid addicting."  Ms. Sacks adds, There's an increasing awareness that these experiences are a really important public health issue.

As the effects of the Parkland shooting and related shootings in Texas and Las Vegas continue to ripple out, the growing attention given to Adverse Childhood Experiences suggests that the long-term effects of trauma need to be part of the national conversation.  Of course, this may be meaningless to the families of the victims and survivors of the Parkland shooting.  The shooter was a former student.  The Federal Bureau of Investingation was alerted by a concerned citizen in September.  The FBI failed to follow it up. The students knew the shooter was troubled and dangerous.  No one paid attention to the YouTube videos and social media posts.  Now seventeen people are dead.  No more thoughts, no more racers, no more moments of silence.  Today's listening session at the White House will probably lead to nowhere.  What will be more effective is voting out state and federal representatives how continue to turn a deaf ear to the survivors.