Childhood exposure to trauma is a public health crisis with clear implications beyond health, from education to public safety to our economy. Chronic early adversity--such as abuse in the home, neglect and community violence--can have lifelong implications for children’s health and development, as well as society as a whole.
Children who have experienced trauma are at greater risk for numerous health problems like obesity, cancer and heart disease. They are also more likely to have learning disabilities and behavioral problems. An estimated 75 to 93 percent of young people behind bars in the United States have gone through at least one traumatic experience during their childhood.
Rosenberg Foundation’s grantee, the Center for Youth Wellness, is transforming the practice of pediatric care to address this urgent issue. Exposure to violence and other trauma—known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—can cause a severe stress response or toxic stress. Sufferers are in a constant “fight or flight” mode, which harms the developing brains and bodies of children.
At CYW, located in Bayview-Hunters Point, one of most disadvantaged communities in San Francisco, a routine doctor’s visit for a fever or an ear infection also includes a screening for toxic stress and adverse experiences. CYW’s clinical programs offer multiple types of mental health and wellness interventions, carefully coordinated based on the needs of the patient. CYW also conducts and disseminates evidence-based research and knowledge about ACEs and their consequences.
In addition, policy advocacy is at the core of CYW’s work. CYW advocates for local, state and national policy and systems change to prevent, screen and heal the impact of toxic stress in children and adolescents exposed to ACEs. CYW’s goal is to raise awareness among parents, policymakers and pediatricians about the serious and pervasive impact of ACEs and toxic stress, and the need to shift resources toward effective intervention and treatment programs.
CYW has partnered with Hillary Clinton’s initiative Too Small to Fail, which aims to help parents and businesses improve the health and well-being of kids five and younger. In May 2014, CYW joined with Californians for Safety and Justice and Children Now to sponsor a new Assembly Concurrent Resolution urging the state to address the impact of children's exposure to adverse experiences and trauma. ACR 155 is authored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra and co-authored by Asms. Bonta, Bradford, Buchanan and Calderon.