Last week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kentucky Youth Advocates co-released a new KIDS COUNT policy report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success. Part I in this blog series on the report was posted last week and highlighted one important aspect of the report—the impact of poverty on young children. And now for Part 2 in this series, the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the first eight years.
Adverse childhood experiences include parental divorce, the passing of a parent, incarcerated parent, witnessing or experiencing violence in the home or neighborhood, living with someone who has mental health issues, living with someone who abuses drugs or alcohol, or experiencing racial or ethnic prejudice. These experiences often negatively impact children both emotionally and developmentally for years to come. They even cause children to have an increased risk for health problems, such as heart disease, later in life.
And the shockwave? Kentucky ties Montana as the states where more children experience three of more of these adverse childhood experiences than anywhere else in the nation. I cannot wrap my head (or heart) around that fact. What does it mean that one in ten children under the age of nine have experienced three of more of these adverse events? It is one of those storylines that is tragic for today and tragic for tomorrow.
If there is any good that can possibly come from this startling fact, it would be that it has garnered people’s attention. The media was on it in a flash. Thoughtful questions have come from elected state representatives and local government officials; from preachers and principals; and from business leaders and child welfare advocates. If there is a silver lining, it just may be that those stark numbers generate relevant action on behalf of kids in our state.
And exactly what kind of action can begin to turn the tide? Well, that is next week’s blog in Part 3 of this series. So stay tuned.