Alliance Resources on Brain Science and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Advances in neuroscience and research point to a strong relationship between childhood exposure to abuse and trauma and lifelong negative health outcomes. By understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their impact, human service and health care providers can develop prevention and intervention efforts that yield long-term health benefits and cost savings.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities has developed and vetted resources for understanding the impact of ACEs and translating knowledge about trauma to policy and practice.

The Alliance's Severson Center is your access point to the latest information on brain science, ACEs, and other issues that relate to the Change in Mind initiative. In addition, the Severson Center has a wealth of other information relevant to the nonprofit sector and highly qualified librarians available to help.

Severson’s expert librarians have created a special digital collection just for the Change in Mind initiative. To review this information, please contact the Severson Center for more details.

If there are additional topics that you would like to have included in this collection, please contact Megan Heinrichs.

The Core Story of Brain Development

The ACE study has changed the dialogue around outcomes and impacts for children, families, and communities. These resources discuss neurocience research and how ACEs and the toxic stresses associated with poverty impact the health and well-being of children, families, communities, and workforces.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Service Use, and Service Helpfulness Among People

This study examines categories of ACEs and service use backgrounds among a sample of people experiencing homelessness. The majority reported at least one of 10 ACEs prior to age 18. Over half reported four or more ACEs. Approximately half reported parental loss, emotional neglect, living with a substance abuser, and emotional abuse. ACEs were significantly correlated with one another. Among those who used prior services, ACEs predicted interpersonal prevention, clinical, and criminal justice services for emotional or substance abuse problems. Most indicated services were helpful. This study provides data for policy and program leaders to ensure at-risk families and communities have access to responsive services.

Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Among Child Service Providers

Despite increasing evidence in the public health field about the prevalence of ACEs in the general population, little is known about the prevalence of ACEs among social service providers. Trauma backgrounds may influence both worker susceptibility to vicarious traumatization as well as clinical decision making. Similarly, individuals with trauma backgrounds are vulnerable to re-enactment of their history. This exploratory study is the first investigation of ACE prevalence among workers in an agency that provides residential treatment, day treatment, and schooling for children with histories of trauma. Study results suggest a high prevalence of ACEs among these workers.

How Toxic Stress Impacts Children's Developing Brains. Judy Cameron, senior scientist in the Divisions of Reproductive Sciences and Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and a professor of physiology and pharmacology in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, discusses the effects of life experiences on the brain and the critical links between experiences in childhood and one's later health. This video is from the Alliance's pre-conference session, Accelerating ACE Responses to Achieve Comprehensive Systems Change.

Scanning the Horizons Issue Brief 1: Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Health. Offers introductory information on ACEs, background on the national study, key findings of the study, and resources for more information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ACE Study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego. The CDC's website provides data and statistics, publications, and other relevant information related to the study.

Adverse Childhood Experiences StudyThe ACE Study website provides publications and other information regarding the ongoing study where data collected from over 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients participating in routine health screenings continues to be analyzed.

How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development. An animated video from the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative that presents the core story of brain development in an accessible and visually engaging format.

Emerging Brain Science Informs New Interventions—and Empowers Parents. Ascend and The Aspen Institute offer this report that shows how taking a two-generation approach can make a difference. It provides information on brain science, implementing the ACE Survey, and examines existing levers to intervene with parents and children.

Translating Science to Practice

These resources help organizations apply research knowledge. They focus on how to integrate trauma-informed practice and use other brain science evidence to strengthen adult capacities to improve child outcomes.

Using Brain Science to Inform Human Services PracticesBill Wolff, executive director of Alliance member LaSalle School in Albany, N.Y., discusses how the knowledge of ACEs informs the practice and culture of LaSalle. Wolff describes the ACE Study as a unifying language for the human-serving sector to use in bettering the lives of children. This video is from the Alliance's pre-conference session, Accelerating ACE Responses to Achieve Comprehensive Systems Change.

Trauma-Informed Care Means Caring for the Whole Family. In this video, Leslie Newman, CEO of Alliance member Children & Families First in Wilmington, Del., discusses her organization's journey from a program-centric approach to an integrated model that responds to toxic stress, adversity, and intergenerational change in a family-centered way. This video is from the Alliance's pre-conference session, Accelerating ACE Responses to Achieve Comprehensive Systems Change.

Trauma-Informed Program Impacts Parents & Children Prenatal to Three. In this video, Carlene Donnelly, executive director of CUPS, discusses how her organization is informing its programs with brain development research. CUPS formed a partnership with the University of Calgary - Faculty of Nursing to develop a Prenatal to Three Child Development program based on brain science research and proven practices that positively impact the developing children and their parents. This video is from the Alliance's pre-conference session, Accelerating ACE Responses to Achieve Comprehensive Systems Change.

Healing through Trauma-Informed Practice. An issue of Practice and Policy Focus, a newsletter supplement to Families in Society, the Alliance's social work journal features articles on using knowledge of trauma to inform social work practice.

Applying ACEs Data to Policy and Practice Visual Story. Album of images created by a graphic recorder during a 2012 Alliance National Conference pre-conference session tell why providers must learn about and implement ACE data.

Strengthening Adult Capacities to Improve Child Outcomes: A New Strategy for Reducing Intergenerational PovertyExclusive commentary from Jack P. Shonkoff, director of theCenter on the Developing Child at Harvard University, published in Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

Case Study: Learning from Wisconsin’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Story. This case study briefly highlights how Wisconsin initiated ACE data collection and used data to inform prevention. It also outlines Wisconsin’s next steps in their efforts to reduce child maltreatment. Wisconsin collected ACE data using their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for the first time in 2010.

Translating Practice to Policy

To achieve lasting impact, it is important that communities collectively move toward brain science-informed practice and policy. To effectively create policy change, leaders not only need to understand the science but also be able to engage others in this collective effort. These resources include concrete ways to affect policy change and groups that have a vested interest in moving the core story of brain science forward.

Changing Legislation to Unite Brain Science and PolicyClare Anderson, policy fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and former Deputy Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, shares a pathway for integrating brain science and policy to shape adverse childhood experience research and childhood well-being. This video is from the Alliance's pre-conference session, Accelerating ACE Responses to Achieve Comprehensive Systems Change.

Toxic Stress: Framing the Story of Brain Science. In this video, Susan Bales, president of the FrameWorks Institute, talks about how to frame the story of the human brain so that it can be understood by the general public. She discusses how the metaphor, "toxic stress," is a successful way to engage people in understanding ACEs. This video is from the Alliance's pre-conference session, Accelerating ACE Responses to Achieve Comprehensive Systems Change.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Data Links Trauma and Outcomes. An article from Issue 1 – 2012 of the Alliance for Children & Families Magazinedemonstrates the importance of using ACE data to inform policy and practice; it discusses Wisconsin and Washington’s efforts to collect state-level ACE data and use it to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

Even With Different Perspectives We Can Agree ACEs is Important to our Work. Blog post by Susan Dreyfus, President and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

Are We Crazy About Our Kids? The Cost/Benefit Equation. “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?” is one of the supporting episodes to the forthcoming documentary series, “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation,” now in production.

TEDxTC: Economic Case for Early Childhood Development. In this TEDxTC Talk, Art Rolnick makes the case for the monetary value of educating at-risk youth.

Protecting Children from Toxic StressAn op-ed published in the New York Times in November 2013.

The Center for the Developing Child at HarvardFounded in 2006, the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard views healthy child development as the foundation of economic prosperity, strong communities, and a just society. The Center’s mission is to advance that vision by using science to enhance child well-being through innovations in policy and practice.

FrameWorks Institute. The mission of the FrameWorks Institute is to advance the nonprofit sector's communications capacity by identifying, translating, and modeling relevant scholarly research for framing the public discourse about social problems. Current projects include early childhood development, including child mental health.

Palix Foundation. Founded in 1997, the Palix Foundation is located in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. The foundation created the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative in 2007, which focuses on understanding and applying scientific knowledge to factors influencing child development and its relationship to addiction and other mental-health outcomes.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. The foundation offers insight from a growing network of leaders who are leading the way in preventing ACEs and mitigating their impact through building resilience.

Contact the Alliance Evaluation and Research Department with questions or for more information.

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