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New Report Details Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on Children’s Physical & Mental Health

May 24, 2018

“Tonight, more than 22,000 children will be trying to fall asleep in the (New York) City’s family shelters. While other children are playing with friends, learning math and reading, and developing social skills, children in City shelters are being damaged daily in ways that harm their brain development, plague their lives with poor physical and mental health, and return many of them to homelessness when they become adults.”

This sentence should chill everyone reading it. It is from a brilliant and insightful paper  recently released by The Bassuk Center on Homeless and Vulnerable Children and Youth, I believe this paper should send a chilling warning to the entire country about the trends in the expansion of the numbers of homeless families.  This increase is created by the growing lack of affordable housing in many of our cities (e.g., Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Chicago) that underlies the extreme polarization of our economy from the very rich to the very poor with little growth and accommodation for a middle class.

This report explains in chilling detail the undeniable and well researched brain science behind the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As I mentioned in my last blog, this study examines the correlation of that impact on children’s overall mental, physical, and emotional health and predictive outcomes for children’s life success.

Further, The Bassuk Center outlines not only what isn’t working in New York, but what they recommend could work there if cities keep a trauma-informed approach to city planning, shelter programming and the balance between security and empowerment. Their recommendations center around relationship building at all levels as a tool to support families experiencing homelessness and as the underpinning of shelter design, service delivery, and program infrastructure.

Everyone interested in the complex questions and answers surrounding our explosive homelessness and children’s mental health issues epidemic would be well served to read, review, and pass along this comprehensive report that provides insight and expertise in tackling this frightening problem that impacts so many of our children.

Ileen Henderson, National Director of Bright Spaces, has been a key Bright Spaces staff member since October 2011 but a volunteer leader since 2002, when she served as project leader for the 20-site Philadelphia Bright Space Project. She is also the creator and CEO of My Baby’s First Teacher, a parenting program for homeless mothers.