A Blueprint for Healthy Children: New Task Force Focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences
When it comes to childhood, not all experiences are left in the past. Some stay with us and impact our development mentally, physically and emotionally for years to come. Specifically, adversity and traumatic experiences like abuse, neglect and high levels of family stress can have lifelong effects as well as a bearing on who we are as parents. These events, coined Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are the focus of a new initiative in Tarrant County.
The ACEs Task Force, chaired by Cook Children’s, aims to reduce adversities for children starting before they are even born. Their work is based on a study conducted between 1995 and 1997 by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC. The study, which involves 10 questions about what a person experienced before the age of 18, shows ACEs are associated with high risk behaviors, chronic disease and reduced quality of life in adulthood. The task force is focusing their efforts on the signs of stress or difficulties that show up in early childhood.
The ACEs Task Force, which believes community support can positively influence families struggling with ACEs, unveiled their “Blueprint for Safe, Healthy and School-Ready Children” to the Fort Worth City Council and the Tarrant County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Sept. 24. The plan, also known as the ‘Circles of Support,’ includes 25 ways pregnant women, families, children and caregivers need to be supported in order to counteract adversity. Access to health care, healthy food, quality, affordable and safe housing are among the top concerns. Transportation, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment and high quality, affordable child care are also priorities for the task force.
In addition to Cook Children’s, the ACEs Task Force includes the Offices of Mayor Betsy Price, Judge Glen Whitley, Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks as well as JPS Health Network and The Morris Foundation.
“We know our recommendations are not going to be a quick fix. It will take friends, neighbors, first responders and public services to find their role and commit to what they can,” said Anu Partap, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the Center for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect at Cook Children’s. “We are working with more than 60 partners in Tarrant County who informed the blueprint and will bring it to life to create clear, compassionate change in our community.”The blueprint is just one piece of the strategy the task force has been working on since October 2018. The group also is planning to launch a texting system in collaboration with Tarrant Cares, which will allow users to text a specific number in search of services and receive information in real time.
“The texting platform idea actually came from residents in southeast Fort Worth,” said Dr. Partap. “Once up and running, a mother, for example, in search of post-partum depression services, can text Tarrant Cares and find out where she can go for help. We can do this for food, health care and other community resources already available in the area.”
The program will launch throughout Tarrant County in coming months.
Additionally, the task force plans to offer ACEs/trauma-informed care training to local organizations that work with children and families. The training will promote a culture of safety, empowerment and healing when working with those living with adversities.
“We have a lot of items on our to-do list,” said Dr. Partap. “We want young children to have medical homes and parents to have access to reliable transportation. We want to support first responders to have access to trauma-informed services when they’re working one on one with residents, and we need people to be able to reach out when they need help and find out how to get it quickly.”
To learn more about how to become involved with the ACEs Task Force, please reach out to Lenee.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Center for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect is focused on innovative ways to address this important concern in our community.
Through the 2007 Community-wide Children's Health Assessment & Planning Survey, child abuse/maltreatment was identified as one of the top seven health issues affecting the children of North Texas.
Child abuse and neglect includes the issue of child abuse but is also a more all-encompassing term that describes a wide range of behaviors and related risk factors that are unacceptable and must be addressed. These include:
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Neglectful supervision
- Medical neglect
- Threat of gang violence
- Cyber bullying
- Related trauma
If you are concerned about abuse or neglect and would like to follow up on a patient seen at Cook Children's, contact the CARE Team at (682) 885-3953.