A compelling article about child development and adverse childhood experiences recently was written. Many social service professionals (and a growing segment of the public) won’t see much novelty in another article about the impact of overwhelming childhood stress, trauma and adversity, as our field is doing a nice job of getting the message out, and people are truly listening. What they may find novel about this article is where it is published (World Economic Review) and who the author is (John Tomer, a professor of economics).
Mr. Tomer’s article is one of many discussions on the connection between early childhood experience and concrete economic indicators like income, inequality and human capital. That is right, this discussion is building on a pre-existing body of work starting to explore the connection between adversity in childhood and its economic impact. It is perhaps one of the reasons Dr. Rob Anda calls the ACE study findings “the single leading determinant of the health and well-being of our country.”
I have the opportunity in my job to teach lots of people about the importance of childhood adversity that isn’t buffered by caring, attentive caregivers – virtually all of them leaving the training with a new or renewed commitment to making a difference for the children they see on a daily basis. In spite of that, I still hear from too many others who hold to a thought process/belief system that suggest that this topic is a “passing fad” or that “10 years from now we’ll all be laughing about that time when we were all talking about trauma, thinking it was such a big deal.”
I have no doubt that our understanding of child well-being and the factors that affect it will evolve over the next 10 years as science and practice wisdom continue to develop. I also have no doubt that the essential elements of understanding how overwhelming childhood adversity affects so much of what we care deeply about is here to stay and that we will continue to uncover new connections, like Professor Tomer’s, as time passes.
What does create doubt is whether or not we will collectively rise, as individuals, communities, states and countries, to say “Enough!”
Enough meaning it is time to prioritize the importance of human capital by directing resources and attention to ensuring that every child has the chance to grow up in a nurturing environment.
Enough meaning it is time to recognize the daily efforts of social workers, therapists, teachers, youth counselors, nurses and many others by appreciating that they are the gatekeepers to a more economically sound future.
Enough meaning that all parents deserve the opportunity to have access to resources that provide for their families and also can connect to community services that will address the barriers that inhibit them from being successful.
Enough meaning the time for debate on the relevance of this topic is over.
The science is in, and it is clear.
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