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Addressing adverse childhood experiences

Traumatic events in children’s lives can lead to problems later in life.
It seems obvious, but researchers wanted to know more.
Scientific research has identified physical and mental health problems linked to early childhood trauma events known as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. 
“Thru extensive research, they have identified common risk factors in people that often develop physical and emotional problems as they become teenagers and young adults,” explained Thomas Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. “Not all children who experience one ACE event (or two) will have problems later in life. However, the research has shown that the greater the number of ACEs in childhood, the greater the chance for health problems down the road. The research also identified the factors that can help protect a child from trauma events and increase their resilience to future problems.”
He is part of a team of people and a nationwide initiative called “Building Flourishing Communities,” which, in Vermont, is supported by the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families.
The initiative is promoting public awareness of the scientific research that has identified the physical and mental health problems linked to early childhood trauma events.
The goal is talking about ACEs will raise public awareness and decrease the occurrence of future ACEs in children, thus, improving individual lives, their families and the community at large.
Local presentations on the topic will take place in various locations in Chittenden County. The first will be on Jan. 18 at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The second presentation will take place Feb. 14 at Flynn Elementary School in Burlington from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Future ones will take place in Milton and Essex Junction.
Examples of ACEs include being verbally, physically or sexually abused; being subjected to threats of bodily harm; feeling neglected or unloved by family; not having enough food to eat or clothes to wear; losing a biological parent through divorce or abandonment; witnessing one’s mother being pushed, grabbed, slapped or hit; living with someone who is a problem drinker or uses street drugs; having a family member who is depressed or mentally ill; or having a household member attempt suicide or be incarcerated.
“ACEs impact the individual, who in turn influences their family members. Similarly, families that act in unhealthy ways influence other families and the communities they live in,” said Mott whose participation in the ACE’s project is part of his ministry as a mental health and substance abuse counselor for Vermont Catholic Charities.
“Vermont Catholic Charities is committed to supporting people and families in need. By helping to strengthen families, we support our local communities and the activities of the Catholic Church throughout Vermont,” he said. “It’s important the Catholic Church play a role in community activities so that people see we put words into action.”
Future ACEs can be prevented when parents, grandparents and other care givers learn how their words and actions have a direct influence on children, for good and bad, he said, adding that “by educating people about childhood trauma, we can help prevent future generations from being mistreated and develop personal resilience to life’s challenges.”
Recent conversations have focused on domestic violence. “Our clergy and many laypeople started conversations about the topic, and women started to say ‘No’ to abuse,” Mott said. “Women sought help from battered women’s shelters and some entered into counseling. We are extending that conversation to childhood trauma now. Our goal is to promote awareness and knowledge so that future generations of children will be free of trauma.”
For more information, contact Vermont Catholic Charities at 802-658-6111.
  • Published in Diocesan
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