Fighting for our children: the impact of trauma on growth

Our StrongStarts4All plan recognizes the harsh role that childhood trauma plays in stunting growth and limiting lifetime opportunities.  We call for scaling the successful home visit model and providing more youth mental health support because we know both steps are necessary. The ACE study introduced ground-breaking research across all races and economic classes that revealed the significant impact of childhood trauma in the long-term.

These negative and harmful experiences are much more common than many people realize.  Approximately 20% of all adults in one national survey reported being physically abused as children and nearly 33% of all women reported sexual abuse as children. These traumas can have profound, lasting impacts and must be prevented or addressed as early as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has commissioned rigorous research regarding how to reduce the instances of childhood trauma.  Among the two most important steps are to promote positive community norms around parenting programs and to implement evidence-based programs for parents and caregivers.

Our StrongStarts4All plan builds on this and similar research in its very first target: increase home visits so expectant parents are better prepared when their children arrive. Having been raised in a foster home with dozens of teenagers who were abused and neglected, I can see that many people never got the nurturing environment that is critical to young children.  Equally problematic, given how much we know about the importance of early stage brain development, many expectant parents just don’t have the tools to cultivate that development from birth. Our plan helps fix this issue at the root cause – before the child is born.

The County of San Diego currently provides limited support for home visits. However, the need is far greater than the supply and with the federal government’s unwillingness to embrace this evidence-based approach the County must step in to support our children. This is a critical approach focused on long-term solutions for our region rather than quick-fix band-aid approaches that focus on symptoms of a problem.

Together, we can help children get the strong start they need to reach their full potential and avoid negative outcomes in the future.