New data shows U.S. children still being exposed to serious violence and trauma

Two surveys released this week provide new data showing that children in the U.S. are still being exposed to serious levels of violence and childhood trauma.

The National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS), closely aligned with the Center for Disease Control’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, interviewed almost 100,000 people across the U.S. Surveyors asked participants about nine kinds of adverse experiences including physical abuse and witnessing domestic violence (read more about the scoring here). Almost half of the children were reported to have experienced at least one out of the nine adverse experiences. The survey also found that youth ages 12 -17 had experienced at least two or more types of childhood trauma that may impact their mental and physical health in adulthood.

An update on the National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) mirrored this information. Released Monday, the survey that interviewed more than 4,500 children, conducted by Finkelhor et al 2013[1] found that although the rate of violence against children has decreased since the first survey conducted in 2008, children are still regularly exposed to multiple types of violence and abuse.

Data on the rate of victimization remains unchanged 3 in 5 children are being physically assaulted every year and 10.1% are injured because of assault.  Additionally, more than 13% of the children were harmed by a parent or caregiver in the last year and sometimes that maltreatment included physical abuse. Additionally, 22% witnessed community and family violence. There were some declines in rates of exposure to things such as sibling assault and school bomb threats.

In light of this new data it is vital we remember that although children are often resilient in the face of violence and traumatic events, more must be done to respond to building that resilience. This means using studies like the NHCS and NatSCEV to nurture resilience through the provision of health-based evidence-based interventions and public awareness about the impact of trauma and exposure to violence.

Additionally, these studies highlight the need for continued efforts in collecting more detailed data, the creation of enhanced comprehensive tools to collect that data, and the need to correctly identify these experiences and their related effects.


[1] David Finkelhor, PhD; Heather A. Turner, PhD; Anne Shattuck, MA; Sherry L. Hamby, PhD JAMA Pediatr. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.42.

Advertisements

Safe Start in the Community: Spokane, Wash.

FB general cover

Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

Three-year-old Jack has already witnessed several domestic violence incidents between his parents at home and at his aunt’s house where he stays when his mom works. Lisa, Jack’s mom, has a history of experiencing and witnessing domestic abuse and does not want Jack to have the same experiences.

Since separating from Jack’s father, Lisa has been concerned that Jack’s previous exposure to domestic violence may have an effect on him. She notices that he is becoming more withdrawn and timid, so she enrolls him in Head Start. She meets with the Head Start family service worker and agrees to take the Adverse Childhood Experiences assessment. The results show both her and Jack’s level of traumatic stress.

Lisa learns that she and Jack are eligible for services from the Spokane Safe Start Initiative and begins the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC) home visiting program. A Head Start staff facilitator meets 12 times with Lisa and helps her understand and identify the negative effects of trauma. Lisa learns ways to cope with the impact of her past experiences, as well as strategies to support Jack.

Jack benefits from the Spokane Safe Start Initiative at his Head Start program, where all staff members receive training in the Fostering Resiliency in Early Learning Environments (FREE) professional development program. By learning competencies to provide trauma-informed care to children and their families, the teachers and specialists can identify Jack’s needs and address them with appropriate skills, strategies, and services. For example, Jack’s teacher, Erin, recognizes that Jack experiences changes in routine as anxiety provoking and helps him practice self-soothing exercises. Erin’s practice of announcing changes in advance helps Jack and other children. Erin helps Jack improve social skills so that he can participate more successfully in group activities.

Continue reading

Safe Start in the Community: Queens, NY

FB general cover

Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

After a workshop on Positive Parenting Strategies at a local school, Monica asks to speak to Lorena, the Project CONNECT team member who gave the presentation. She relays her concerns about her son, Alex, whom she describes as defiant and angry. Monica recounts years of domestic violence she experienced with Alex’s father. Although her relationship with the father is over, she recognizes that the abuse that Alex witnessed was harmful to him. Lorena encourages Monica to enroll in CONNECT services at the Long Island City branch of the Queens Library.

At the library, Alex spends time in the children’s area, uses the library’s computers, or hangs out with the youth counselor while his mother works with the family therapist. The therapist tells Monica she can receive information from the library’s case manager on benefits, available services, job opportunities, and adult education classes.

In treatment, the therapist asks Monica and Alex to talk about what they want to happen at home, to clarify their goals, and to solve issues that might keep them from attending the sessions. The sessions provide a safe space for open discussions about stigma and fears regarding treatment and to speak about the violence that occurred in their lives and how to process the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to these traumatic events.

Continue reading

Safe Start in the Community: Philadelphia, Penn.

FB general cover

Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

Carla is a 22-year-old African-American mother of Quinton age 2 and Sylvie age 1 month. Carla was sexually abused by her stepfather starting at age 8 and ending at age 15 when she ran away. She was placed in a foster home where her foster father sexually abused her from ages 15 to 17 when she again ran away. She lived with her boyfriend and was the victim of domestic partner violence. She has had several miscarriages as a result of the violence.

Carla is involved in the Health Federation of Philadelphia Early Head Start program, which referred her to the Enhanced Home Visitation Project (EHVP). She is exhibiting disturbing behaviors: cutting herself, physically attacking others in her home, having blackouts and seizures following flashbacks, non-nurturing with her children including withholding food, afraid to leave her house, and expressing feelings of hopelessness.

A family trauma specialist from EHVP visits Carla 24 times in her home to facilitate the Safety, Emotions, Loss and Future (S.E.L.F.) psycho-educational program. To work through the stages of trauma recovery, Carla learns how to create a safe environment. She uses candles, music, knitting, puzzles, and self-soothing techniques to ground herself.

Because Carla lives with relatives in an overcrowded household, it is difficult for the trauma specialist to create opportunities for Carla to engage with her children, but slowly Carla can hold her children, make eye contact, and share food with them. Gradually, Carla is becoming less angry and is able to maintain contact with two neighbors. For 6 weeks, Carla works on a transition project, develops a safety plan, and integrates self-soothing techniques into her daily activities. At one time, Carla did not believe she was a survivor, but now she writes in her journal: “Today I’m a survivor. I’m excited about a brighter future.”

Continue reading

Safe Start in the Community: Kalamazoo, Mich.

FB general cover

Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

Going into the Project PERK (Partnering to Effectively Reduce the Impact of Violence in Kalamazoo) parenting group, Kamilla feels uncertain. She knows her daughter was at the children’s group learning about the effects of experiencing violence. Both enjoyed their group experiences. Kamilla says, “I enjoy socializing with other parents. We help each other and learn that many of us have similar concerns. No matter how stressed I am when I come to group, I always leave feeling better.”

Kamilla says, “Not much has changed in my home or community but since I started Project PERK, I feel I’m handling it better. I can control my anger. By checking my stress level, I know when I need to take a time-out.” In groups, adults learn to identify their stress level by using a stress scale from 1 to 10. Parents learn how their brain responds to stress, how extreme stress affects their ability to think clearly, and how stress compromises their ability to make positive choices for their children. Their children obtain similar knowledge, which increases the family’s use of a common language for expressing feelings. Many parents in Project PERK feel connected and continue meeting on their own once sessions end.

Ursula, another member of the Project PERK group, reports that her grandson Enrique’s behavior improved once they began using the common language of stress levels to identify things that are challenging for Enrique. She notes, “Enrique’s behavior in school is improving.”

Sophie, also a member of the Project PERK parenting group, learned that children don’t always lash out just to be bad but can have something going on that causes this behavior. She says “By learning to cool down, I am not making situations worse. Now, I talk to my daughter, Mia, to see what’s really going on. Mia is also able to cool down instead of making the situation worse with anger.”

Mia says, “I’ve learned to calm my stress, ignore the bad stuff, or hold my breath and count to ten.”

Southwest Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center (Project PERK)

Western Michigan University
1000 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Focus:

Children and families exposed to violence living in Kalamazoo city or township

Age Range:

8–16

Interventions:

  • Partnering to Effectively Reduce the Impact of Violence in Kalamazoo
  • Psychological First Aid*
  • Trauma Affect Regulation Guide for Education and Therapy*
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Referral*

*Evidence-based or promising practice

Safe Start in the Community: Honolulu, Hawaii

FB general cover

Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

Kaipo, a 12-year-old boy, is in seventh-grade regular and special education classes at Hawaii Middle School. Kaipo and his younger brother Jordan enrolled in Haupoa Enhanced Safe Start (Haupoa) services with their mother, Luanne. During the comprehensive intake assessment interview, Luanne tearfully reports that she feels tremendous guilt, shame, and inadequacy as a mother because, during the 3 years she was married to the boys’ father, her children witnessed physical and other forms of violence toward her, as well as ongoing verbal and emotional abuse. For example, their father told the boys that their mother was a whore. Luanne expresses that Kaipo is “scared” and more cautious because of his long exposure to the intimate partner violence. Although Luanne enrolls both children for Haupoa treatment services, she identifies Kaipo as the focus of her individual work in the program.

Luanne and her sons faithfully attend the seven initial group sessions of Haupoa. Luanne learns about positive parenting, and Kaipo demonstrates problem-solving skills. At the conclusion of the Haupoa group cycle, Luanne requests to continue with individual services.

With the Haupoa counselor advocate and Kaipo, she collaboratively develops several individualized goals for treatment including decreasing conflicts between herself and Kaipo, decreasing conflicts between Kaipo and Jordan, and decreasing Kaipo’s concerns about becoming a “cool kid” at school. The Haupoa counselor meets with the family regularly and tracks these behaviors using Modular Cognitive Behavior Therapy tools. Over the course of eight sessions, they discuss parent management training and with Kaipo discuss problem solving and goal setting. Conflicts between Luanne and Kaipo decrease from 1+ times per week to less than once per week, conflicts between Kaipo and Jordan decrease from every day to only once per week, and Kaipo begins to use his problem-solving skills more frequently to address “drama” at school.

Continue reading

Safe Start in the Community: El Paso, Texas

FB general cover

Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

At age 13, Jessica has experienced community violence most of her life. With Sandra, her mother, she lived at her grandmother’s in a very dangerous neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a border town adjacent to El Paso, Texas. One morning, Jessica awoke to gunshots and found out her neighbor had been killed. Soon after, Jessica’s brother was kidnapped and released only after Sandra paid a ransom.

This extreme exposure to trauma and violence prompts Sandra to move to El Paso, Texas, where she enrolls Jessica in school. Although Sandra feels safer, Jessica exhibits anxiety, irritability, fear, loneliness, and loss of trust. Because of the dramatic change of behavior, Sandra looks for help for Jessica. St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church refers Sandra to Aliviane, Inc., Behavioral Health Clinic where a case manager from the Safe Start program assesses Sandra and Jessica and refers them for services under the Safe Start program.

Safe Start case managers conduct weekly groups using the “Dando Fuerza a la Familia” curriculum. The curriculum covers communication styles of Mexican and Mexican-American families living in the border regions of the United States and focuses on the types of violence families experience within the family system and in the community, as well as the conflict between drug cartels in Mexican border states. Sandra participates in the parent training program while Jessica attends the children’s social skills training program. After an hour each week in their separate programs, Sandra and Jessica come together for the family training session and practice the new skills they learned.

Sandra and Jessica are comfortable in the program because the case managers use Mexican colloquial Spanish and they seem to understand Sandra and Jessica’s background and culture. After the 14 weeks of group sessions, the Safe Start program continues to provide case management services to the family for 1 year from the time of enrollment. Jessica now smiles, participates more in school, has friends, and feels a sense of belonging.

Aliviane, Inc.

Behavioral Health Clinic
7722 North Loop, Suite 5
El Paso, TX 79915

Focus:

Adapts interventions by providing special sensitivity to the strengths and stresses facing Mexican American families. Helps families decrease behavior problems in their high-risk children by strengthening family functioning and relationships, and building better communication. Works with children to improve protective factors and with parents to improve their child-rearing and relationship skills.  Allows families to practice skills and strengthen relationships.

Target Population:

Children and their parents with demonstrated exposure to trauma

Age Range:

3–14

Interventions:

  • Strengthening Families Program with a cultural adaptation called “Dando Fuerza a la Familia”*
  • Case Management

*Evidence-based or promising practice

%d bloggers like this: