• Brian Padden

June is Child Protection Month

Updated: May 29, 2018

Friday sees the start of Child Protection Month. There is mandatory training in schools for child protection but not ACEs - There is an inevitable overlap as some Child Protection issues are in fact known ACEs, This begs the question "Why do we protect against some ACEs and not others?" I have recently been asked to be a guest blogger on child protection so decided it was the perfect opportunity to highlight how Child Protection and ACEs are intertwined.

The Impact of ACEs

Here is the article in full

Joining the dots of Child Protection.

The current system in schools for child protection is designed to carry out four specific tasks; recognise signs of child protection issues, report, provide support and if necessary seek prosecutions. Within those parameters it functions well. The painful lessons of Lord Lamming’s report into Victoria Climbie’s death have been learnt and implemented. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-victoria-climbie-inquiry-report-of-an-inquiry-by-lord-laming

Although the Keeping Children Safe in Education Statutary Guidance does exactly that, there is no provision within it to limit the impact of the four strands of abuse beyond education when the school gates close for the final time. Nor does it offer protection from other Adverse Childhood Experiences by dysfunctional families.

In the late 1990’s Dr Vincent Felitti released his shocking report into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Dr Felitti was working in an obesity clinic in San Diego, California when he discovered, by chance, a link between childhood sexual abuse and adult obesity. Further studies revealed a correlation between nine other traumatic events in childhood that lead to severe adult and lifelong problems.

His ten ACEs were:

· Sexual abuse

· Verbal abuse

· Physical abuse

· Physical and emotional neglect

· Alcohol abuse in the family

· Drug abuse in the family

· Domestic Violence

· Parent in prison

· Parent with mental health problems

· Separation from parent (divorce or death)

Every occurrence of one of the above scores one on the ACE score (so any three of the above would be an ACE score of 3) His initial report, and many reports from around the world since have shown that the greater the ACE score the higher the risk of poor physical health including cancers, heart attacks, strokes, liver failure and diabetes. This is partly due to developing ‘ health harming behaviours’ such as smoking, heavy drinking and drug abuse and in part due to toxic stress caused by ACEs damaging the auto immune system. It also has an impact on mental health with anxiety, depression, emotional wellbeing, self-harm and suicide attempts and early death all linked to ACEs.

The most shocking statistic is in suicide attempts; the increase in suicide attempts were studied by Shanta Dube, she found that suicide attempts rise from 1% with zero ACE score to 31.1% in 7+ ACE scores, and every additional ACE increases the probability of an attempted suicide by 60%.

ACEs also have a detrimental effect on educational attainment, which in turn impacts on employability and lifelong financial security. Anti-social and criminal behaviour is connected to ACEs and with that pressure on the justice system with increased imprisonment.

So, if the events that happen in childhood have a lifelong impact on, not only the child, but social service, NHS, the justice system, the benefit system, social housing etc. – is it time to look at the concept of ‘child protection’ as ‘person protection’? And if so, what can be done?

Over the last twenty years there has been a wealth of knowledge gathered about ACES, the initial questions concerning what they are and what are their impacts have been answered. Why they cause such physical and mental problems has been established by several studies including ground-breaking research into toxic stress by Dr Nadine Burke. Her research also demonstrates how behaviours caused by toxic stress can be wrongfully diagnosed as ADHD https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/opinion-too-many-children-with-toxic-stress-are-being-misdiagnosed the most recent report on ACEs show education levels can suffer as a result of brain architecture being under-developed, resulting in poor memory and cognitive function. https://www.iriss.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-04/iriss-esss-outline-adverse-childhood-experiences-2018-4-23.pdf

Now for the first time we are seeing scientific evidence that child protection issues, school behaviour and educational attainment levels are all linked. So the next big question is what can to be done to reduce the impact of ACEs? That brings us to the latest work by Professor Mark Bellis who has carried out ACE studies in the UK; his latest studies looked at why some people with a high ACE score suffered from fewer lifelong problems than others with the same Aces and scores. He concludes that the damaging effects of ACEs can be dramatically reduced by having an ‘Always Available Adult’ (AAA) he suggests that “such impacts may be substantially mitigated away by always having support from an adult you trust in childhood.”

Evolve are a multi-award winning social impact company who deploy Health Mentors to be a positive role model in schools, they are the trusted ‘Always Available Adult’ for many, many children with traumatic home lives, they support them with mentoring 1-1, and in group mentoring sessions to help alleviate the future lifelong problems brought on by ACEs. In 2015 an Independent report by Leeds Beckett University https://www.evolvesi.com/codeless_portfolio/evaluation-of-project-hero-keighley/ hailed the impact Health Mentors have quoting “Many of the teaching staff reported that not only were EVOLVE staff effective managers of these disruptive behaviours in the classroom, but also in many instances, they were able to improve their behaviour and educational progress.” Exactly the impact Professor Bellis reported on over two years later.

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