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Fact Sheet
April 2019

Working Group on Child Health, Early Childhood, and Adverse Childhood Experiences Principles

Today, across the United States, children live in poverty at much higher rates than in most other developed countries and are exposed to poor living conditions, limited access to adequate nutrition and health care, child abuse and neglect, community violence, racism and discrimination, and other adverse circumstances that have the potential to affect their healthy development. With more than 17 percent of U.S. children living in poverty, our youngest children most at risk of being poor, and Black and Hispanic children suffering disproportionately from poverty, there is an urgent need for our nation’s leaders, policy experts, stakeholders and child and family-serving systems to recognize, understand and work collaboratively to address factors that play a role in the healthy development of children.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) refer to traumatic experiences in childhood - including exposure to poor living conditions, limited access to adequate nutrition and health care, child abuse and neglect, community violence, racism and discrimination, among others - that can harm physical, social, cognitive and emotional development. Nearly half of U.S. children have at least one ACE and 10 percent have experienced three or more ACEs. Data indicate that 61 percent of black children and 51 percent of Latino children experience one or more ACEs compared with 40 percent of white children. Data also indicate that LGBTQ and other marginalized populations may experience disproportionately higher rates of ACEs and are more likely to lack the supports, such as strong schools, that can mitigate the impact of ACEs.

The health care system and its financing provide an opportunity to leverage the significant resources already flowing through these systems to advance creative and evidence-based policy solutions aimed at prevention, diagnosis, and management of ACEs; supporting families in raising healthy children; and promoting child, family and community resilience. Policy solutions that focus on ensuring children’s access to comprehensive health coverage as well as other promising approaches that aim to prevent or reduce the negative health effects associated with ACEs are essential to support the needs of children and families.

Now is the time to move to action, to tackle the root causes of trauma, scale investments in strategies that can support children and families who experience compounding stressors, and develop a comprehensive multi-sector approach to improving systems and changing community conditions so that children and families have the best possible chance to flourish and thrive.

Families USA is committed to advancing federal and state policy solutions that address adversity and promote child health and wellbeing. In 2018, we launched a new, cross-sector Working Group on Child Health, Early Childhood and ACEs, composed of partners from national organizations with deep expertise in child health, health system financing, early childhood, education, child welfare and juvenile justice, among others, who are working together to apply our collective knowledge and experience to develop a strategy to raise awareness among national decision-makers about the impact of ACEs and advance policy solutions around ACEs prevention and mitigation.

Our Working Group is focused on addressing ACEs through health coverage and health care financing policies, with an emphasis on ensuring and improving access to meaningful coverage; scaling preventive and early intervention services; and advancing improved provider payment models to make sure our systems are working effectively and are aligned to support the needs of children, especially those who have experienced ACEs. Read more about our Working Group and the principles guiding our work here.