The young girl, Anna, described in our book, Anna, Age Eight, lived a life cut short by the most extreme forms of trauma. The story of Anna begs the question: Why are our children being traumatized?
We all realize that life isn't perfect. Chances are, you endured various forms of adversity as a child. Some of it could be shrugged off as, “tough times I got through.” But for many children, these tough times evolve into daily forms of abuse and neglect that continue to haunt them through adulthood.
We now recognize that the problem is not isolated to a few tragic families. It's a problem that impacts the safety and quality of life in every community, city, and county.
For lawmakers, the question is: how do we determine the impact of trauma on our children, families, students, workforce and economy?
There is a survey that measures adverse childhood experiences – or ACEs. The survey provides a tool to determine the level of childhood trauma and gauge its impact on the individual and society.
The survey asks for a yes or no response to ten questions such as
Did a parent ever push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?
Were you afraid you might be hurt?
Did you live with a problem drinker or someone doing street drugs?
Was a household member depressed or mentally ill?
Did you ever not have enough to eat?
Did a parent threaten anyone with a knife or gun?
Was there no one to protect you?
Shockingly, in some classrooms, students answer yes to many of these questions.
Through the ACEs survey we can get a firm idea on the level of childhood trauma in a community, but what do we do with the answers?
On a personal level, the answers help us to understand ourselves better.
We can identify challenges that might have led us or loved ones to depression, anger, fear or substance misuse.
On a community level, we can use the survey to understand what today’s students face when they return home after school, then determine how we can solve the problems leading to such high ACEs scores.
Everything we need to get started is at our fingertips.
Our book Anna, Age Eight illustrates the causes and prevention of ACEs to provide a blueprint for creating family-friendly and trauma-free homes, schools and communities. The book has become the inspiration for establishing the Anna Age Eight Institute, a proposal for which now under consideration by the New Mexico state legislature.
Please contact your state senator and state representative by phone or email and ask them to support Senate Bill 370.
Together, we can ensure safe childhoods, successful students and healthy families.
For questions or to help establish the Anna, Age Eight Institute, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Anna, Age Eight Institute is guided by the strategies presented in the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment by Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello. You can download the book free-of-charge here: www.AnnaAgeEight.org/anna.