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Adverse child experiences costly in many ways

Many considerations: adverse child experiences, or ACEs, can have financial, emotional, social, and physical costs for the child, their family, the community, and the Government. Family Centre is hosting a conference on the issue next week (File photograph)

When a child arrives in our world as a beautiful, precious new life to be celebrated, as much as we derive happiness from our perception that their future life will be a great success, that is not always the case.

Children are the future promise of any community, they are also the most vulnerable group.

Life is never completely fair or equitable for anyone. Thus, the primary goal of parents, relatives, teachers, religions and community organisations is to enable a child to develop confidence and self-esteem as they mature to handle life challenges.

All interactions, positive and negative, in a child’s environment have an enduring impact on their wellbeing.

Regretfully, in some circumstances, both familial and in external situational exposures, how a child will mature to become a successful adult can be the luck of the draw — without the intervention and protection of social service agency help, eg Family Centre.

In a positive environment, children learn mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially from focused reinforcement that provides the incentive to the child to complete the childhood journey to adulthood as an independent, fully functioning contributor to society.

However, not all children experience the same outcome.

Some are derailed because they have negativity such as abuse, trauma, violence, dysfunctional home environments, stressor-filled psychological interactions, poor or no dietary health, learning disabilities, and more. They may fail to thrive, may have no (or completely lose) the ability to overcome even minor problems, thereby reducing their innate ability to mature successfully.

These are children in crisis. They reach adulthood at risk to their personal identity, health, relationships, families, education wellbeing, employers and the community at large.

There is a detrimental financial impact to children, classified with ACE (adverse child experience), who fail to thrive, who cannot cope with ordinary adult requirements such as holding down a job, managing finances and a household, to caring for their personal and mental health.

The cumulative economic costs to the community that cares for these children is far-reaching and extremely long-tailed. Children adversely affected by family traumas tend to perpetuate those traumas to the next generation and beyond.

Family Centre, a non-profit organisation that has been at the forefront of advocacy for children and families since 1990, knows these sobering statistics only too well.

• Unhealthy relationships due to unaddressed multigenerational trauma was the number one problem of families seeking help from Bermuda social service agencies in 2010.

• The Bermuda Health Council and SCARS (Saving Children and Revealing Secrets) estimate that one in three Bermudians has been the victim of child sexual abuse before the age of 18.

• Children with poor or no appropriate nutritional guidelines are unhealthy and more prone to illnesses in later life. Obesity and diabetes are our most serious public health challenges and a significant factor in chronic ill health in Bermuda. The cost of diabetes care over the next ten years is estimated to be $26 million in health insurance claims alone, excluding out-of-pocket payments, the impact on other conditions, hours of lost work, and the resulting loss of personal income.

Family Centre’s committed professionals realise that a child’s issues may not always be immediately recognised, or even discovered in order to have preventive measures taken.

Their long-term mission has not changed; they continue to be both proactive and preventive with the launch of a new initiative: studying ACEs in the general Bermuda population in order to gather baseline data.

Family Centre (Dr Stephanie Guthman), in partnership with the Bermuda Health Council (Tara Hines), aims to conduct a research study to obtain baseline data on health behaviours and exposure to adverse childhood experiences using the ACEs international questionnaire with additional Bermuda-specific questions.

This survey is designed to collect information from a cross-section of the community regarding events they experienced during the first 18 years of their lives. The findings from the survey will offer insight into the potential upside for how to prevent and mitigate ACEs in our community.

There are many outcomes, the most compelling is the increased awareness of children in crisis problem and a contribution to existing social services local data to help with additional decision-making for trauma informed cases.

I encourage you, as a community, to join the family experts next week at their 2019 conference to provide support for their initiatives to focus on care for our precious wonderful children who need our help.

Family experts across the spectrum will gather on Thursday and Friday for Family Centre’s two-day Adverse Childhood Experiences conference:

• Day 1 — June 13: Understanding and Addressing Racial Trauma, held at HSBC Bank of Bermuda, 9.30am to 5pm.

• Day 2 — June 14: The Economics of Adverse Childhood Experiences, held at Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, 9am to 4.30pm.

The intended audience is business leaders, insurance providers, donor community, policy analysts, social service professionals, healthcare workers and the general public.

Please see attached brochure for detail, or call Stephanie Guthman, PhD, director of specialised training and assessment, at Family Centre. Call 232-1116.

Our children represent our future everything, and without them our community is seriously diminished. They are our future leaders, politicians, business persons, teachers, IT consultants, finance advisers, utility service specialists, doctors, lawyers, nurses, construction managers, all vocations in every segment of our society.

We must protect them, care for them, and see to it that they too have a bright, clear, stress-free future.

Click on ‘Related Media’ for Family Centre brochure

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Dual citizen: Bermudian/US. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders and their globally mobile connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Finance columnist to The Royal Gazette, Bermuda. All proceeds earned from this column go to The Reading Clinic. Contact: martha.myron@gmail.com