Did you know?

Individuals who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are at significantly increased risk of serious health consequences, including at least 9 of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States.23

The annual cost of ACEs to California is $112.5 billion dollars due to the health conditions, behaviors, and life potential associated with ACEs.24

But… ACEs are detectable, and their impact can be reduced by quality services and buffering of risks!

Why is Trauma Screening Important?

Trauma is linked with adverse experiences early in life

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that are experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.25

There are 10 categories of adversity during the first 18 years of life:23

  • Abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
  • Neglect: physical and emotional neglect
  • Household dysfunction: parental incarceration, mental illness, substance use, parental separation or divorce, and intimate partner violence.


Trauma-informed practice can mitigate the negative effects of trauma on children’s development

Trauma can have serious consequences for the normal development of children’s brains, brain chemistry, and the nervous system. Trauma-induced alterations in biological stress systems can adversely affect brain development, cognitive and academic skills, and language acquisition. Traumatized children and adolescents display changes in the levels of stress hormones similar to those seen in combat veterans.26

Trauma-informed practice is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.27 When providers use a trauma-informed approach to care, they pay attention to children’s life experiences and assess the impact on physical and psychological well-being.26

What Can You Tell Parents About Trauma Screening?

Parents should know that while adversity and risk can have long-term impacts on development, ACEs are not destiny and do not define a person or a family.24 Identifying a history of trauma in children can lower a families’ long-term health costs and support family well-being. Many families who have experienced hardships also have protective factors that help buffer trauma.

When providing trauma-informed care, it is important to frame questions in a supportive way with resources available to sustain support and build more buffering rather than open old wounds. Providers can start a discussion with families using either open-ended or close-ended questions. Sample questions from the American Academy of Pediatrics and tip sheets for families around trauma and risks can be found in the resource section of this website.