July 11, 2023

The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Prevention Tactics

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.

Fortunately, agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide strategies and resources to help define ACEs and to help caregivers and child care providers prevent traumatic experiences as much as possible before they happen, identify children whom have experienced ACEs, and respond to these experiences using trauma-informed approaches.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

ACEs are traumatic events or circumstances that occur during childhood. These experiences can range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, household substance abuse, domestic violence, and parental separation or divorce, among others.

Through research conducted by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, it has been revealed that traumatic experiences have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.

ACEs can vary depending on the child and environment in which the child grows and learns. Some experiences can be witnessed directly, such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. These experiences can also include aspects of the child’s environment that take away from a child’s sense of safety, stability, and bonding.

ACEs and associated social determinants of health, such as living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, can cause toxic stress (extended or prolonged stress). Toxic stress from ACEs can negatively affect children’s brain development, immune systems, and stress-response systems.

Recognizing and addressing ACEs is important for promoting individual and societal well-being. Creating safe and nurturing environments for children, ensuring access to quality healthcare and mental health services, and implementing trauma-informed approaches in various settings are vital steps in preventing and addressing ACEs.

Risk Protective Factors

Risk factors are defined as things that increase the likelihood of experiencing ACEs. Protective factors are defined as things that protect people and decrease the possibility of experiencing ACEs. Individual, family, and community factors can affect the likelihood of these experiences, but they may or may not be direct causes of ACEs. Because ACEs include many different types of experiences and traumatic events, there are many risk and protective factors that apply to the range of different ACEs.

Learn more about Individual, Family, Community Risk and Protective Factors from the CDC.

Prevention Strategies for Children

CDC has developed a resource to help states and communities take advantage of the best available evidence to prevent ACEs. It features six strategies from the CDC Technical Packages to Prevent Violence.

  • Strengthen Economic Supports to Families: Community organizations such as faith-based and youth-serving organizations can promote policies that support families facing financial problems or help parents balance work and family responsibilities, which reduce stress and allow parents to meet children’s basic needs.
  • Promote Social Norms That Protect Against Violence and Adversity: Encourage community organizations such as youth-serving and faith-based organizations, coaches, and caregivers to promote non-violent attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Ensure a Strong Start for Children: Involved parents, strong preschool programs, and good quality childcare get children started on the right foot and help them succeed later in life. Youth-serving and faith-based organizations can contribute to this as well.
  • Teach Healthy Relationship Skills: Children and caregivers can both learn how to create healthy relationships and manage their emotions.
  • Connect Children to Caring Adults and Activities: Community organizations connect young people with positive role models and provide activities for young people to learn leadership and other new skills. Communities can help young people grow and succeed at school and in life, such as getting children involved in after-school activities.
  • Intervene to Lessen Immediate and Long-Term Harms: When ACEs occur, community organizations, can offer services and support to reduce harms and help break the cycle of adversity, including providing therapy to reduce symptoms of depression, fear or anxiety, and behavior problems.

By recognizing and addressing ACEs, parents and child care providers can create a bright future for children and promote resilience, healing, and well-being.

Visit the CDC website for more information about childhood trauma prevention and ACEs Resources.


June 4, 2020

Taking Personal and Professional Responsibility for Anti-Racism Work

As caregivers, community members, and early childhood educators, we have a responsibility to ensure each child, family and caregiver is safe from racism and discrimination and has equitable opportunities to thrive.

In order to do this, we must begin with ourselves. Set aside time in your day to do a personal inventory. What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have you contributed to upholding systems of racism? What assumptions are you making? What actions or inactions have you taken that contribute to systems of oppression?

Next, consider your family and your friends—what behaviors, statements, or jokes have gone unchecked? What actions or inactions have you taken within your interpersonal relationships that have contributed to an unsafe community for our black and brown children, neighbors and colleagues? How might you begin to lead by example within your own family or community?

Anti-racism work is something that has to be attended to an ongoing way. In order to support you in this work, we have compiled a new webpage of resources to combat racism.

Learn More with Upcoming Discussions


“I [STILL] can’t breathe”: Supporting kids of color amid racialized violence

Join EmbraceRace on June 5 for their webinar, “‘I [STILL] can’t breathe’: Supporting kids of color amid racialized violence.”


Black, Brown, Native, and low-income individuals talk with children about how to interact with police. They file formal complaints against abusive officers, take cellphone videos that go viral, share their stories with media outlets, file lawsuits, and protest with allies at their side. With COVID-19 as a backdrop, some predict a “long, hot summer.” Others see a promising new determination by many white individuals to become a vigorous part of the solution.

In this complicated context, what conversations about policing, violence, safety, justice, and race should parents and caregivers be having with their children of color? Join EmbraceRace on June 5 for that discussion. Questions and insights are encouraged.


To register, visit the event webpage.

More Information

Please note that this event is high in demand. Those who are unable to get onto Zoom will be direct to the live broadcast on EmbraceRace’s Facebook page. A recording of the event will be available at a later date for those who are unable to attend. For questions, please contact EmbraceRace through their contact form or on Facebook.


August 15, 2019

Author Discussion: Michele Borba’s “Unselfie”

On November 11, the South Hills area will be hosting author Michele Borba to speak on her new book, “Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.”


Through a partnership between Saint Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School and Episcopal Church and the Community Foundation of Upper Saint Clair (USC), with additional support from the USC School District and the USC Wellness and Youth Steering Committees, the South Hills area will be hosting renowned author and speaker, Dr. Michele Borba, on Monday, November 11.

In her most recent book, “Unselfie,” Dr. Borba explains what parents and educators need to do to combat the “growing empathy crisis among children today.” The book includes a nine-step empathy-building program, providing tips to help caregivers guide their children from birth through college and beyond.

This event is free and open to the public.

Learn More

For more information, contact Eileen Sharbaugh at 412.531.2644 or

To learn more about empathy and the author, watch this video or Michele Borba’s Ted Talk.


June 13, 2019

Supporting Families Impacted by Incarceration & Domestic Violence

Join the Partnerships for Family Support Office of Child Development on July 23 to learn how to recognize and support children and families impacted by incarceration and domestic violence. This training is for staff of centers in the Allegheny County Family Support Network.


Living in a household with domestic violence is a source of trauma for children. Even if the children don’t see the domestic violence, they are affected by the conflict in their family. Having a parent in jail or prison is also a source of trauma, as parental incarceration may include witnessing a parent being arrested, adjusting to their parent being gone, and adjusting to the return of their parents after serving a sentence.

When exposed to situations of domestic violence or incarceration, children can develop serious emotional and behavioral difficulties, many of which aren’t always recognized by parents or caregivers. As a result, children do not always get the help they need. In this training, participants will learn how to recognize, and support children and families impacted by these traumas.

Registration & More Information

To learn more, ask questions, and register, visit the event page. 


May 23, 2019

Addressing Domestic Violence in ECE Programs

Join Promising Futures on May 30 for a webinar exploring ways in which early childhood professionals and programs can support children and families affected by domestic violence.


Domestic violence harms many families with young children. However, early childhood teachers and caregivers can help children heal. Further, early childhood programs can support healthy development and work to stop domestic violence in their communities. Join Promising Futures for this upcoming webinar to learn how early childhood programs can help families affected by domestic violence. Presenters will share strategies, tools, and resources created in partnership with The National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement.

    • Virginia Duplessis, MSW, Program Director, Futures Without Violence
    • Mie Fukuda, MA, Senior Program Specialist, Futures Without Violence


To register for this event, visit their webinar page.


For more information, contact Graciela Olguin at

Share this flyer with your network.


May 9, 2019

Resources for Families in the Wake of Tragedy

In response to the violent events happening in communities throughout the United States of America, Trying Together hopes to support young children, their families, and the caregivers who interact with them by recognizing available community-based and online resources.

Trying Together extends our heartfelt sympathy to the families and friends of those lost and to those injured or traumatized by such horrific events. Thank you to all of the public health and safety professionals who respond and provide service to affected communities across America, and thank you to the organizations and individuals that extend your hands and services in support.


Mental Health Services and Supports

resolve Crisis Services
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Be Well Pittsburgh
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Highmark Caring Place
The Compassionate Friends: Pittsburgh Chapter
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Supportive Care Department

Articles and Resources

Israel Trauma Coalition
American Counseling Association
Fred Rogers Productions
Anti-Defamation League
Fran Sherman in USA Today
Dr. Debi Gilboa in NEXT Pittsburgh
PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL)
Child Trends
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Additional Lists

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh