The Soil in which we’re Rooted; the Branches on which we Grow
Each of the children described above experiences adversity within their families: parents with substance abuse problems, physical and emotional neglect at a very young age, fear that family will be deported. Each child also lives in a community that faces adversity: widespread poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of needed social services – including in mental health. When childhood adversity occurs in the context of an adverse community environment, these stressors can become toxic to a child’s development and long-term health.
The Pair of ACEs Tree (pictured) depicts the interconnectedness of Adverse Community Environments (ACEs) – the soil in which some children’s lives are rooted – and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) of their family environment, or branches on which children bud and grow.
The leaves on the tree represent the ‘symptoms’ of ACEs that are easily recognized in medical, educational and social service settings. Adverse childhood experiences can increase a person’s risk for chronic stress and poor coping mechanisms, and result in lifelong chronic illness such as depression, heart disease, obesity and substance abuse. Physical or sexual violence and abuse or neglect, for example, can exist as chronic stressors for individuals. The Pair of ACEs Tree is planted in soil that is steeped in systemic inequities and dysfunction, robbing it of nutrients necessary to support a thriving community. Adverse Community Experiences, such as lack of opportunity, limited economic mobility, fear of discrimination, and the associated effects of poverty and joblessness contribute to – and compound – the adversities experienced by individuals and families.
Healing the Tree: The Building Community Resilience (BCR) Approach
At the Building Community Resilience (BCR) initiative, we aim to create more fertile soil and a more vibrant tree to address, prevent and reduce the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Adverse Community Environments (ACEs) on children’s health and wellbeing: The Pair of ACEs.