Denwalt: Oklahoma trying to overcome top rank for emotional, physical childhood trauma


Oklahoma children are more likely to experience toxic, adverse conditions at home than children in other states, but there is hope for a better future, Senate lawmakers were told Thursday.

State health officials said recent studies show Oklahoma ranks as the worst in the nation when it comes to the number of adverse childhood experiences. Such experiences include neglect and abuse, drug use in the home, exposure to domestic violence, living with someone who is mentally ill, having an incarcerated family member, living in a broken home and more.

A child with several adverse childhood experiences is more likely to do poorly in school, get in trouble with the law as a juvenile or adult and may have a reduced life expectancy.

The good news, said Joe Dorman of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, is that there are state agencies and nonprofit groups working to prevent or at least mitigate the emotional damage that can be done at an early age.

"You're not alone in this fight," Dorman told lawmakers at an interim study Thursday, adding that child advocates rely on the Legislature to create policy. "But there are a lot of nonprofit organizations out there that are championing these causes, also. We have to work hand in hand; there are no enemies in this fight."

According to a Child Trends study, 17 percent of Oklahoma youths have experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences in their lifetimes, a number that ranks the state highest in the nation.

Click here to read the rest of the article by Dale Denwalt on NewsOK.

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