‘Our future can be brighter than our past.” These words of hope are critical for hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma children impacted by trauma and the public educators who serve them.
Science tells us that childhood experiences of abuse and neglect linger in the brains of young people — causing them to relive their most agonizing experiences in an endless feedback loop and propelling them into a subconscious, and recurring, state of fight or flight that disrupts their ability to learn.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Oklahoma ranks 44th in the nation in child well-being. In a national health ranking, we occupy 48th place in overall child health. Data from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ most recent student survey indicates that 75 percent suffer moderate or serious depression, and a growing number admit to a low commitment to school and a high risk of drug use.
Moreover, Oklahoma ranks in the top five in too many unfavorable categories, including percentage of uninsured women, infant mortality and teen births. Child mortality rates are ticking upward, while our teen suicide rate is increasing at an alarming pace. Nearly half of our children have experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. These include exposure to violence, neglect and abuse, and carry a devastating legacy of negative outcomes in adulthood, including chronic health problems, high-risk behaviors, even early death.
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