Adverse Childhood Experiences and System-Involved Youth

Crittenton's Beyond Ace Research Brief

Adverse Childhood Experiences and System-Involved Youth

Adverse Childhood Experiences and System-Involved Youth

For those Crittenton Services supporters who don’t know, our agency in Orange County, CA., is part of an association of agencies across the country that share some tie to the Crittenton Movement of the 1880’s. Although we are not tied to each other legally and we all sink or swim on our own merits, this association enables us to participate in research and advocacy at the national level that has made – and continues to make – an impact on the work that the Crittenton Mission accomplishes in Southern California.

One such research effort, the Crittenton family of agencies,  has been working on is around ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), in particular, how ACEs impact the overall development of system-involved youth. This recent research brief has been published by the National Crittenton Foundation and is called, Beyond ACEs, which highlights findings of the 2014 to 2015 administration of the ACE survey at 18 Crittenton agencies in 16 states. The use of well-being questions, piloted by seven of the participating Crittenton agencies including the Crittenton of Southern California, in domains of connection, coping and stress was also administered during this time period using a modified ACE survey to collect additional data .

The original research was conducted in conjunction with Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda, developers of the original ACE survey tool. However, more recently, this new ACEs research, spearheaded by the The National Crittenton Foundation, centered around an ACE assessment modified by Dr. Roy Wade, a pediatrician, who works with at-risk youth in Philadelphia. This new modification of the ACE survey tool more directly ties the experiences of system-involved youth into an assessment tool more useful for work with these adolescents. 

ACE data increases awareness about the breadth and impact of exposure to childhood adversity and the resulting complex trauma. Combined with brain research and the science of epigenetics, we now know more about the damage that adverse childhood experiences creates, and about the realities of the life-long healing process.

We’re proud that throughout this nearly two-year research effort Crittenton staff such as Ms. Erin Grierson (Clinical Director – Residential Treatment Services), Dr. Barbara Hernandez (Vice President – Residential Treatment Services), and Ms. Audrey Fisher-Price (Vice President – Integrated Behavioral Health and Outpatient Mental Health Services) have all had significant roles in this effort. All hold various degrees of leadership at Crittenton Services of Southern California, and have many years of experience working with system-involved youth. Furthermore, we are advocates for having all of our clinical teams continue to work with ACE and other assessment tools as we collaboratively work with other agencies to improve the “system” on behalf of all kids.

Our agency is one of the founding members of Catalyst, an initiative within the Crittenton family of agencies that hopes to transform research into practice, developing concrete tools, assessments, and interventions that transform academic research into something we can actually use in the child welfare and social work fields.

To quote the National Crittenton Foundation, “We believe that the key to accessing the resources and policies needed to promote the potential of this very marginalized population of youth is our ability to define the obstacles that confront them through no fault of their own. This must be done in terms that can be understood by a broad cross-section of stakeholders – from family members, clinicians, the public, and policy makers, to the youth themselves, and this continued ACE research enables us to do so.”

Crittenton Services of Southern California is happy to help and be a part of a national research initiative continuing to raise awareness of the importance of understanding the real life implications of adverse childhood experiences within communities nationwide. We also believe that ACE’s should be prioritized as a national public health campaign and we hope that this research effort continues to make strides for this goal to come true one day.

Our agency has always supported a trauma-informed treatment focus for the children and families in our care, and we will continue to advocate for best practices within our organization in order to empower the communities we serve cope and end the continued cycle of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

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Crittenton Services for Children and Families of Southern California (CSCF) is a non-profit social services agency whose mission is to heal the wounds of abuse and neglect; strengthen families; and help troubled adolescents reach their full potential. Established and incorporated in 1966 Crittenton has a highly trained workforce operating 24 hours a day / 7 days a week providing comprehensive mental health services, shelter care, and other support services to the clients in our care. We provide a full array of residential, in-home, community based programming, wraparound family services, outpatient mental health, transitional age youth programming, foster care, and adoption services with a service planning area throughout Southern California that covers Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties.

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