The thing I would like to share with you today is something called The ACE Quiz. “ACE” stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and an ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other characteristics of a potentially difficult childhood. According to the ACE study, which developed the quiz, the more difficult your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be; this can translate into emotional effects in the short and long term, but also a higher risk for later health problems.
I tell you about this because many children in foster care have higher ACE scores.
In fact, approximately 50 percent of children in the child welfare system have four or more ACEs; comparatively, only 13 percent of children outside of foster care have four or more ACEs. Additionally, according to a recent study, “Children in foster care are at least five times more likely to have anxiety, depression and/or behavioral problems than children not in foster care.”
One more possible effect of higher ACEs…other studies seem to indicate there is a link between them and addiction to screen usage. The thinking is that the screen is soothing, because it allows for the escapism that we are all looking for, but even more so for a child from hard places; his craving for the escapism might come more often, or felt like it’s more necessary…potentially resulting in an addiction.
Now what does all this mean for you as a foster parent? Well…it could mean that your child will have some struggles and obstacles to overcome.
But my point in this post is not to be all “gloom and doom”…so keep in mind that even though it is an indicator of difficult past circumstances, the ACE quiz is not necessarily prophetic. It does not mean that what *could* happen *will* happen; people with high ACE scores can still be very successful and do well in life…and can even counteract some of the potential pitfalls of early childhood trauma.
Bottom line: all the ACE score does is tell you about one type of risk factor among many. It does not keep in mind a child’s genetics or diet. It does not know if the child (we’re going to assume a teenager with this behavior but unfortunately it is not unheard of for younger children) drinks or smokes excessively, or does illegal drugs…all of which would affect emotional and physical health.
But most importantly remember this also: ACE scores don’t take into consideration the positive experiences in early life that can help build resiliency and safeguard a child from the effects of trauma. By virtue of simply having a parent who loves you, a teacher who understands and believes in you, or a trusted neighbor in whom you can confide in may diminish many of the long-term effects of early childhood trauma; just one caring, safe relationship early in life gives any child a much better shot at growing up healthy. These positive early interactions have been shown to also help children with later learning and literacy. More importantly, they boost kids’ resilience, by helping them build secure attachments…which is a skill they will take with them and use throughout their lives.
If you are interested in taking the ACE Quiz, there are multiple sites online on which you can take it for free, and can easily be found by doing a quick internet search.