Child Trends Report Calls ACEs a “Critical Public Health Issue”

Feb. 13, 2018

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children, 505-244-9505

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—A national report released last night by Child Trends using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, shows New Mexico has some of the highest rates of children suffering from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). ACEs are traumatic childhood events, and include suffering abuse and neglect, living with someone who has an untreated mental illness, the death of a parent, and living in extreme economic insecurity.

Experts believe that the more ACEs each child suffers, the more likely the trauma will lead to negative impacts on well-being and health that can follow a child for life and contribute to chronic health issues and problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.

“Children are resilient, and with strong support systems and attentive families, they can often overcome the challenges of having one adverse childhood experience,” said Amber Wallin, Deputy Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a child advocacy organization. “But it’s the cumulative effects of several ACEs that are most concerning, and that’s where New Mexico fares poorly.”

The report shows that New Mexico has a worse-than-average rate of children experiencing no ACEs, and when it comes to children who suffer between three and eight ACEs, New Mexico and Arizona are tied for the highest rate—18 percent. The national average was 11 percent.

ACEs can cause what’s known as “toxic stress,” which can impair a child’s healthy development. The report states, “When activated repeatedly or over a prolonged period of time (especially in the absence of protective factors), toxic levels of stress hormones can interrupt normal physical and mental development and can even change the brain’s architecture.”

“As with many social ills, the best solution is prevention,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director of NM Voices. “Prevention is generally more effective and less expensive than remediation, and prevents all number of public health and safety problems down the line. One of the state-supported services that can prevent ACEs is voluntary home visiting.”

High-quality home visiting can deliver a number of benefits to parents having their first child. Studies show that home visiting improves health and education outcomes for both children and parents by offering parents information on child development, tips for dealing with common parenting frustrations, and connecting parents to community support systems, among other things.

“New Mexico is fortunate in having a huge financial resource that we could use to expand home visiting and other early childhood programs that improve outcomes for our kids, if we would just have the political will to use it,” Jimenez said. “Only a fraction of New Mexico families receives state-funded home visiting services. If we tapped just 1 percent of our multi-billion dollar permanent fund, we could greatly expand these programs, save considerable money down the road, and improve quality of life for all. Some lawmakers say they want to save the permanent fund for the future – but if today’s babies aren’t the future of this state, what is?”

The Child Trends report, “The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, nationally, by state, and by race/ethnicity,” is available online here


New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p);