The reality is that not all children have the same opportunity to thrive. A growing body of research indicates that children who experience multiple or chronic sources of stress and adversity are at greater risk for developing physical, mental, emotional, behavioral and learning problems in childhood and later in life. Exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – including physical or emotional abuse, neglect, a caregiver’s mental illness or substance abuse, a parent in prison, exposure to domestic violence, or the cumulative effects of poverty – can create toxic levels of stress that disrupt children’s developing brains and impair healthy development.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
As the number of adverse experiences in a child’s life increases, so does the risk for developing poor health behaviors and outcomes later in life. The groundbreaking ACE Study conducted in 1998 by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention found that adults who reported experiencing four or more adverse childhood experiences were:
12 times more likely to attempt suicide
10 times more likely to use intravenous drugs
7 times more likely to be addicted to alcohol
5 times more likely to experience depression
2 times more likely to have cancer
A Snapshot of Child Abuse & Neglect in San Benito County
Many children in San Benito County are raised in loving, stable homes, and there are community-level trends that appear promising. In San Benito County, the rate of substantiated child abuse reports has decreased 69% over the last decade, 96% of emergency 24-hour child abuse investigations are completed in a timely manner, and the rate of entries into foster care (2.3 per 1,000) is the lowest it’s been in over a decade.
While these trends are promising, there are also signs that many other children are living with ACEs that can require costly, extreme interventions if left unaddressed. Indicators of risk that warrant a coordinated, collaborative response by CAPC members, other agencies and community members include:
· 59% of non-emergency 10-day child abuse investigations are considered “not timely.” This rate is nearly two times the State rate of 31%.
· 96% of domestic violence cases have children living in the home.
· Nearly two-thirds of domestic violence cases are witnessed by children.
· 15% of children under the age of 18 live below Poverty Level. The percentage is slightly higher (18%) among Latino children, who make up 71% of the county’s child population.
· 20% of adults reported binge drinking within the last 30 days.
· Nearly 80% of adult women have graduated from high school. However, less than 10% of Oaxacan women have completed high school, which can make it more difficult to achieve economic stability.
· Nearly 9% of women are likely to have experienced serious psychological distress in the past year.
In addition, San Benito County has approximately 700 indigenous community members, primarily of Triqui origin, who migrated from Oaxaca, Mexico. According to data cited by Lucila Alvarez in in Addressing Social Issues Affecting Vulnerable Populations in San Benito County through Community Events, there were approximately 300 adults and 400 children of Triqui origin as of 2012 (First 5 San Benito 2012-14 Strategic Plan), representing about 8% of San Benito County’s population (San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency, 2014). 4
While indigenous community members contribute to the richness of San Benito County’s cultural diversity, they are often at greater risk of experiencing social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. Alvarez’ report states that, “Many times, Triqui community members arrive in the United States speaking and understanding only their native Triqui language. Their customs and traditions clash with those of the United States and due to fear they isolate themselves and do not seek any community services…The American beliefs and traditions vary greatly from the Oaxacan traditions in areas of child marriage, physical punishment and co-sleeping with children. These actions are viewed as child abuse and many times indigenous families have to face the child welfare system and risk having their families split apart.”5 In addition, the 2014 report on The Status of Women in San Benito County estimates that 50% of Oaxacan women experience domestic violence, a risk factor that perpetuates social isolation and impairs children’s health and well-being.
Although none of the risk factors described above are the sole cause of child abuse, neglect or domestic violence, they are often contributing or co-occurring factors that increase the cumulative risk. The data described above are summarized with sources in Appendix A, and they represent just a handful of indicators of strengths and risks in the community. The CAPC members have the ability to collect and share many more data points that could inform and engage partners and community members in ongoing efforts to prevent and end all forms of child abuse, neglect, and family violence.