ACEs histories for mothers recovering from substance abuse

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The aptly named Great Starts program at the Helen Ross McNabb Center in Knoxville, TN, provides a six-to-nine month residential treatment and two-year follow-up program for pregnant mothers and moms with newborns recovering from substance abuse. Earlier this year, curious about the early childhood history of its residents, the center started asking the women about their ACEs history.

The results would not have been surprising to those familiar with ACEs: Of the 16 moms who filled out the 10-question ACE survey from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, the average score was a whopping 6.4.

Using the ACE survey, says mental health clinician and family treatment program manager Sarah Long, could allow staff members to identify those potential risk factors these new parents experienced as children that might in turn affect the parenting of their own children.

The ACE Study measured 10 types of childhood adversity, those that occurred before the age of 18. They are physical, verbal and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with mental illness, or has been incarcerated or is abusing alcohol or other drugs; witnessing a mother being abused; losing a parent to divorce, separation or death.

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