ACEs affect our community.

The ACEs that local children experience trigger toxic stress, and the resulting brain and body changes lead to learning challenges, behavioral and mental health problems, and physical illness as adults later in their lifetime.2

While we recognize that not every local initiative or collaboration is about toxic stress and ACEs, all local initiatives should KNOW about ACEs and the impact on children.

We’d like to think about what that community would be:

  • If the local community development committee understood that children/families need green space to help build resilience, would they advocate to include it in the city plans?
  • If your local food bank understood ACEs and toxic stress, would their criteria for individuals to receive services change to help ease the stress of food insecurity?
  • If your school board understood ACEs and toxic stress, might they decide to approve extending after school activities through the summer?
  • If the funder of your local initiative understood ACEs and the impact on childhood, would they change how they read your applications?
  • If most parents in our community were aware of ACEs, would they mobilize their own strengths to initiate change in the community?

We are not that far removed from that world. If we can come together to identify ACEs in our communities, engage the problem, and take action, we can help create better outcomes for our children.

Test your initiative’s ACEs knowledge.

Take a look at the initiatives that you are involved in and think about the overall awareness of ACEs.

  1. Do most members know about ACEs?
  2. Have the members received ACEs 101 training?
  3. Is the “language” of ACEs work included in the vision, mission or strategic plan?
  4. Does your initiative “talk the talk” about ACEs and also “walk the walk?”
  5. Is the objective of your initiative in some way addressing an ACE (poverty, food insecurity, domestic violence, etc.)? Are they aware how this relates to overall toxic stress?
  6. Are the programs or activities of your group using ACEs-informed practices?

Awareness can be a driver of change

Help create awareness within your organization or community collaborative about ACEs and toxic stress. Board and Committee meetings are ideal places to bring information to the attention of stakeholders and community leaders at once.

You’ve identified your community’s level of ACEs awareness. Now what?

Ensure that your organization/collaborative is looking at their mission through a trauma-informed lens and understand the impact of ACEs on your work. Encourage conversations and programs that support:

  • Education of ACEs and toxic stress across all levels.
  • Integrate ACEs-sensitive approaches in your work.
  • Make the community you work with or area you are addressing aware of potential to help.

Taking action to benefit our community.

We can help build resilience in our neighborhoods. Through meetings or your organization’s overall mission, we can help those impacted by ACEs by changing how young people in the community associate themselves with trauma.


It’s important to identify opportunities for collaboration across sectors, programs, organizations, initiatives, and more to promote ACE education/awareness, training on ACEs, and implementation of trauma-informed practices.  We can intentionally build an ACEs-informed community through a commitment to safe, stable and nurturing neighborhoods.

A community example:

San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team (SD-TIGT) – a grassroots collaborative of over 160 agencies and service providers from different service sectors who raise awareness about trauma and provide training and education.

We’re in this together.

Local and national resources are eager to help you and your organization become better prepared to help children who are experiencing ACEs and toxic stress.

  • Connect with Joining Forces for Children to learn about other local organizations and resources.
  • Or nationally, join ACEs Connection: A community-of-practice social network (
  1. Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (2014). “Adverse Childhood Experiences among Cincinnati and Ohio’s Children.” Data Resource Center, supported by Cooperative Agreement 1-U59-MC0680-01 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Health Resources & Services Administration, Maternal & Child Health Bureau. Retrieved from Revised on 4/13/17.
  1. Felitti, V.J., Anda, R.F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D.F., Spitz, A.M., Edwards, V., & Koss, M. P. (1998) Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American journal of Preventive Medicine 14(4), 245-258