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Campaign launched to reduce child abuse and trauma

By Dave Ranney | April 24, 2014

Dozens of studies have shown that abused and neglected children tend to grow up to be unhealthy adults.

“The more adverse childhood experiences someone has, the more long-term health problems they will have as an adult,” said Vicky Roper, director of Prevent Child Abuse Kansas at the Kansas Children’s Service League. “In fact, their lifespans will be shortened.”

Kansas Children’s Service League is launching a five-year campaign in an effort to “stop ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) in the next generation,” Roper said.

Kansas Children's Service League is a nonprofit headquartered in Topeka that provides adoption, foster care and child abuse prevention services.

There are various sources of childhood trauma, Roper said.

“It’s not just abuse and neglect, it can be a child having an incarcerated parent, or a substance-abusing parent, or a parent with mental health issues, or domestic violence, or abandonment or divorce,” she said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing grant support for similar campaigns in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington.

But the Kansas initiative, called Kansas Power of the Positive, is being underwritten by money from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Morris Family Foundation, Christie Development Associates and the Junior League of Wichita.

The project’s initial design is scheduled to be discussed from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday at the Department for Children and Families Learning Center, 2600 Southwest East Circle Drive South, Topeka. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Featured speaker will be Sandra Alexander, a consultant with the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention.

CDC-sponsored studies have found that children who are exposed to traumatic events are more likely to develop mental and physical health ailments, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and substance abuse.

The Kansas initiative, Roper said, will be partly modeled after a CDC program called “Essentials for Childhood: Safe, Stable and Nurturing Relationships and Experiences,” and will include building public awareness, collecting and interpreting data, and hosting local discussions on how to create a "culture change" for reducing children’s exposure to trauma.

“In the field of child abuse prevention, nationally,” Roper said, “we kind of went through a time of public awareness, then there was the evidence-based practices phase, and now, finally, we’re getting into more of a community-based phase where the challenge is to get everybody on the same page and working together to have impact.”

By year’s end, she said, the group hopes to have 16,000 adults' responses to a 10-question survey designed to measure their exposure to trauma. The survey will be conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Joyce Grover, executive director with the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said the campaign would benefit everyone because traumatized children "grow up to be adults, and there’s a long list of long-term impacts.”

After the meeting Friday, many of the participants are expected to attend Kansas Children’s Service League’s 121st annual meeting, which will start at 11:45 a.m. at the Ramada Convention Center, 420 SE Sixth, Topeka.

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