August 22, 2014

Investing Early Saves Lives and Money: Reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences can Reduce Crime!

In a July 30 blog post, WCCF noted the release of more recent surveys on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) release by Child Trends. It should come as no surprise that recently released research, from the University of Florida and supported by OJJDP, confirms that youthful offenders are likely to have experienced significantly more trauma than the youth population in general, both in terms of the diversity and prevalence of ACEs experienced growing up.

You are encouraged to check out the link above for more information, but it leads me to conclude that: (1) prevention of ACEs could significantly reduce youthful offending behavior (including reoffending even after intervention); (2) there may be value in further exploring the link between ACEs and other measures of risk and/or to help identify appropriate interventions; (3) making sure our contacts and work with youth is “trauma-informed” should lead to being more effective; and (4) breaking the cycle of delinquent or other anti-social behavior from generation to generation will help not only current youth involved in the system but future generations as well.

Understanding and addressing ACE’s can have a significant long term benefit for our communities. For example, the study notes that early childhood intervention programs addressing ACEs have demonstrated significant benefit–cost ratios. One such intervention displayed a return of $5.70 for every dollar spent by the time a child reached age 27, $8.70 in life-cost savings, and notable cost savings in crime reduction. Both community-based and correctional programs that serve youthful offenders are going to get better results when their process is informed by the impact and understanding of trauma on youth development. Understanding the impact of ACEs on youth is not rocket science – BUT it is science, and investing in reducing ACEs as well as responding to them better saves lives and saves money. By Jim Moeser