This year the UK Association of Forensic Nurses and Paramedics (UKAFN) conference will focus upon Adverse Childhood Experiences. Adverse Childhood Experience are very important for Nurses and Paramedics working in Police Custody or Sexual Assault Reference Centres. Nurses and Paramedics working in these settings will encounter children who have been or still are being exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences as well as meeting adults who are suffering the effects of their Adverse Childhood Experiences. This conference will highlight the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and the negative effect these have across the individual’s lifespan and how those of us working in custody of SARC may be able to help.
What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?
The term Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is used to describe a wide range of stressful or traumatic experiences that children can be exposed to whilst growing up. ACEs range from experiences that directly harm a child (such as suffering physical, verbal or sexual abuse, and physical or emotional neglect) to those that affect the environment in which a child grows up (including parental separation, domestic violence, mental illness, alcohol abuse, drug use or incarceration). Studies have shown that the more ACEs individuals experience in childhood, the greater their risk of a wide range of health-harming behaviours and diseases as an adult.
Frequencies of Adverse Childhood Experiences
The results of an ACE study in England which found the following:
- 53% Had experienced 0 ACEs
- 23% Had experienced 1 ACE
- 15% Had experienced 2-3 ACEs
- 9% Had experienced 4+ ACEs
The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences
When exposed to stressful situations, the “fight, flight or freeze” response floods our brain with Corticotrophin-Releasing Hormones (CRH), which usually forms part of a normal and protective response that subsides once the stressful situation passes. However, when repeatedly exposed to ACEs, CRH is continually produced by the brain, which results in the child remaining permanently in this heightened state of alert and unable to return to their natural relaxed and recovered state. Children and young people who are exposed to ACEs, therefore, have increased – and sustained – levels of stress. In this heightened neurological state a young person is unable to think rationally and it is physiologically impossible for them to learn.
ACEs can, therefore, have a negative impact on development in childhood and this can, in turn, give rise to harmful behaviours, social issues and health problems in adulthood. There is now a great deal of research demonstrating that ACEs can negatively affect lifelong mental and physical health by disrupting brain and organ development and by damaging the body’s system for defending against diseases. The more ACEs a child experiences, the greater the chance of health and/or social problems in later life.
ACEs research shows that there is a strong dose-response relationship between ACEs and poor physical and mental health, chronic disease (such as type II diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; heart disease; cancer), increased levels of violence, and lower academic success both in childhood and adulthood.
Epidemiological evidence showed that there was an increased risk (adjusted odds ratio) of having health and social problems in adulthood for those individuals who had experienced 4+ ACEs, compared to those with no ACEs. Individuals with 4 or more ACEs were:
- 4.5 times more likely to have become pregnant or got somebody pregnant under 18 years of age
- 30.6 times more likely to have had a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- 1.8 times more likely to be morbidly obese
- 2.3 times more likely to have liver or digestive disease
- 1.5 times more likely to have stayed overnight in a hospital in the last 12 months
- 3.7 times more likely to a regular heavy drinker
- 3.9 times more likely to be a current smoker
- 9.7 times more likely to be a heroin or crack user
- 5.2 times more likely to have been hit in the last 12 months
- 7.9 times more likely to have hit someone in the last 12 months
- 8.8 times more likely to have been in prison or cells
- Free parking
- Free refreshments
- Hot meal
- Prize draw to win a tablet or a two-day accredited forensic photography course
- Free conference bag with goodies
By Train: Stoke-On-Trent train station is ideally located for those travelling from afar. It is situated 0.2 miles, which is only a 5-minute walk from the station to the conference. Stok-On-Trent is serviced by trains from across England, Wales and Scotland.
By Car: From the A500, follow the signs for ‘Staffs University. Pass under the railway bridge. At the roundabout take the first exit. Pass through the first set of lights and at the junction (with the City of Stoke-On-Trent Sixth Form College on the right) stay to the right side of the left-hand lane (marked ‘A52 Leeek’). Continue straight on through the traffic lights along Leek Road. After two pedestrian crossings, continue on a short distance until you reach the next set of traffic lights. You will notice the Staffordshire University main entrance on the right. Turn right onto the campus. See map for printable instructions and map.
Parking: There are five car parks on the Leek Road site at the Stoke-On-Trent campus. Car park 1 is immediately on your left at the mini roundabout. All other car parks can be found by turning right. Please refer to the detailed campus map for the exact locations. POSTCODE FOR CAR PARK: ST4 2DF.