A thought provoking post on the Social Policy blog questions whether Adverse Childhood Experiences-based policy is really serving the best interests of children.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) refer to child abuse and stress experienced within the home.
ACEs are often used to inform policy and social work practice particularly within child protection, but the authors of the post argue that the indicators used are volatile and completely ignore external factors like poverty and inequality.
Instead, ACEs have traditionally focused on the family and as a result policy has tended to target, and blame, parents who are often struggling with dynamics not of their own making.
The post also talks about the use of algorithmic-based decisions to try to decipher who is at risk and the inherent problems with a tick-box approach.
The piece, which was published in full this month on Cambridge University Press’s Social Policy and Society section , is a must read. The authors, Professor Sue White, Professor Rosalind Edwards, Professor David Wastell and Professor Val Gillies offer some very important thoughts, including ones like these:
“ACEs form a chaotic and unstable knowledge base. This leads to problems with the explanatory weight that can be placed on ACEs. For rigorous tracing of causal inputs through to effects, ACEs need to be a clearly defined set of experiences. But the various definitions of ACEs do not form a cohesive body of definitive evidence and measurement.
Rather they are a shifting range of possible abuses and dysfunctions with inconsistencies in claims about severity, timing and duration.
For instance, common family circumstances such as parents’ divorce or separation, whether amicable or occurring when a child is 7 months or 17 years old, are given the same ACE dose weighting as exposure to domestic violence.
This chaotic approach leads to a great deal of overclaiming, often with over extrapolations from small effect sizes. And there is no attention to the influence of subsequent ameliorating or exacerbating influences, such as extended family support networks or being subject to racism and hate crime.
Interventions, which are frequently franchised ‘slices’ of particular models, are predominantly directed at mothers as primary attachment figures for children – either as a cause of their children’s ACEs, or as a buffer against, and solution to them. The conditions under which mothers bring up their children are skated around.
ACEs form a poor body of evidence for family policy and decision-making about child protection. Coupled with the chronic lack of services and family support in the UK, it is unclear what purpose producing individual ACE scores serves save perhaps to warrant rationing decisions.”
You can follow the professors on Twitter: @RosEdwards2, @ProfSueWhite, @ValGillies and @ProfDaveWastell
Ian Josephs said:
Children should only be taken from parents if badly beaten up or sexually abused and even then only if the parents are found neglectful or responsible.
Risk assessments are rubbish attempts to predict the future and should be banned !
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Anybody considering child ACEs at policy level cannot do so without first being trained and qualified in attachment. Very few, if any of those in practice, academia and certainly in government know anything in-depth about attachment. The professors who wrote this definitely know nothing about attachment. Only someone who knows nothing about attachment, and also lacks common sense and feeling, could say there is a discrepancy between the effect on a child between any kind of divorce and domestic violence. They are both extreme on children. To assert that one should be diminshed (divorce) against the other (DV) is either naivety or an abuse of the academic platform for political purpose. It seems the ACEs may well have been properly weighted, but the truth does not suit someone’s agenda. That gets fixed by hiring a bunch of professors who probably don’t even work with kids to assert the opposite. That way, you can continue denying services for kids, continue with industries of divorce worth billions, and continue with the pretence that certain policies, driven by aberrant mindsets, do not offend legal obligations to defend children from significant harm.
Roger Crawford said:
Glad I’m not the only one who feels like this. Thank you for a logical and articulate argument.
Ian Josephs said:
Tell them to put away their crystal balls,chuck out their tarot cards,and dump their tea leaves ! STOP STOP STOP snatching children from loving parents for risks of events that may never happen and concentrate on saving the children who have already suffered beatings or abuse.
Surely you say “prevention is better than cure ” Why wait until the child has suffered when you can prevent it by acting earlier?
My answer is NO,NO ! On that basis we would arrest criminals before they have committed any crime or keep them in jail for ever because the likeliehood is that most criminals do reoffend !
So called experts who try to predict the future are wrong time and time again.Look at the referendum result,the last general election result ,the election of Trump as President,the chaos in parliament re brexit ,etc etc
So called “care” imposed by the courts on babies and children “at risk” can split up happy (if moderately dysfunctional) families and by placing the children with anonymous strangers or worse still “care homes” do them far more harm than leaving them where they were.
Stop taking children at risk and concentrate on those who have already suffered.