What are ACEs?

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, refer to traumatic events that occur in the lives of children which have the potential to impact their development and could have lifelong impacts on their health. 

Common ACEs include:

  • experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • parental substance or mental health problems
  • witnessing violence in the home or community
  • having a family member attempt or die by suicide
  • separation from parents through divorce or imprisonment

According to research, exposure to ACEs is linked to chronic health problems, substance abuse, mental health problems, and decreased life expectancy. 

However, we can change the way we approach caregiving, or how we provide services to children and families in health care, support services, education systems and other settings, by recognizing those impacts and understanding each other’s life experiences.

Doing so can strengthen the resiliency of our community and decrease the likelihood of ACEs being passed down from generation to generation. This is what we call “trauma-informed care”.

Our awareness of ACEs: the Kaiser Study

The original ACE study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.

More detailed information about the study can be found in the links below or in the article, “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adultsexternal icon.”

Resilient Kern: Trauma-Informed Kern County

Resilient Kern is a program of First 5 Kern that elevates trauma-informed care, ACEs and resiliency to create awareness and build coalitions of local organizations engaged in this work.

Through cohorts in 2018 and 2019, our work with ACEs Aware in 2020-2021, hosting the first-ever ACEs Conference in 2022, and the creation of Resilient Kern, hundreds of service providers and dozens of agencies have coalesced around this effort.

Our dedicated website for Resilient Kern includes recordings of trainings and discussions, links to news articles, collateral that helps build awareness and information about upcoming related events.

Understanding ACEs

For further understanding of ACEs and trauma-informed care, these videos serve as a strong introduction. 

Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris’ TED Talk on ACEs has proven to be a seminal moment in the public’s understanding of this subject. Likewise, the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard has also produced informative content on toxic stress. First 5 Kern’s 2021 grant from ACEs Aware led to a local pilot program that shows how the introduction of ACE screenings can be implemented in a clinical setting.


The 2nd annual Kern County ACEs Conference:
Building Community Resilience

Stay tuned for information about the 2nd annual Kern County ACEs Conference. Tickets will go on sale through Eventbrite in the coming weeks.