Support the #Respect4SocialWork campaign today and celebrate the social work profession.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Blog: Reducing effects of high ACES scores for children in care

Foster carer, feature writer and photographer David Bocking talks about his experience fostering for Sheffield City Council.
In our first weeks together while carrying our wriggling foster toddler down the street, my wife or I would sometimes have brief conversations with passing acquaintances.
“Hello! How are you?” we’d say as our witty and beautiful child thrashed around shouting “Noooo!” to everyone within earshot.
“Don’t worry, I’ve been there,” people who’d once parented a two year old would chortle.
“Hmm,” we’d say.
The ‘ACES’ term has been in the news recently, a cheery abbreviation of ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences.’ In a toddler in care’s case, ACES generally means: ‘I’m stropping off not so much because I can’t have an ice cream, it’s more that my parents were drug addicts and I’ve witnessed domestic violence’.
Over the last 30 years, researchers have used a list of 10 questions to reveal someone’s ACES score. As a child, did an adult in the household hit you, swear at you, sexually abuse you or make you feel afraid? Were you often hungry, or did you feel unsupported and unloved? Were your parents separated or divorced, was there violence in the home, or was a parent a drug addict or an alcoholic, suffering from mental illness, or in prison?
If you log four or more ‘yes’ answers (and get an ACES score of 4+), it’s now been shown that you’re more likely to suffer from several life threatening health conditions and depression, you’ll be 12 times as likely to attempt suicide, and your life is likely to be significantly shorter than those on low scores.
In a nutshell, traumatic early experiences wire a baby or small child’s developing brain to cope with stress, and change the body’s chemistry.
And here’s the point: that’s not the end of the story. A stable environment with adults who keep their youngster safe and ready to enjoy life gradually reduces stress for the child, helps her ‘self regulate’ and realise that she’s actually worth something. All this makes her more ‘resilient’ and reduces the effects of that life-threatening ACES score.
Every now and then our toddler cries out screaming in the evening, either having a nightmare or too terrified to open her eyes. After picking her up and rocking her for five minutes, she settles down and goes back to sleep.
We have no idea what she can remember of her early life. It doesn’t matter. In the morning she grins and chatters, and goes out and says hello to everyone she meets. She rarely throws herself about in public now, and she’s developing into the kind of bright, cheerful (albeit very strong willed) little girl you could imagine captaining an SAS unit.
We don’t know everything, but we know enough to estimate her ACES score at 6 or 7. Being a foster carer is about helping this small child start her journey away from those stark figures for suicide, life expectancy and mental illness.
As they say, making a difference.
Learn more about fostering at Sheffield 

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

Special Report: Cost-of-living impact on social workers, foster carers and service users


More children will go into care as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, social workers are predicting.

A survey of social workers carried out by BASW and SWU found that social workers overwhelmingly predicted vulnerable adults could die this winter, that more children would go into care, there will be a spike in domestic violence, [...]

Read Full Story

Union publishes guidance for journalists on social work reporting


Guidance for journalists on how to report on social work matters has been published by the Social Workers Union.

The guidelines, which were produced after members of the Social Workers Union (SWU) came forward with harrowing stories about the impact of poor media reporting about the profession, are designed to provide more protection for those [...]

Read Full Story

Former Children’s Minister pledges to raise profile of social workers in Parliament


Former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MP has pledged to do everything he can do in Parliament to raise the profile of social workers in a bid to end the unfair portrayal of the profession in the media and in society.

Tim Loughton MP

Speaking at a WillisPalmer online Social Work event to celebrate one year since [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram