Building Resilience

New prevention and treatment approaches may mean healthier futures for those exposed to harmful adversity early in life.

Traumatic childhood events like abuse and neglect can create dangerous levels of stress and derail healthy brain development—resulting in long-term effects on learning, behavior and health. A growing network of leaders in research, policy and practice are leading the way in preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and mitigating their impact through building resilience. Listen to these experts and learn more about innovative approaches to improving mental and physical health using an ACEs framework. - Kristin Schubert, team director and senior program officer

Efforts to address and prevent #ACEs are growing. Learn about what's happening across the country.

“The people affected by ACEs, who outnumber the people who are unaffected by ACEs, can become a social movement that can drive people in different service sectors to make a difference in the way they treat and interact with people who are affected by adversity.”

The Philadelphia ACEs Task Force discovered that 37 percent of those they surveyed had experienced 4 or more ACEs, whereas 12.5 percent had in the national study released in 1998.


The scientific community extended the life expectancy of those infected with HIV by not accepting the inevitability of a death sentence and understanding what was happening, so they could intervene. Burke Harris says the same revolutionary shift is happening with the prevention and treatment of ACEs.

“We're going to change the world. Together we're creating a revolution. It’s based in science, it’s founded in data, and it’s based on people’s joint commitments to do something better for families.”


“Our first inclination in human services is always to think, ‘What new program, what new service do we need?’ Not, ‘How do we, through rigor and science, align new and developing science to our practice and policy?’"


“We have a much better chance of success,” if we have a “common message regarding prevention, integrated services for interventions” and if we share knowledge about “who’s doing evidence-based treatments in the community.”

“When kids learn how to recover from the past, they can raise the next generation who won’t experience traumas in the first place.”


“Even when people score high on ACEs, it doesn’t mean that this is determinative of their life course. What doesn’t get accounted for in the ACE score is the concept of resilience; building resilience is a solution to the adverse childhood experiences.”

Jane believes in the power of storytelling to increase awareness and understanding of ACEs. “When someone says, ‘Let me give you some data,’ you say, ‘Well yeah, okay, tell me.’ When someone tells you a story, you want to lean forward, you want to listen.”

Spotlights Across the Country

Institute for Safe Families - Mapping the Movement

ACEs: What's Working

A growing community of leaders are starting to apply their knowledge of ACEs, trauma, and toxic stress to their work nationwide, as mentioned in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed by Kristin Schubert (RWJF) and Martha Davis (Institute for Safe Families).

This interactive map by ISF and ACEs Connection shows programs working across the country to treat and prevent ACEs. Highlights are below:

Taos Early Child Development

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

The Center on the Developing Child uses science to enhance child well being through innovations in policy and practice. The center believes the sustainability of any society depends on the extent to which it expands opportunities early in life for all children to achieve their full potential and engage in responsible and productive citizenship.

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Center for Youth Wellness

In San Francisco, the Center for Youth Wellness serves as a subspecialty clinic for ACEs and toxic stress that provides home visits, psychotherapy, biofeedback, mindfulness and coping skills training to children and families.

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Child First

Child First is an evidence-based model in Connecticut that uses home visits and a network of community services to prevent the devastating effects of early childhood adversity. A randomized controlled trial showed that Child First has a significant and lasting impact on both children and families.

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Children's Growth Council

In Maine, the state's Children's Growth Council developed a tool kit of strategies for health care providers when learning about parents' ACEs. The program's goal is to use pediatric health care settings, along with Head Start, childbirth education and home visiting programs, to prevent ACEs in the next generation.

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Children's Resilience Initiative

A high ACE score is not a life sentence according to Teri Barila, County Community Network coordinator of Children's Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA, which offers an interactive website, a parent handbook, a kids' coloring book and a deck of cards to promote concrete strategies for parents and children to boost coping skills and build resilience.

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Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice

Drexel University School of Public Health, in partnership with the Drexel University College of Medicine and Hahnemann Hospital created the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. The center focuses on trauma as a public health issue and helps provide social and support services for patients who were treated for trauma.

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Head Start-Trauma Smart

Head Start-Trauma Smart (HS-TS) is an early childhood trauma intervention model that addresses the effects of complex trauma—such as community and family violence, poverty, illness, and homelessness— for young preschool-age children, their families, and the Head Start teachers who care for them. The model gives all Head Start staff and parents training to create calm, connected classrooms and home environments that recognize and address behavioral and other problems triggered by trauma, and provide the supports for children to learn and thrive.

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Learn More About Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Learn more about ACEs and how RWJF is working to increase awareness and understanding of the impact of ACEs.


View and share our infographic that includes the three types of ACEs, their prevelance and the impact they have on children.

2013 ACEs Summit

View videos of keynotes and panels, session materials, and highlights from ISF's Executive Director Martha Davis.

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