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Guest Post: The Importance of Overcoming Child Adversity

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The ZERO TO THREE Annual Conference took place October 2-4, 2019, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  This conference is for early childhood educators and clinicians to explore the world of early childhood education development through research-informed and competency-based sessions.

My poster presentation was regarding Childhood Adversity and the long-lasting, negative developmental and health impacts on early childhood education.  Childhood Adversity includes Social Determinants of Health (SDoH), Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and toxic stress.  SDoH include exposure to hazards, safety/violence, employment, education, housing neighborhood, racism, income/poverty.  ACEs include neglect, abuse and household challenges.  ACEs indicates that the higher the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences, the higher the risk of negative, long-term health and developmental effects.

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Understanding childhood adversity is vital to the success of our children.  Long term effects of childhood adversity such as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) include: substance abuse, depression, negative health-related quality of life, liver disease, risky behaviors that lead to STDs and unintended pregnancies, suicide attempts, smoking and many more.  Head Start provides a foundation for resilience by providing consistency, protective factors such as community resources, and parent engagement opportunities, high-quality educational opportunities and nurturing relationships.

Head Start’s role in preventing childhood adversity includes strengthening economic support to families, change social norms to support parents and positive parenting, provide high-quality care and education early in life.  We enhance parenting skills to promote healthy child development, and intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risks.  Together we can combat childhood adversity by instilling resilience in the children and families that we serve in the farm-working communities.

East Coast Migrant Head Start Project prevents childhood adversity by encouraging parents to advocate for their children’s educational and healthcare needs.  We provide dental and vision screenings along with necessary treatments when necessary.  Our partnerships are key for our families to be successful.  They have the opportunity to participate in Abriendo Puertas, an evidence-based parenting, leadership, and advocacy training program primarily for Spanish-speaking parents of children from birth to five years of age.

In addition, ECMHSP meets with policymakers in Washington, D.C. to advocate for farmworker families, and provides mental health training for parents to keep advocating in their communities.

Tabitha Shelton has been East Coast Migrant Head Start Project’s Disability Services & Mental Health Manager since February 2018.  She earned a Master’s in Special Education at Arkansas Tech University.

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