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Report: Childhood Trauma High in SD, Nationwide

Children who haven't experienced trauma have much better overall health outcomes throughout their lives. (Lars Ploughmann/Flickr)
Children who haven't experienced trauma have much better overall health outcomes throughout their lives. (Lars Ploughmann/Flickr)
November 15, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. — Childhood trauma affects a large number of children in South Dakota and nationwide.

According to a new report, more than 45 percent of South Dakota children have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience - or ACE - including abuse, neglect or major household dysfunction. And 22 percent have experienced at least two.

Tanya Fritz is the advocacy and prevention program director with the Children's Home Society of South Dakota, which is teaming up with South Dakota Kids Count on a statewide initiative to prevent these traumas. She said they're taking a public health approach and working on how to identify and address ACEs immediately.

Fritz used the example of a contaminated water pump to explain.

"I am going to scream at the top of my lungs to all my family and friends, 'Don't drink this water!’” Fritz said. "Well, we want to do the same thing around trauma - make sure that individuals understand what unaddressed trauma can do.”

She said childhood trauma can have lifelong effects on people. Even one such event has been linked to increased risks of drug use, depression, heart disease and other health issues.

Nationwide, about 46 percent of children have had at least one ACE.

Fritz said nobody is immune to this issue. Parents and family members will sometimes tell her that since their child hasn't experienced any trauma, it isn't a priority for them.

"And I will say, 'Yes, but the child next to them in the math class did, and so the teacher's spending time focusing on them instead of your child. So this impacts you,’” she said. "This is something that nobody gets a free pass from. As a state, we all have to step up and do our part. And together, I think we'll do incredible things."

Fritz said the statewide initiative on ACEs will launch early next year.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD