How does Nebraska stack up on Adverse Childhood Experiences?

A few weeks ago, we talked about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) from a national perspective. After looking at the national numbers, we started wondering how we, as a state, measured up. Did Nebraska’s kids experience more ACEs? Or did we do a better job protecting them? Is there a certain type of ACE where we’re falling down on the job?

Thanks to information from the 2012 ACE study by the Office of Epidemiology at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, we now have the answers.

More of Nebraska’s kids experienced ZERO ACEs in 2010-2011.

That’s good news. Nationally, about 36% of children have exposure to zero ACEs, so on the whole our children have been better protected with nearly 47% being ACE-free.This may be in due in part to the efforts of organizations like Prevent Child Abuse Nebraska, PIWI and PCIT programs in some cities, or early childhood education programs (like Sixpence) that focus on teaching parenting skills to at-risk families.

ACEs in Nebraska


However, a look at the chart tells you that in 2010 and 2011, about 22% of Nebraska’s children experienced 3 or more ACEs. The national average here is about 21%. So while fewer of our children are experiencing ACEs at all, the ones who do are as likely to have multiple exposures as children nationally.

What’s that mean? It means that Nebraskans need to do a better job protecting the kids at greatest risk. And they are, of course, the hardest to reach.

Nebraska children are less likely to suffer from physical or sexual abuse.

While 15% of ACEs reported in Nebraska in 2011 wer physical abuse, the national stat was 28%. About 8% of Nebraska ACE victims report sexual abuse, compared to 21% nationally. While zero incidents is the only acceptable number for physical and sexual abuse, it’s clear that Nebraska is protecting its children more effectively than other states.

Nebraska children are more likely to suffer verbal/emotional abuse.

Nationally, only 11% of ACE victims cite this offense. In Nebraska, it’s 23%. These numbers make it clear that interaction education (like PIWI, PCIT, high-quality home visitation like the Sixpence programs) need to expand their reach, and teach parents how to have more positive interactions with their children. This is also an area where expanding early childhood mental health outreach for parents and caregivers can make a powerful difference.

Nebraska ACE types


Nebraska has slightly fewer ACEs related to household mental illness, substance abuse and divorce. We have far fewer household incarcerations (6% here compared to 11% nationally) but more children witnessing abuse in their households (15% here compared to 13% nationally).

Overall: We’re doing a good job, but need to make headway in verbal and emotional interactions with at-risk families.

We will continue doing our part by working with communities to pull their resources together for at risk families, providing funding for home visitation, PIWI and PCIT training, supporting statewide Child Abuse Prevention Councils, advocating for more protections for children, and setting up systems that look after early childhood mental health.

Here’s what you can do: Examine the way you think about abuse and your role in preventing it. The protective factors that stop abusive patterns from forming in families are often built in communities and supported by people like you. Read more about protective factors, and look for small ways to help your neighbors at risk every day.

Nebraska Children's mission is to maximize the potential of Nebraska’s children, youth, and families through collaboration and community-centered impact.

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Posted in Cradle to career

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