Letter: Reach out to struggling families

As a psychotherapist, my work with clients has evolved a great deal based on what I have learned about the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and trauma on early brain development.

The ACE research has significant implications for the individual treatment of trauma and systems change. While there is plenty of data showing the social, economic and health gains realized through a system that promotes prevention and early intervention of childhood trauma, we face barriers for implementation.

I think perhaps the biggest barrier is stigma. In order to effectively help children who are at high risk of abuse and neglect, we will have to work as a community (and a nation) at eliminating the stigma and prejudices that create barriers for their parents. There is social stigma and prejudice against people who are described as meth-heads, crazy, poor and ignorant. The conditions of substance abuse, mental illness, poverty and lack of parenting skills contribute to an increased risk of child abuse and neglect.

As a professional, I can help people recover from substance abuse and mental illness. As a community, we can address the barrier of stigma by acknowledging our own prejudices and slowing down our quick assumption that the addict who got her kids taken away is a terrible human. We can prevent child abuse by developing compassion and reaching out to families who are struggling. Children are not responsible for the adversities that can strike; as a community we are responsible for and capable of preventing them.

Wendy Stokesbary

Cedar Rapids


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