Rochester organization working to prevent adverse childhood experiences

28 days ago Spectrum News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There's an effort to prevent gun violence involving young people before they reach for a gun.

In fact, a Rochester organization is following some guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a significant impact on future potential violence.

“This is really a public health crisis what we see happening, all of this violence,” said the executive director of Cameron Community Ministries, Olivia Kassoum-Amadou. “It’s something that’s not just here for a moment.”

Cameron Community Ministries is located in the heart of one of the poorest communities in the city of Rochester.

“I want people to see that our young people need us, they need to hear words of encouragement," said Kassoum-Amadou.

The facility is an urban outreach community center that delivers basic needs and emergency services to young people and families.

The city saw three shootings last week. A 15-year-old boy was killed and two other teens were hurt.

Cameron has a youth social worker on-site trained in trauma-informed care. 

"We’re seeing this violence escalate here because these ACEs haven’t been addressed,” said Kassoum-Amadou. “That’s my real belief.”

She said the Cameron Community works to help children cope with the many adverse childhood experiences they see.

“Even if we talk about the different types of abuse – physical abuse, sexual abuse, we talk about emotional abuse, verbal abuse, even talking about domestic violence in the home [or] substance use,” she said. “If there’s a parent that’s incarcerated if there’s someone in the family who’s been a victim of violence – all of those things can impact a child’s life. And we know that the brain can even be altered to think that this is the way I’m supposed to respond to violence, or respond to a situation rather. And we want them to know that you don’t have to resort to violence. That there are other ways.”

The goal is to reach young people as early as possible, before they turn to violence.

“We know for instance that in mental health journals and the Centers for Disease Control, we’re hearing a lot about these ACEs now because the research does say that if a child is unable to deal with those and face issues and learn some alternatives ways to handle that anger that it can result in violence," said Kassoum-Amadou.

The CDC says preventing ACEs is a priority for the organization. Children may eventually turn to violence, but the CDC's website states they may also face an increased risk of negative lasting effects on health, well-being and opportunity. Exposures can disrupt healthy brain development, affect social development, compromise the immune system and can lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy coping behaviors.

The list of problems caused by adverse childhood experiences goes on and is extensive.

The CDC offers some suggestions for prevention.

Many of the things Cameron Community Ministries does are recommended by CDC, like teaching skills to help youth handle stress and manage emotions and by connecting young people to caring adults and purposeful activities.

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