Heritage Academy

A view of Heritage Academy charter school in Jerome.

TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

TWIN FALLS — Nearly 51 percent of Idaho children have at least one Adverse Childhood Experience, according to new national data.

That’s significantly higher than the nationwide average, according to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health and an analysis conducted by the Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative.

The initiative is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“ACEs can have serious, long-term impacts on a child’s health and well-being by contributing to high levels of toxic stress that derail healthy physical, social, and emotional, and cognitive development,” the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said in a statement Thursday.

It also increases the long-term risk for unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use, depression, and dozens of illnesses, including heart and liver disease.

The topic of ACEs came up at one Magic Valley school earlier this year.

In February, Heritage Academy in Jerome gave its students a 10-question Adverse Childhood Experience survey. It drew criticism from some parents and community members, who said questions were inappropriate for young students.

But administrators say the survey was useful and found 70 percent of students scored a three or higher — meaning they’ve experienced at least three stressful life situations such as sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence or going without meals.

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Nationwide, 46 percent of children younger than 18 have at least one ACE and more than 20 percent have two or more.

Adverse childhood experiences include having a parent who’s divorced or separated, died or is serving time in jail; witnessing violence in their home; living with someone who’s depressed, suicidal, mentally ill, or has an alcohol or drug problem; and being in a family dealing with major financial struggles.

For more information about the study, visit www.cahmi.org.

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