Vulnerability of Australian Children

Sep 13, 2015 | trauma

Identification of adverse childhood exposures in developmental clinics:
Does it make a difference?

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE), including child abuse and neglect (CAN), have medium and long-term consequences for children’s health and development. Studies have shown that children with disabilities have greater risks of CAN. Our aims were to identify children at risk of abuse or exposed to ACE in the population attending child development (CD) clinics in South Western Sydney (SWS), to estimate the prevalence of ACE in this population and determine if use of a checklist improves clinicians’ identification and support of vulnerable children attending CD clinics.

Clinicians filled in a one-page ACE checklist for all children attending CD clinics in SWS between October 2012 and May 2013. Demographic information, diagnoses, and ACE risks were entered into an Excel database. Qualitative interviews were conducted with clinicians about the use of the tool.

Seventy-seven children attended CD clinics over six months, average age was 4.7 years. ACE score of ≥1 was identified in 38 children (49%); eight (10%) had a score of ≥ 4. We found family disruption the most commonly identified ACE category. Children with ACE scores ≥4 were more likely to have child protection service involvement, be exposed to CAN and be in foster-care. Clinicians using the checklist found it useful in identifying especially vulnerable children.

Half of the children attending developmental clinics in SWS have ACE identified; 10% have significant burden of early life adversities. The ACE checklist may be a valuable adjunct to paediatric clinics, to improve identification and support for socially at-risk children.

» Download Study Poster (PDF)

Jain, Kalpesh, Raman, Shanti, Hurwitz, Romy (2013) “Identification of Adverse Childhood Experiences in developmental clinics: Does it Make a Difference?” unpublished paper, provided courtesy of Dr Shanti Raman, 2015.

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