Building Strong Wisconsin Families: Evidence-Based Approaches to Address Toxic Stress in Children

Early childhood is a time of both risk and opportunity for brain development. Positive and negative experiences, especially prenatally through age 3, build the foundation for future well-being and success. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, and household challenges can have lasting effects if children do not have a responsive adult caregiver to buffer them from stress. If prolonged or frequent, these experiences can cause toxic stress that damages a child’s body and brain. Toxic stress has been associated with physical and mental health conditions, low educational attainment, and poor workforce performance.

In Wisconsin, 57% of adults report having at least one ACE, with 14% reporting four or more. Among low-income Wisconsin mothers, 85% report having at least one ACE and about 40% report being physically abused. Understandably, state policymakers are interested in preventing and mitigating the effect of ACEs, increasing family well-being, and reducing the costs to state health care, education, child welfare, and correctional systems.

At this seminar, you’ll learn how toxic stress affects the developing brain and body, and hear the latest discoveries on the changes that take place in a new parent’s brain to support positive parenting—and the implications when these changes are diminished due to a health condition or trauma. The speakers also will discuss evidence-based policy options such as home visiting programs and efforts that address health screening and treatment, family economic security, parental stress, and family protective factors.

Seminar materials available upon request