Few things in life are equal, and many children do not get the same opportunities as their peers do early in life. Adverse Childhood Events — ACEs — can set some children in Washington on paths where they are more likely to engage in unlawful behavior. ACEs experienced in the legal system can also exacerbate the situation for youthful offenders.
What is an adverse childhood event?
ACEs include traumatic and stressful life events, and may occur in a child’s regular life or after entering the legal system. Growing up with parents or in a household where there are mental health issues is one example of an ACE. Other examples include:
- Substance abuse issues in the home
- Low income or other economic stress
- Being pepper sprayed by law enforcement
ACEs can impact children physically and may lead to lasting negative health impacts like heart disease and cancer. These children are also more likely to have poor education outcomes, fewer job opportunities and face an increased risk of being involved in the juvenile justice system. Anywhere from 75% to 93% of all youth currently in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to at least one ACE. Many were exposed to multiple ACEs before ever entering the system.
Unfortunately, some children in Washington will encounter multiple ACEs during their time growing up. This does not mean that they are destined to go down a certain path, though. Families who are unsure of where to start when it comes to navigating the juvenile justice system may want to consider working closely with an attorney who understands just how deeply ACEs can impact youthful offenders and their decisions.