Children’s developmental equality is critical to their opportunity and lifetime success. If we are to dismantle hierarchies among children, we must dismantle barriers placed in their way as well as insure affirmative support so that each child achieves their full developmental potential. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) framework identifies factors that create hurdles, not necessarily insurmountable, to children’s development. A higher ACEs number translates into geometrically increased challenges for individual children. Identifying ACEs, if used simply to count obstacles for children, does not contribute to the goal of children’s equality. Indeed, counting ACEs may have the converse effect, if identifying factors supports a story of deviancy and incapability, to stigmatize those children with high ACEs counts. In this essay I consider whether ACEs could have radical potential, as a framework for dismantling the causes of developmental hurdles. I consider both whether current, immediate uses of ACEs can facilitate broad solutions, as well as whether ACEs data can be used to trigger legal or policy responses to change structural conditions that generate ACEs.
Nancy E. Dowd, Radical ACEs: Building Resilience and Triggering Structural Change, 71 Fla. L. Rev. Forum 80 (2019)