Become ACEs Aware!

Join the movement to identify and support children with ACEs

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic experiences that occur in childhoodProlonged exposure to trauma such as abuse or neglect, as well as to things like poverty, racism, and community violence, can create toxic stress. Over time, toxic stress can damage a child’s developing brain and body. ACEs can even affect long-term physical and mental health.

ACEs represent a public health crisis. In fact, cumulative adversity is a root cause of some of the most harmful, persistent, and expensive health challenges facing California and the nation, including 9 of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States.

The Role of Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers are critical partners in addressing ACEs. Early detection, early intervention, and trauma-informed practices can reduce the impacts of ACEs and improve health outcomes. ACEs Aware provides training and tools to help you to screen for ACEs, assess risk for toxic stress, and implement evidence-based interventions to help patients.  Providers who have completed the training and a self-attestation can receive payment from Medi-Cal for conducting ACEs screenings. Providers can receive 2.0 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits and 2.0 Maintenance of Certification (MOC) credits upon completion of the training.

Exciting New Research on ACEs

The ACEs Aware Initiative is now four years old in California! There is new data available from the surgeon general’s office that shows how we have made significant strides in expanding ACEs screenings and response initiatives.

Research conducted by the RAND Corporation in Los Angeles County pediatric clinics found that more parents than ever feel comfortable talking about ACEs with their child’s healthcare providers! Communicating clearly about why screening is happening, addressing privacy worries, and creating comfortable settings for discussions have changed the game for families.

Overall, parents support ACE screening as it helps provide trauma-informed care for their children, despite challenges like time constraints and limited resources. Learn more about the most recent work in this field.

Patient and Caregiver Perspectives

Implementation of ACEs Screening in Pediatric Care Settings

Clinician and Staff Perspectives

Implementing ACEs Screening in Pediatric Clinics

Local Resources

Videos for Families

Hear local healthcare providers share the positive impact that ACEs screenings are having on their patients.

San Mateo County PACEs Connection

PACEs Connection is a community that shares resources and information related to addressing trauma and resiliency.

Additional Resources

A Note on Toxic Stress

When children experience toxic stress, the impacts of that can stay with them for a lifetime. First 5 San Mateo County believes unequivocally that no child should have to face the kind of violence, war, displacement, houselessness, hunger, or fear that children in Israel, Palestine, Gaza, the Ukraine, the Sudan, and any other nations facing war, violence, or poverty are experiencing right now. Further, children who witness violence here at home, whether it is carried out by firearms or motivated by hatred, should have access to the care they need to heal from these experiences. The negative mental and physical health impacts of these experiences are hard to overcome, and every child deserves a life free of trauma. 

While we cannot imagine the hardship facing parents and families there right now, for any families here in our community seeking ways to discuss this with their children, here are some resources.

How to Talk to Your Children About the Conflict in Israel and Gaza

Have your children screened for Adverse Childhood Experiences

Learn how toxic stress can impact children long term

The Three Kinds of Stress, and How to Deal with It

Healing Together

The California Surgeon General’s office has launched, the online hub for our state’s ACEs and toxic stress public awareness campaign, to increase awareness of the health impacts of ACEs and toxic stress among caregivers across California, while offering support and healing strategies. 

Input from Californians from all backgrounds and communities is always appreciated, and can help uncover the most impactful messages, tools, strategies, and resources. Your stories can inspire others, foster connection, and contribute to a community of healing.

ACEs Aware Grantee Logo

First 5 San Mateo County is a grant recipient of the Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to participate in the state’s ACEs Aware initiative.

As part of this initiative, First 5 works in partnership with the Health Plan of San Mateo to promote the ACEs Aware initiative among the Medi-Cal provider community in San Mateo County.

ACEs Aware seeks to change and save lives by helping Medi-Cal providers understand the importance of screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and training them to respond with trauma-informed care. Learn more about ACEs Aware.

First 5 San Mateo County works on behalf of children ages 0-5 in San Mateo County, partnering with our community to create the conditions that will allow all young children to prosper socially, emotionally, and economically. Learn more about First 5 San Mateo County.

Kitty Lopez has served as the Executive Director of First 5 San Mateo County since 2012, focusing on policy, advocacy and communications development. Additionally, she is the Chair of First 5 Association of California. Kitty previously served as the Executive Director of Samaritan House, one of the leading safety-net nonprofit agencies serving low-income families and individuals in San Mateo County with food, shelter, clothing, health care, counseling, education classes, and holiday assistance from 2002 to 2012.

Kitty taught kindergarten, second grade, and high school in the Bay Area and in Santa Barbara, and was a consultant in schools with children who have autism and special needs. Additionally, Kitty worked in a residential substance abuse treatment center in San Francisco and psychiatric hospital in San Diego.

She attended University of California Santa Barbara earning a California Teaching Credential and B.A in Psychology. Kitty is active in her community serving on several community boards including HEART (Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County), STEP (Success Through Education Program), and Past President and Current Member of the San Mateo Rotary Club.