This report, written by Ross Gibson, shares findings from a study by Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice (CYCJ) that aimed to highlight the prevalence and impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across Scotland’s five secure care centres, whilst aiming to address a lack of research in this area.
Using a census, the study collected data about each young person resident within the secure care estate on one particular day in 2018. Completed by staff who knew the child well, the census consisted of questions relating to the lives of children in their care, drawing on existing information held by the unit and charting a variety of demographics.
Key issues include:
The level of exposure to (ACEs) amongst children in Scotland’s secure care centres is both broad and substantial
Substantial levels of poverty and deprivation are experienced by children in secure care, with a statistically significant relationship reported.
Gender appears as a factor, with girls in secure care seeming to experience a greater number of ACEs.
Recommendations made in the report could offer support to secure centres in developing services to respond to ACEs, whilst stressing the need to support families, communities and services in order to prevent them in the first place.
This study reiterates the recommendations of Scotland’s Independent Care Review, which called for therapeutic services within secure care, provision of care that reflects the needs of these children, and an increase in community alternatives.
Reference: Gibson, R. (2020). ACEs, places and status: Results from the 2018 Scottish secure care census. Glasgow: CYCJ
See related academic articles and citations in Google Scholar.
The analysis here is based on the interpretations of staff who know (albeit well), the young people in question (a double hermeneutic -an interpretation of an interpretation - in interpretivist research terms); this is due to a methodological problem (of access) that is common with research in the secure estate.
ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) (Felitti, et al. 1998) refer to exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, witnessing domestic violence, familial substance abuse, familial mental ill-health, familial imprisonment or parental separation prior to the age of 18.
ACEs as a concept is catagorised as 'risk factor research', which is not without critique in terms of being overly-deterministic, and in terms of the prescriptive nature of the risk factor paradigm, see inter alios Case & Haines (2009), and, as such, is often treated with particular academic caution.
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