How would you feel if you knew that the worst experiences you remember from your childhood would be the legacy that you pass on to your children?

Often people parent how they were parented…for better or worse. For the vulnerable parents served by The Family Center, childhoods’ were defined by ever-present neglect, abuse and family dysfunction. Though these parents want better for their own children, they have never been shown healthy parenting skills.

Research data shows parents with high ACE (adverse childhood experience) scores are very likely to pass similar experiences on to their children, continuing the cycle of adversity.

This was among the eye-opening findings of the Adverse Childhood Experience study, a large-scale research study which observed direct links between negative childhood experiences and negative adult outcomes.

As the number of ACEs increases to four or more, so does the likelihood that the next generation will grow up to endure costly social, emotional and even physical health issues that are a burden to society.

The families served by The Family Center are comprised of parents who tend to have very high ACE scores and are currently dealing with the consequences of childhood trauma: addiction, incarceration, legal problems, and absence from the work force. Without intervention, these parents will continue the cycle of dysfunction with their children.

The Family Center partners with families to help to break this vicious cycle. Research shows that empowering parents with new skills breaks the cycle of ACEs and encourages parents to use healthy parenting practices. Parent educators and counselors then engage, educate, and empower caregivers to be buffers between the children and the stressors they face.

Clients explore their own history and learn healthy parenting techniques through high-quality, research-based parent education classes. Parents experience meaningful “aha” moments by connecting their childhood experiences to their current situations and health issues. These parents are empowered by lessons learned in the class to parent in a healthy, nurturing way.

“Our classes assist with helping prevent child abuse by creating awareness of ACEs and their causes, and providing healthier parent practices than what these individuals have experienced,” says Jenn Martin, a Family Center Parent Educator. “We become a part of their healthy and stable system of recovery. By supporting these vulnerable families to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect, we are improving the future of Middle Tennessee.”

The Family Center's ACE Infographic

Based on annual statistics in 2014-2015