Adverse Childhood Experiences Plague Oklahoma’s Children

For the Children is a weekly column by Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA

The latest report from America’s Health Rankings shows a slight improvement in Oklahoma on a critical child wellbeing area, Adverse Childhood Experiences also called ACEs.  Sadly, Oklahoma is still the worst in the nation in the frequency of Adverse Childhood Experiences among our children, but awareness is making a difference.

The study examined the percentage of children ages 0-17 who endured two or more of the following ACEs: economic hardship; parental divorce or separation; living with someone who had an alcohol or drug problem; neighborhood violence victim or witness; living with someone who was mentally ill, suicidal or severely depressed; domestic violence witness; parent served jail time; being treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity; or death of parent (2-year estimate). 

The reports shows that the national average of 20.5% endured ACEs, which is a slight decrease from recent years.  In Oklahoma, 28.5% of our youth have two or more of these toxic, long-term experiences.  The good news is the number is down from 32% in recent research.

This issue goes beyond family and the children impacted.  A September report in Psychology Today examined lost economics in the workplace because of ACEs across two continents.  The study looked at immediate losses for employers who lost time on the job with their employees, as well as the long-term impact of reduced productivity or health-related costs for mental and physical health conditions. In Europe, the total annual costs from ACEs was $581 billion  or 2.67% of the GDP. In North America, it was worse, with an economic hit of $748 billion or 3.6 percent of the GDP, mostly from alcohol abuse and anxiety issues.

OICA hopes this conversation will continue to further shed light on this crisis.  We are thankful Oklahoma’s First Lady, Sarah Stitt, has chosen to take on this topic.  She has participated in several town hall discussions with the Potts Family Foundation on ACEs and discussed solutions over the past year.  OICA was honored to set up the first of these events with the First Lady in Tulsa last year, and we are thankful this dialogue continues across the state.

Duncan will play host to the next event this Thursday, January 16.  Pathways to a Healthier You is presenting a free film screening and panel discussion on Adverse Childhood Experiences.  The event requires registration and will include refreshments and door prizes.

Two film screenings will show at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the Simmons Center Chisholm Trail Hall for the event aimed at educating on how community members can rally around “Adverse Childhood Experiences.”  The movie is titled “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.” The first hour will be the film and the second hour of each session will feature a panel discussion.  I am honored to be one of the panelists for both viewings; consider this your invitation to join us, but you must register if you plan on attending.

To register, visit and make sure the events you search for are for Duncan. For more information, contact Kim Whaley at 580-251-8558 and she can assist you. Please join us for one of the viewings and learn more about what you can do to help our state, your community, and the children who desperately need help.

Below are images from the event held today (Thursday, January 16) during lunchtime in Duncan featuring the film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” mentioned in this week column. Moderating the panel is Oklahoma’s First Lady Sarah Stitt; the panel includes Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney; OICA CEO Joe Dorman; Dr. Dan Criswell, MD; Melanie Smith, a counselor in Duncan; and Judy Dittner, a counselor at Duncan High School. A second showing of the film and panel discussion will begin (Thursday, January 16) at 5:30 p.m. You can register for the free event here or by searching at