When it comes to childhood trauma, early intervention may be the key to turning at-risk children into healthy, well-adjusted members of society.

Children's Place is utilizing a unique program to combat the issue.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as abuse or trauma, can lead to a variety of critical health and behavioral issues. ACEs are linked to chronic health conditions, incarceration and early death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

That is because ACEs can impact a young child's mental, emotional and physical development.

Children's Place Executive Director Peggy Ford said "early and aggressive intervention" can help prevent ACEs from impacting children later in life.

"Statistics show that children who are given early intervention are 50% less likely to become pregnant as teens; 41% more likely to complete high school; and 46% less likely to serve time in jail," Ford said in an email.

To tackle the problem of ACEs in Aiken County's children, Children's Place uses an accredited Therapeutic Childcare Program. This program is the only one of its kind in the CSRA and one of only two in South Carolina.

While children with safe, healthy childhoods may have no problem developing skills that help them become well-adjusted adults, it can be exponentially more difficult for young children severely impacted by ACEs to do so. The program is designed to teach children these skills, such as communication, self-calming techniques and emotional awareness and development. 

"Children that join the program show signs of limited behavioral functioning and developmental delays, often as a result of trauma or other adverse experiences," Ford said. "The program is for children as young as 18 months and up to 5 years old, and it focuses on enhancing social, emotional, behavioral and cognitive development within an early childcare and educational setting."

"They learn how to handle everyday challenges, such as exposure to early adversity or trauma, tolerance and management of difficult emotions, and excessive worries, anxieties and fears," Ford continued. "Support therapies are also provided as needed, including speech, occupational, physical and play therapy."

During the program, each child's family is assigned a licensed mental health counselor who provides in-home counseling for the entire family. This two-generational model is unique to the Children's Place program.

"Together, they identify needs and set goals to improve family interactions and overall mental health, while learning to develop positive parenting skills and ways to nurture their child’s success," Ford said.

Recently, several children graduated from the therapeutic program at Children's Place. A graduation was held, and each child was given a diploma. 

For more info, visit childrensplaceinc.org.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.