A Message from our Executive Director

You are saving lives with every investment you make in The Friendship Club! I don’t mean that figuratively, I literally mean you are saving lives. Let me tell you how:

A national study, called the ACE Study (for Adverse Childhood Experiences) was conducted by Kaiser and the U.S. Center for Disease Control with 17,000 adult participants1.  It found a significant relationship between childhood stress and trauma and adult chronic disease. Some of the ACE indicators include witness to domestic violence, being a victim of abuse or neglect, alcohol and other drug abuse in the home, parental separation/divorce, mental illness in the family, death of a parent, and parent incarceration.

The greater number of adverse experiences a child has, the more likely he or she is to engage in drug/alcohol abuse, suffer from depression, and/or develop chronic diseases like heart, lung, and liver disease. The study also showed that even if the adults with ACEs DID NOT engage in unhealthy behaviors, they were still more likely to suffer from chronic disease due to the effect childhood stress has on the developing brain. ACEs literally change the brain structure and puts children in a constant state of fight or flight stress response. Science also shows that the stress from ACEs impact the part of the brain that regulates impulse control, which contributes to unhealthy behaviors.

Here are some of the findings of this national study:

  • 67% of participants had at least 1 ACE
  • 5% or 1 in 8 participants had 4 or more ACEs
  • The higher the ACE score, the poorer the mental and physical health score. Those with higher ACE scores are 4.5 times more likely to have depression

This is how our Friendship Club girls compare to these studies:

  • While 20% of the 17,000 participants nationwide in the ACE study had three or more adverse childhood experiences, 47% of the girls served by The Friendship Club have been traumatized by at least three adverse childhood experiences.
  • 83% of TFC girls have lost a parent through separation or divorce compared to 23% in ACE study (also worth noting, 1 in 4 TFC girls are being raised by someone other than a parent)
  • 81% of TFC girls have a history of alcohol and/or drug abuse in the family compared to 27% in ACE study
  • 41% of TFC girls have experienced physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse compared to 28% in ACE study
  • 36% of TFC girls have a parent that has been or currently is incarcerated compared to 5% in ACE study
  • 40% of TFC girls have been exposed to domestic violence in the home compared to 13% in ACE study.

These are sobering statistics but there is HOPE and I want you to know how your support plays a role in reversing the effects ACEs have on our girls. While there are real neurological reasons that childhood trauma and a higher ACE score lead people to engage in more risky behaviors and develop chronic diseases when they get older, there are ways to mitigate the health impacts of ACEs.

9 out of 10. In most cases that would be considered a good score on a test, an A! Something to be proud of. However, in this case, it’s not something I am proud of. This score has me reflecting on my childhood and how it has and will impact my health. Not only was my childhood far from perfect, it wasn’t normal. My parents separated before I can even remember them being together (1 point). Living in a fatherless home, there were a lot of men, usually drug addicted and alcoholics in and out of our home (1 point). They were abusive men that would hurt my mom and abuse us kids physically, mentally, and sexually (2 points). There were many times we would go without food, shelter, running water, and power (1 point). On more than one occasion, my mother attempted suicide (1 point). I’ll never forget the night my mom told me she wished she had aborted me when she had the chance (2 points). 9/10! At points in my life I felt hopeless, but at a vital time in my life The Friendship Club became my family and helped me find hope again. 

~Tiffany Scudero, TFC Alumnus, Development Associate

 The most important things families and communities can do is provide supportive relationships to children with ACEs and teach them resilience skills such as stress management and healthy communication. The Friendship Club program provides this very support to our girls and paired with our long-term, comprehensive approach, we are able to provide girls the positive environment they need to thrive and grow into healthy young women. In addition to the exposure to positive life experiences and academic support, we excel in providing girls with supportive relationships between each other, our professional staff, mentors, other volunteers and community members.

We teach girls conflict resolution skills and stress management through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, nutrition and activity in nature.  We also refer families to other support and resources when they are needed. We surround our girls and their families with the support they need to seek help, change family patterns, and educate them about the dangers of ACEs and how they can mitigate for them in the home. Girls report that since joining The Friendship Club they are more likely to think about their future, make and keep friends, and understand what a healthy relationship looks like.  They report that the Club makes them feel safe.

By investing in this intense and critical support program, you are helping us build resilience in our girls and helping us intervene in their lives while there is still time to mitigate the effects of ACEs. YOU are saving their lives.

Because of The Friendship Club and the support of this community I am who I am today. I have ended a vicious cycle. I am college educated. I am giving back to The Friendship Club girls. I am married to a man who would never imagine treating me the way men treated my mother. Most of all, I have a beautiful little boy who will get a 0/10 on this test. That is something I am proud of. ~ Tiffany

During this Holiday season when you are considering your community investments, we hope you will consider how your donation to The Friendship Club produces a ripple effect in our community and changes destructive patterns for generations to come. Investing in our young girls today will keep their future and our community’s future bright. Click here to donate now!

In Friendship,

Jennifer Singer, Executive Director

1 American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 1998, Volume 14, pages 245–258

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