Joan Eichner Presents at the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness Conference

January 15-17, 2014 in New York City

In January, DARE Director Joan Eichner presented at the ICPH conference, Beyond Housing: A National Conversation on Child Homelessness and Poverty. The conference brings together service providers, researchers, policymakers, and many others working with families and children experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Children living in poverty and homelessness are at risk for experiencing "toxic stress" that can alter the developing brain and body, cause lifelong physical and mental health problems, lost productivity, and perpetuate poverty over generations. Joan’s talk, called: "Young Children Experiencing Homelessness, Adversity, and Trauma: An integrated look at improving outcomes and services" presented the findings of a needs assessment, parent and staff interviews, and over three years of collaborative work in Allegheny County to support early childhood social-emotional development and parent-child relationships in local homeless housing agencies.

The presentation drew on landmark public health research known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which shows a strong "dose-response" relationship between adversity in childhood and risky behaviors leading to physical and mental health problems throughout the lifespan. Individuals who experience abuse, neglect, or other traumas in their first 18 years are at much higher risk for experiencing multiple traumas and having some of the most pressing public health conditions of our time, such as heart disease, cancer, depression, and drug use. Toxic stress is one theory that can explain why children with adverse life events have poor health later on. Toxic stress is intense or prolonged stress (such as that caused by abuse or neglect) that is not buffered by a supportive, loving relationship with an adult. For a young child this can be extremely detrimental to development.

Joan spoke about opportunities to bring research to practice and intervene early to reduce stress and adversity in the lives of young children in adverse situations.

View the slides here.