What it is

We have the unique opportunity to build a campaign that gives youth, young adults and caregivers across California the resources and strategies to manage stress, heal from adversity, and end cycles of trauma.

Why this matters

Your past experiences don’t define you, but they can have a lasting impact. Toxic stress caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, can throw the body into a state of fight or flight, even in safe environments. This response, when activated over and over again, can take a toll on our bodies and minds. Studies have shown that people who have experienced a higher number of ACEs have an increased risk of heart disease, depression, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

The good news is that the effects of toxic stress are treatable. Recovery is possible. Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) – like a sense of belonging at school, supportive friends, or the involvement of at least one caring adult – can reduce the impact of ACEs.

For those who have experienced traumatic events as children or have had a prolonged activation of their stress response, it’s never too late to get support. Healing ourselves is the first step to healing our communities and ending cycles of trauma.

How we’re building our campaign

We’re creating a campaign for youth and young adults (ages 16-25) informed by their voices, feedback, and input along the way to ensure our campaign will best meet them where they are in their journey toward healing. We know that adolescence is a unique time to develop knowledge, reflect on and make sense of past experiences, and importantly, build skills in managing emotions, relationships, and stress that can carry on through to adulthood. In our campaign, we’ll also have messages and resources for caregivers of youth that can help them build knowledge of ACES, toxic stress, and their impacts, along with information on how they can create positive childhood experiences to counter the effects of ACEs and toxic stress.

We’re co-creating this campaign in collaboration with our target audiences who know their experiences and communities best. We’re building on the latest research to bring youth, young adults, caregivers and communities proven strategies for: reducing the effects of toxic stress, creating PCEs, managing stressful experiences, and more – all in support of current and future generations of Californians.

At the heart of this campaign is storytelling. Californians who have experienced ACEs, and related toxic stress, will be sharing their healing journey with the goal of creating connection, building community, and inspiring others who may be struggling.

See what our audiences had to say in a series of input sessions.

Hear from our ACEs Campaign Youth Advisors

Who are we talking to?

  • Primary

    Youth and Young Adults (16-25)

  • Secondary

    Caregivers (emphasis on caregivers of youth ages 8-16)

  • Tertiary

    Health Care Providers, Education, and Early Care Providers

What you can do

We’re excited to mobilize diverse voices across the state to create a campaign that supports healing, hope and prevention at a time when people need it most. Input from Californians from all backgrounds and communities will help us uncover the most impactful messages, tools and strategies as well as inform the resources we create to help Californians prioritize their health and healing.

With your help, our campaign can change the lives of so many Californians for the better. Please take a minute to answer our survey questions and let us know what you think!

We want to hear from you

In one word, name something that everyone can do to support youth in California.

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Take our survey

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What are the biggest barriers that prevent children and families from thriving in your community? (Choose your top 3)
What does your community do well to help children and families thrive? (Choose your top 3)
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Community stories

Share a story from your community. Every day across California, people and organizations are making life better for Californians and their communities.

We’d love to hear about your community’s stories. How are its organizations supporting their people in overcoming adversity and the impacts of toxic stress? We’ll reach out to learn more, and may feature their story on our campaign website, social media and beyond!

Share a Community Story

Laguna High School


Nearly 100 percent of students at Laguna High School in Sonoma County live below the poverty line, and close to 50% are categorized as homeless or unaccompanied minors. To access their education, they need an extra level of support.

So representatives from the Sonoma County Office of Education worked with the school’s principal and other staff to mitigate the effects of students’ ACEs and toxic stress — and to ultimately improve outcomes in this alternative education environment.

Multiple MFTs were hired. Students are greeted warmly every school day, and Principal Greene has an open-door policy. Mindfulness exercises and self-regulation tools like restorative circles help kids feel comfortable, heard, and grounded. Sitting-still time maxes out at 30 minutes; after that, students and staff walk-and-talk around campus.

One caring adult can change a child’s life, and Laguna High School exemplifies this. Within just three years of starting these trauma-informed classroom strategies, Laguna High’s graduation rate rose from 55 percent to 95 percent.

Children’s Hospital of Orange County


During the pandemic, pediatrician Dr. Eric Ball saw more mental health crises in one year than he had during his previous 15 years practicing medicine. His ACEs training helped kids — regardless of their ACEs score — calm themselves and get back to their lives.

Knowing how toxic stress can exacerbate a range of conditions, including asthma, Dr. Ball is taking a more holistic approach to treating disease at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. His practice screens patients for ACEs; from there, kids and families learn ways to reduce stress, nurture mindfulness, and get more sleep and exercise. They also receive mental health referrals as needed. In fact, prevention is what drew Dr. Ball to pediatrics — keeping kids healthy so they can grow into healthy adults.

Early intervention benefits communities, and ACEs management isn’t limited to patients. The practice’s staff goes on walks together and takes five to 10 minutes at lunch to meditate — potentially improving care in the process.



The CARE Health-Promoting Programs


The CARE study team at UCSF has launched three programs in three locations — Oakland, Richmond, and Santa Barbara — to help strengthen child-caregiver relationships and to teach strategies for managing stress.

They’re studying how these programs affect the health of kids, particularly children who have experienced trauma. Based on previous studies, the CARE team expects that improving caregiver support and resources will mitigate the physical effects of ACEs, and in turn keep kids healthier.

After a family enrolls, they will have clinic visits, receive compensation, and participate in online sessions with parent coaches. These sessions are confidential safe spaces in which the coaches and caregivers explore different topics and activities, including parental stress; mindfulness training to promote co-regulation; building more patience, understanding, and stronger relationships; and understanding kids’ behaviors through interactive exercises.

Parents and caregivers are already reporting greater skills at handling stress plus deepened connections with their kids.

Venice Family Clinic

The mission of Venice Family Clinic is to provide high-quality comprehensive health care to vulnerable families and individuals — addressing physical, dental, vision, behavioral and mental health needs. Through its network of 17 locations, plus multiple mobile clinics and an extensive street medicine program, the clinic serves about 45,000 people every year. Among its patients, 91% live below 200% of the federal poverty line and almost 5,000 are experiencing homelessness. The clinic launched its mental health care program in 1993, and today it’s still one of the few clinics with an extensive behavioral health program working in concert with primary care and psychiatry.

In recent years, the clinic saw the extent to which trauma — no matter how recent or how far in the past — can significantly harm overall health. Starting in 2020, it launched new programming that screens for and addresses trauma and ACEs in patients of all ages. This has made it easier for the clinic to connect patients with community resources and treatment that will help them get and stay healthy.


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