EASTON — The Talbot County Health Department recorded 225 homeless Talbot school children in 2018, according to Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley.
She presented her report as the guest speaker Thursday, Sept. 5, for the Talbot Economic Development Commission meeting.
“What if I told you the children being born in Talbot County today are at higher risk of not doing well in school, unemployment, incarceration, mental health problem, addiction problem and even more crime instances?”
Wadley referenced a 1990s Center for Disease Control study conducted on more than 17,000 middle class adults (70% were white and 70% had a college degree or some college).
More than 28% of the population reported experiencing physical abuse. One of every four females experienced sexual abuse. One in five families had a mental health problem. 23% lived in a single parent household. Household substance abuse was listed at nearly 27%.
“The ’90s was just when the prescription opioids and deaths began to climb,” Wadley said.
Early childhood adverse experiences, or ACEs, affect brain development and functioning, weakens the immune system and increases the risk of cancer, she said.
“The kids being born now are experiencing more adverse childhood experiences than their parents, and some of their parents have quite a few.”
According to Wadley, in the past four years, the percentage of those living in poverty under 18 years of age has increased from 14% to 16% in Talbot County.
Though poverty is not an adverse childhood experience, it does increase the risk, she says.
Also, 45% of Talbot students quality for free or reduced price lunches.
“We know with children that’s where most behavioral and mental health problems start and the longer they go, the less likely you are to have a good outcome,” Wadley said. “We don’t have the interventions and the treatment.”
She listed protective factors, or caring adults, as a source of hope. Wealth does not imply protective factors, she said.
Therefore, the Talbot Health Department, the Social Services Department and Talbot Public Schools partnered to create the Talbot Children’s Initiative.
The goal is to encourage healthy births, and avail services for the child and family to help them thrive. Such services include home visiting, quality child care, early interventions for children’s behavioral problems, mental health and addiction services for youth and parents.
Wadley said whether the county is combating school failure, unemployment, incarceration, addiction, mental health problems or chronic diseases, it starts with protecting our children.