Almost certainly, every child who enters the foster care system has endured some sort of trauma. It is unrefuted that childhood trauma correlates with mental, physical, and behavioral problems well into adulthood. In 1998, one of the first major studies of the relationship between certain forms of childhood trauma and adult behavior and disease was reported. Collectively, these traumas are called “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACE).

Today ACE refers to ten common forms of trauma that individuals may have experienced as children. To put this issue in perspective, it is currently estimated that 34.8 million children in the United States are affected by ACE, two out of three adults have one or more ACE, and one out of eight adults have four or more ACE. Since the original study, several studies have been published linking ACE to detrimental lifelong effects relating to mental health, chronic health, and behavior patterns. Despite this, the consideration of ACE in family law and child welfare-related cases is a relatively new concept in courts across the country.

This Article summarizes the research on ACE and how this research has become integrated into the courtroom, using the Florida court system as an example. In addition, in a novel approach, this article will articulate how ACE research and findings can be utilized in foster care adoption.