Responding to Adverse Childhood Experiences

The Science of Hope as a Framework for Action


  • Chan Hellman University of Oklahoma
  • Angela B. Pharris University of Oklahoma
  • Ricky Munoz University of Oklahoma



Hope Theory, Adverse Childhood Experiences, resilience, trauma-informed practice


Research has long supported that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are linked with reductions in well-being across the lifespan. However, less is known about the best practices for intervening with ACE to buffer the long-term negative effects beyond clinical settings. The current paper proposes that the positive psychology construct of hope offers guidance for understanding and responding to ACEs. We propose a theoretical model for developing a hope-centered and trauma-informed framework for responding to the deleterious effects for ACEs. The paper closes by calling on social work researchers, educators, and those in practice to learn more about the relationship between ACEs and hope and use that knowledge to help us better assist ACE survivors.

Author Biographies

Chan Hellman, University of Oklahoma

Chan Joined the University of Oklahoma in 2002. Chan is a professor in the Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work and Founding Director of the Hope Research Center. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Pediatrics for the OU College of Medicine and the Department of Health Promotion Science for the OU College of Public Health.

Chan’s current research is focused on the application of hope theory to predict adaptive behaviors, and hope as a psychological strength that buffer stress and adversity among those impacted by family violence. In this context, he is also interested in the impact of prevention and intervention services on improving client hope and wellbeing. 

Ricky Munoz, University of Oklahoma

Ric’s scholarship work includes work in the importance of hopeful thinking to client’s a local area non- profits, along with community engaged research efforts centering on health with homeless youth and other vulnerable populations. Ric is also a fellow with the University Of Oklahoma School Of Community Medicine and the Center of Applied Research or Non-profits. Ric has 10 referred publications in his areas of interest and 5 more currently under review.

Ric also continues to engage in direct practice social work at the OU Street Outreach Clinic, a combined effort of Youth Services of Tulsa, the OU School of Community Medicine, and the OU School of Social Work. The clinic has won multiple awards for the clinic’s efforts to improve health outcomes for homeless youth.


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