$2.2 Million initiative highlights trauma policy push

By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

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Jennifer Jones

This month, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will kick off a multi-million initiative designed to help service providers translate scientific findings around child trauma, toxic stress and developmental brain science into public policy.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Canada-based Palix Foundation have committed $2.2 million over three years for the Alliance, a powerful membership group of youth service providers, to sub-grant to 15 participating nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada interested in leading child trauma-based reform. All sites will be funded $50,000 for two years, and a developmental evaluation will be conducted within the three-year period.

The “Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities” initiative is one of several recent efforts aimed at increasing the policy impact of trauma-related research.

According to Change in Mind Director Jennifer Jones, the 15 organizations will serve as leaders in their communities and across the public sector on how to apply trauma-related practices. While each organization may have a different set of policy and advocacy goals, they will share successful strategies with each other and participate with an outside organization to evaluate effectiveness. The initiative kicks off this month in Chicago with an organizing conference that will help develop collective goals to accompany the specific policy priorities of each site.

The moment is ripe, Jones said, for nonprofit service providers to take a leading role in encouraging adoption of trauma-informed practices.

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School leaders rethink school discipline at White House conference

Mike Lamb, TurnAround for Children ________________________

Mike Lamb, Turnaround for Children
________________________

There is a growing national consensus, reflected in the positions and priorities of lawmakers at all levels of government, that the U.S. criminal justice system must be reformed with the goal of ending mass incarceration.  That consensus extends to upstream preventive strategies, especially for improving approaches to school discipline.  The zero-tolerance approach to school discipline leads to approximately three million children being expelled or suspended annually, with a disproportionate number being children of color. This indisputably contributes to increased school dropout rates, juvenile justice system involvement, and ultimately to higher levels of incarceration.
A July 22 meeting at the White House to “Rethink School Discipline” reflects this growing consensus. The Obama Administration convened several hundred school leaders from around the country to hear from federal policymakers and share best practices and current research. There were major addresses by the heads of two federal departments—U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan set the stage, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch made concluding remarks.  But  center stage belonged to local school leaders, philanthropists, and academics.

Mike Lamb, Turnaround for Children’s executive director in Washington, D.C., reported on the breakout session he attended, “Building Trauma-Informed Schools.” One takeaway message, said Lamb, is that there is a roadmap to follow in schools and in classrooms to help manage the impacts on teaching and learning from the stress in children’s lives, especially those affected by the trauma of multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). [Learn more about adverse childhood experiences at ACES 101.]

“This gives us hope for the most challenged children,” he said.

In his report on the small group conversation, Lamb highlighted three messages. He noted that the data might be scary but the situation is not hopeless. The

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California mentorship program offers comfort to sexually exploited young women

Through times of trauma and distress, often all a child needs is to be showered with love. It may sound corny, but for the estimated100,000 children who are sexually exploited per year around the country, it can be transformative.

The Lasting Links Mentorship Program at MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth), an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit, works to end child exploitation and help victims through the formation of healthy, supportive and loving adult relationships.

“Some of them will even just come in to the drop-in center for a hug; they’ve said that to us,” said executive director Falilah Bilal at MISSSEY.

In Oakland, MISSSEY’s efforts are more than necessary. The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the top three epicenters of human trafficking in the United States along with Los Angeles and San Diego, with 46 percent of all prosecuted human trafficking cases in California coming from the Alameda District Attorney’s office.

“People think that this is a problem that happens to kids ‘over there,’ whether it’s kids from other countries or poor black kids or boys from another place,” said Bilal. “People don’t think that this is an American-bred issue that happens across all class and all gender. This is something confronting and impacting all of us.”

MISSSEY partners with Girls Inc. and the Mentoring Center to match people who wish to volunteer their time to provide advice and emotional support to sexually exploited young women in need.

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Calling for reform, President Obama notes the impact of incarceration on families

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By Melinda Clemmons

From a cellblock at El Reno Federal Penitentiary in Oklahoma on July 16, President Barack Obama, the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, spoke of his hope that his proposed criminal justice reforms will, among other positive outcomes, “perhaps most importantly, keep families intact.”

His historic visit to El Reno capped a week in which the president sought to “shine a spotlight” on the U.S. criminal justice system, which he said in a speech July 14 at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia is “particularly skewed by race and by wealth, a source of inequity that has ripple effects on families and on communities and ultimately on our nation.”

The day before his appearance at the NAACP convention, Obama granted clemency to 46 inmates, most of whom were incarcerated for non-violent offenses under mandatory minimum sentencing laws. In his speech in Philadelphia, the president said the mandatory sentencing laws for non-violent offenses are in large part responsible for the quadrupling of the number of people behind bars in the U.S. since 1980. He is proposing those mandatory minimum sentences be reduced or eliminated, allowing judges to use discretion in sentencing.

Obama noted that while the U.S. spends $80 billion every year to incarcerate 2.2 million people, there are also “costs that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.”

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SaintA helps create a trauma-informed school in Green Bay, WI

Sara Daniel

Sara Daniel _________________

As with many schools that have students living in poverty and who have a high number of adverse childhood experiences, Franklin Middle School in Green Bay, WI, has some who need assistance with attendance or behaviors.

They received a grant to form the Responder Project to address school discipline issues. As part of the project, Sara Daniel, SaintA’s clinical services director, met with a group of 17 seventh-grade teachers and seven staff members, including a social worker dedicated to the project, several times since August 2014 to provide training in trauma-informed care and trauma-sensitive schools.

As a result,  63% of the 22 students in the project had improved behavior compared to the previous year, 71% had excellent attendance, and 25% were referred to outside sources for mental health assistance.

“Sara’s support has been critical; she’s key to all of this,” said Kim Shanock, the school district’s coordinator of Community Partners and Grants, who secured funding for the one-year pilot project. “She brought a way to think about kids’ mindsets, and the teachers and staff adored her.”

Part of the reason for those feelings toward Daniel, Principal Jackie Hauser said, was that she did a great job of blending research with practical experience and real-life applications. In early meetings, she said, staff shared their frustrations and Daniel just listened.

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Safeguarding children of arrested parents in Alameda, CA

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By Melinda Clemmons, Chronicle of Social Change

Excited to be home from school, five-year-old Luna Garcia was playing with her little brothers in the front room of her apartment, her grandmother in another room, when she heard a hard knock on the door.

“I wasn’t allowed to answer the door because who lets a little kid answer the door?” she said to a crowd of nearly 100 law enforcement professionals, child welfare workers, advocates, and others last month in Oakland, CA.

Tears welled up in her eyes as Garcia, now 16, recalled how she and her brothers stood and watched as police officers broke down the door of their apartment, ran to her bedroom and then her brothers’, turning over their beds, breaking them in the process.

They were looking for her dad, Garcia told the group, gathered on May 18 for the fourth annual convening of the Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (ACCIPP).

Not finding her father, the officers left. Police officers would again break down the door of her apartment in search of her father while she was home three more times over the next eight years.

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Washington, DC, City Council Education Committee probes how trauma-informed schools can help students

David Grosso, DC City Council Education Committee Chair

District of Columbia Councilmember David Grosso _____________________

Two-and-a-half years ago, a school administrator confronted District of Columbia Councilmember David Grosso with a stark and surprising reality when he visited the Walker-Jones Education Campus to learn about a literacy intervention program. At the end of the visit, the school official delayed Grosso’s departure to make one additional point: Something must be done to address the fact that over 40% of all DC students have experienced trauma—a “jaw-dropping” number, according to Grosso.

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