Trauma-informed program in San Diego teaches parents to train other parents

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It took two years of weekly meetings between parents and organizers, but now 12 parent leaders at Cherokee Point Elementary School in City Heights, a mostly low-income urban neighborhood in San Diego with 91,000 residents, are teaching people about trauma, its effects, and how to build resilience. And they’re also training other parents to do the same.

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During the two years of meetings led by Dana Brown, project director of the Trauma Informed Community Schools (TICS), she and other organizers learned from the parents about the needs of the community, while in return, the parents learned about adverse childhood experiences, the impact of toxic stress and trauma, resiliency building, communication skills, coping skills, and social-emotional learning for themselves and their families. Then the parents and the organizers together developed the content for parent-training workshops.

Brown, a seasoned social entrepreneur who helped launch this program four years ago with a grant from The California Endowment, is also a regional community facilitator for ACEs Connection Network.

She emphasizes that because parent residents are the true community experts, “their reality and depth of understanding of their community’s culture is the most important voice. Every system, service provider and resource needs to have the consumer/customer/client’s voice at the forefront of their policy, practice, procedure and program.”

Brown says the day she knew that parents had achieved “collective efficacy” was in February 2014, when several parents led workshops in Spanish on trauma awareness at the Jacobs Center in San Diego for the Commission on Gang Prevention & Intervention’s Community Violence Prevention Summit. The event brought tears to the audience.

Beginning year five of the TICS program, the 12 parent leaders will be designing a “train-the-trainer” model for other parents to develop skill sets in trauma-informed and resilience-building practices, self-care and restorative practice. With several additional parent leaders, they are also expanding to three other schools: Central Elementary, Wilson Middle School and Hoover High School.

In addition, TICS is hiring and training six “cultural navigators,” selected from the parent leaders, to serve as a bridge between the community members and families in need, and to focus on health, education, and restorative practice. And for working with the highest needs and highest risk youth and families, Brown says they are hiring two “credible messengers,” also selected from the parent leaders.

To continue support for the parent-training program’s sustainability, they plan to apply for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), new funding from the State of California that allows local communities to decide how to spend some education funds specific to homeless, foster, and youth who are learning English as a second language.

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