State, federal lawmakers take action on trauma-informed policies, programs

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 8.55.19 AMLawmakers around the country are beginning to take action to reduce the impact of childhood trauma—and the toxic stress it creates—on lifetime outcomes, particularly in education and health. The legislation being considered in Vermont to integrate screening for childhood trauma in health care, as reported recently on this site, is still percolating in the legislature. Another bill (H. 3528) being considered in Massachusetts seeks to create “safe and supportive schools” statewide. House Resolution 191 — which declares youth violence a public health epidemic and supports the establishment of trauma-informed education statewide — passed in Pennsylvania last spring and was ratified by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) at its annual meeting in August.

Prior to these efforts, the state of Washington passed a bill (H.R. 1965) in 2011 to identify and promote innovative strategies to prevent or reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and to develop a public-private partnership to support effective strategies. In accordance with H.B. 1965, a group of private and public entities formed the Washington State ACEs Public-Private Initiative that is currently evaluating five communities’ ACEs activities. An APPI announcement about the launch of the project

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Suspensions plummet with peer mediation, but at this school, it’s just another program that’s going away

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Mt. Diablo High School peer mediators Cheyna Reed, Dajon (Broddy) Mathis, Ashley Holmes and Kristen Burns.

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In May 2011, Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, CA, hired social worker Deonne Wesley to coordinate a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Safe and Supportive Schools program. The program was set up to “create and support safe and drug-free learning environments and to increase academic success for students in these high-risk schools”.

It took a year for California to lay the foundation for the program, and another year for each of the 58 participating school districts to hire staff. At Mt. Diablo, which has 1,340 students, the program was up and running during the 2012-2013 school year.

Wesley trained 18 students to be peer mediators to work with students who were suspended for fighting, and to help prevent fights.

Those mediators worked with 46 students who had racked up 51 days of suspension for fighting in school. The peer mediators, with Wesley supervising, helped the students talk out the dispute and come to an agreement on how to avoid further conflict. Afterwards, the number of suspensions for those 46 students dropped to 19 for the rest of the school year.

The grant also funded a part-time drug and alcohol counselor. She led four eight-week workshops and two ongoing harm-reduction groups. Prior to attending the workshops, 80 students who attended at least two workshops had accumulated 242 days of suspensions. After they attended the workshops, the suspensions in that group dropped to six.

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The secret to fixing school discipline problems? Change the behavior of adults

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Godwin Higa, principal, Cherokee Point Elementary School

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Two kindergarteners at Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood get into a fight on the playground. Their teacher sends them to the principal’s office. 

Instead of suspending or expelling the six-year-olds, as happens in many schools, Principal Godwin Higa ushers them to his side of the desk. He sits down so that he can talk with them eye-to-eye and quietly asks: “What happened?” He points to one of the boys. “You go first.” 

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Massachusetts, Washington State lead U.S. trauma-sensitive school movement

Washington State determined that 13 out of every 30 students in a classroom will have toxic stress from 3 or more traumatic experiences. Those children are likely to be more “unruly”, more “unmotivated” or more absent than the others. Source: Washington State Family Policy Council.

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TRAUMA-SENSITIVE SCHOOLS. TRAUMA-INFORMED classrooms. Compassionate schools. Safe and supportive schools. All different names to describe a movement that’s taking shape and gaining momentum across the country.

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Just one year of child abuse costs San Francisco, CA, $300 million….but it doesn’t have to

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In 2015, 5,545 children in San Francisco, CA, were reported to have experienced abuse. Of those, the reports of 753 children were substantiated. The expense to San Francisco for not preventing that abuse will cost $400,533 per child over his or her lifetime. That adds up to $301.6 million for just that one year, according to “The Economics of Child Abuse: A Study of San Francisco.”

And, because child abuse is profoundly underreported, the costs are likely to be as much as $5.6 billion for one year of children experiencing trauma, the report found.

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Violence is just one part of childhood trauma. So why are we focusing so much on childhood violence?

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Whac-A-Mole players (photo by Laura)

Many people and organizations focus on preventing violence with the belief that if our society can stop violence against children, then most childhood trauma will be eradicated.

However, research that has emerged over the last 20 years clearly shows that focusing primarily on violence prevention – physical and sexual abuse, in particular – doesn’t eliminate the trauma that children experience, and won’t even prevent further violence.

“Although violence can beget violence, it’s hardly the only cause of violence,” says Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-principal investigator of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), groundbreaking epidemiological research that showed a direct link between 10 types of childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence, among many other consequences.

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When teen dating violence goes online

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By Jennifer White, Senior Attorney for Legal Programs, Futures Without Violence

This year, a film named Audrie and Daisy was part of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival and will be available on Netflix later this year. The film tells the stories of two high school girls in different parts of the country whose kinship is the result of a common tragedy: both girls were sexually assaulted by boys they thought were friends.

Both girls were tortured by their communities and schools, particularly over social media. Both girls tried to take their own lives. The film highlights our failures as a nation to protect our young people, it illustrates a fundamental misapprehension about gender-based violence, it demonstrates our inclination to blame victims rather than believe them, and it vividly depicts the power and pervasiveness of social media as a weapon.

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Integrating ACEs increases hope for healing at One Hope United in Illinois

Tammy Ambre (l) and Keri Bechelli of One Hope United

Tammy Ambre (l) and Keri Bechelli of One Hope United

One Hope United attempts to lead those affected by childhood trauma down a Healing Path.

That’s the name of a three-year-old program that has brought a different approach to helping people with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The program operates out of One Hope United’s office in Gurnee, IL, north of Chicago, and three others in the metropolitan area.

“It’s specifically trauma-based treatment, rooted in evidence-based practices,” says Jill Novacek, director of programs for the four Illinois offices of One Hope United. The organization works to ensure safe, loving environments for children by educating and empowering them and their parents—or, if need be, foster parents. The program serves children from

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Judges can do enormous good if they look at what works for juveniles

ATeske

By Judge Steven Teske

Champions for change is key to reform. No champions, no change.

No matter the number of evidence-based programs we identify, and the best approaches and models to deliver them, they are meaningless unless someone calls attention to them.

And when all else fails, the law must be changed to force leaders to lead.

Mandating change is sometimes necessary because leadership is like a flashlight — what we see depends on who is holding the flashlight. Not all leaders direct the circumscribed beam of light in the direction of what works.

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School leaders rethink school discipline at White House conference

Mike Lamb, TurnAround for Children ________________________

Mike Lamb, Turnaround for Children
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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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