Part 3 — Helping Children with Trauma

PASS Parents and Friends—

Last night, we had a post from Gina Stetter about the emotional trauma and difficulties that children are bringing into the classroom today. Today, we will post her summary of steps SCPS and our county are taking to try to address this, while emphasizing that more needs to be done. Read on…

PASS Community—

Yesterday I wrote about certain challenges faced by our kids, our schools and our community. Today, I’d like to talk about the efforts being made in our community to find solutions.

  • The Shenandoah South Health Clinic (in partnership with the Free Clinic and Strength in Peers) provides medical, dental and mental health services within the public school during the school day to the Quicksburg (Southern) Campus students. Families can also access mentoring and family support services. Within weeks of opening, there was already a waiting list for counseling services.
  • As part of the grant which funded the clinic, Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson will provide Trauma-Informed training for Shenandoah County staff starting this summer. 1
  • With such great needs among their students, two schools in our division did not want to wait.  They have already begun to bring in presenters to train staff and provide resources to faculty on trauma-informed approaches.
  • The school division is exploring Alternatives to Expulsion and partnering with CLEAN to provide resources to families and students with substance use and addiction.
  • The Honorable Judge Black leads a multi-agency Best Practices Court team and is particularly interested in trauma and its impact on our community members.
  • Shenandoah County’s Family Assistance and Planning Team (FAPT) engages with families and students to identify and support community-based services (e.g. counseling, intensive in-home support and mentoring) to prevent more costly out-of-community placements. The number of students/ families served (over 120) has increased by nearly 50% in the past three years.
  • Therapeutic day treatment  and clinical mental health services are provided by a behavioral health care provider in our schools, during the school day. While there are 100+ students served, there are more who would benefit with additional capacity.
  • ChildSafe Center-CAC of Winchester opened a Woodstock location in October 2017 to remove the barrier of travel for children needing services. CAC offers therapeutic treatment programs that are tailored to the unique needs and situations of each child who has suffered abuse and to prevent retraumatization during the investigation and prosecution phase.
  • Northwestern Community Services has established Children’s Services in their Woodstock office and has a satellite location in the Shenandoah Pediatrics office. These services include case management, medication managements and counseling.

These efforts are still not enough.

  • There are service delivery gaps within our community. Demand outstrips providers.
  • Wait lists with both public (Northwestern Community Services) and private providers can be 6-9 months. That is simply too long for a child or family in crisis. While we have had some new clinicians open practice in the county, there simply is too few to meet the needs.
  • There is a need for awareness about our community needs and impact of our students. When people read/ hear news about drug arrests, sexual assaults, domestic abuse, and mental health, do they connect that to our local families (in theory not by name)  and recognize the impact to the students who are in our schools?
  • Over the past year Shenandoah County has the highest rate of juvenile sexual offenders and adult sexual offenders logged through intake in the three county region which includes Page and Warren. In our county, these cases are being identified and entering the criminal justice system. However, there still is a lack of services available for and provided to the victims of which there may be multiples per each offender. Too often families think the male or female victim is “fine”, are understandably reluctant to “talk about it”, and do not establish essential aftercare services.
  • The National School Counselor Association recommends a 1:250 ratio. Our schools have a ratio of up to 1 school counselor to nearly 600 students.
  • The School Social Work Association of America recommends a 1:250 social worker to student ratio. Our division staffs a 1:2,000 ratio.

The first step is the conversation. It is recognizing that the increase in the magnitude and complexity of the emotional needs—of an ever-increasing number of our students—and their subsequent disruptive behavior is bigger than a decline in discipline. It is bigger than a schools-only solution. Instead of asking a disruptive child, “What is wrong with you? What were you thinking?”, our approach should be “What happened?  What happened to you?”

For too long, teachers and schools have been trying to go at it alone. The solution requires a trauma-informed, multi-agency/ provider, community- based approach. Walla Walla, WA took on that challenge.   (—begin slide #8). How do we build resilient students and a trauma-informed community? The work has already begun. But there is so much more to do. #ResilienceTrumpsAces.

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