Back to School: Addressing the Collective Trauma in Our Classrooms

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School is back in session, in-person! Over the past few weeks, many schools across the country have opened their doors to welcome students back into the classroom. This highly anticipated return comes after an incredibly difficult year of grief, loss and isolation for children and families everywhere. Though the pandemic has been stressful for all – the past year has been particularly traumatic for students.

To equip educators with the tools necessary to support students, Dr. Evelin Gomez and her team have been implementing trauma-responsive trainings through the Kempe Center’s Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice (TRIP) program. As we approach an uncertain school year, we wanted to know the latest with the TRIP program and how they’re working with schools to support students in Colorado. We sat down with Dr. Gomez to get an update on what’s in store this fall.

When we talked to you in February, TRIP was making great strides. What’s the latest on the TRIP program?

Dr. Gomez: Since our last update, TRIP’s trauma-informed practice team has continued to connect with childcare professionals through our partnership with the Colorado Cross-Systems Training Institute (CSTI) and the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health. This partnership has connected us to educators and administrators across the state. As school districts transition to in-person instruction, many teachers and administrators are overwhelmed.

Recently, we’ve begun performing consultations in school districts here in Colorado. These shorter sessions have given us an opportunity to adapt to the needs of the schools and look at our trainings in a new way. Going back to in-person instruction has been a challenging adjustment for students and teachers, so we’re trying to be sensitive to their needs while still sharing this essential training.

It’s important to acknowledge the pandemic’s lasting impact on youth mental health. Can you talk about how this intersects with your work?

Dr. Gomez: While many students have struggled with mental health and trauma in the past, it has only recently become a focus due to the pandemic. For the past few years, our team at TRIP has provided educators with tools to help students who are dealing with feelings of anxiety, depression, loss and grief. We know these struggles aren’t new, but they’re magnified from the pandemic.

Because of COVID, students have experienced increased instances of isolation, separation and unfamiliarity. This was our collective experience. Though it is always essential to equip educators with tools to support students, we’re anticipating that staff and teachers will have an increased sensitivity and awareness of the mental health and traumatic effects of the past year. The social emotional component of learning that was previously reserved for subjects like English and social sciences will make its way into every subject. The trainings that we provide through TRIP will become the norm for schools across the country due to this increased awareness.

Take a moment to reflect on the last year. What have you and the TRIP team learned? Is there anything that really stands out to you?

Dr. Gomez: One of the most important takeaways from this year has been the importance of taking care of our teachers. A teacher’s job is difficult in a normal year. Every day, teachers are responsible for managing a classroom consisting of anywhere from 15-30 kids, each of whom has specific social and emotional needs. When you move this job online, things get more difficult. After the last year, many teachers left the profession because of burnout. For those who have stayed, it is essential that administrations provide them with adequate support to deal with the growing stress. When we give teachers the tools they need to feel heard and helped, they can return the favor to their students.

One story that really stands out to me is from our time with a school in the Montezuma, Cortez School District. In this district, the administration really took the time to build and enhance relationships with their teachers. They asked what the teachers needed to succeed, and they really listened.

When the teachers came back to school, they knew they had a leadership team who truly cared about them. By implementing small changes – hosting a yoga class for teachers, opportunities to eat together and discuss their work– the team grew stronger, and we hope that teachers were able to better support students.

What’s up next for the TRIP program?

Dr. Gomez: We are currently working with a community sponsor to bring TRIP trainings to Weld County, CO. As the year progresses, we’ll have a much more accurate understanding of what we’ll be able to accomplish in school districts both in and outside of Colorado. For now, we’ll continue to implement these programs in schools and behavioral health organizations in whatever capacity possible. We’re happy to be putting our expertise into practice with the professionals who work most closely with children and families.

 

The Kempe Foundation applauds the work of Dr. Gomez and the entire TRIP team. We’re excited to watch as they continue to build a more trauma-responsive environment for students in Colorado and beyond. To support TRIP’s work, give to the Kempe Foundation today

 

The Kempe Foundation Elects Six New Members to its Board of Directors

The Kempe Foundation is pleased to announce the election of six new members to our Board of Directors. Each of these individuals brings their own unique personal and professional experience that will enhance the board and strengthen our organization. Meet our new board members below!

 

Jason Castro MPAcc, CPA (below) is a Contract Professional at Robert Half. He is based out of Denver, Colorado. 

 

Jonah Cave (below) is the Managing Director at CH Investment Partners based out of Dallas, Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jill DeRaad (below) is the Senior Manager of Project Management at Compassion International based out of Denver, Colorado. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina DeVito (below) is the CFO and Chief Strategy Officer at Heavenly interior design services in Denver, Colorado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Matuschek (below) is the President of the Engles Group. She is based out of Denver, Colorado. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Aurzada, JD, CPL (below) is a partner at Tyson, Gurney and Hovey, LLC  in Denver, Colorado.

 

Please join us in welcoming these six individuals to the Kempe Foundation board of directors. We look forward to working together to advance our mission of keeping all children safe and healthy.

Updates from Under the Gold Dome: End of 2021 Session

The 2021 legislative session wrapped up work on June 8, about a month later than the typical Sine Die adjournment date. This delay was due to the legislative recess taken from mid-January to February to ensure lawmakers and their staff could be vaccinated. There were 678 bills and resolutions introduced, 502 bills passed, and as of June 24, 326 bills have been signed by the Governor, who has exercised one veto. As The Kempe Foundation looks back on the session’s accomplishments, we’d like to thank our legislators for their tireless efforts in representing the people of Colorado and the many stakeholders and agencies that play an important role in the legislative process.

BUDGET

A combination of factors led to the state having significant revenue above expectations. State revenue came in well above the economic forecast and federal legislation brought in $3.8 billion in relief funds to the state government. This session, the legislature was able to restore the budget cuts made in 2020, provide additional funding to core areas of the budget, prepay future state obligations, and increase the end of year reserves to a historic level. Kempe programs including the CARE Network, Child Welfare Training System and SafeCare received full funding for FY 2021 – 2022.

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST 

The mental and behavioral health of our children and youth is a high priority in Colorado. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought Colorado to an inflection point in the care and well-being of our children and youth. They’ve suffered disproportionately from lockdowns, closed schools and general isolation. The trauma children and youth are experiencing is certain to have major, short- and long-term damaging impacts for them individually and for our communities, state and country.

We are already seeing negative impacts on our children and youth. The last week in May, Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) declared a state of emergency for pediatric mental health as suicide attempts rise. The hospital is seeing three to four kids a week who have tried to kill themselves. The top overall reason children arrive in the emergency department is a suicide attempt. CHCO also reported that mental health emergency visits were up 90% in April 2021 compared to April 2019.

The crisis for our children and youth is not just a recent development because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado Public Radio News in September 2019 reported on a study by the United Health Foundation that Colorado’s teen suicide rate increased 58% from 2016 to 2019. That increase was more than twice that of any other state.

The protection and well-being of Colorado’s children and youth were high priorities in the 2021 legislative session. The following bills were passed and signed by the Governor or awaiting his signature.

Behavioral Health

  • HB 1258: Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth
  • SB 154: Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network
  • HB 1097: Behavioral Health Administration
  • SB 137: Behavioral Health Recovery Act
  • HB 1317: Cannabis Concentrate Regulation

Early Childhood

  • HB 1304: Early Childhood Department and Systems

Child Welfare

  • HB 1248: Colorado Children’s Trust Fund Act
  • HB 1272: Supporting the Child Protection Ombudsman
  • HB 1099: Policies and Procedures to Identify Domestic Abuse

LOOKING AHEAD

Several legislative committees will meet prior to the 2022 session including an interim committee on school finance, a task force to recommend policies to spend federal stimulus dollars that provide economic relief and stimulate the economy, the Legislative Oversight Committee on Tax Policy, and two working groups on higher education issues.

The Kempe Foundation will be actively engaged over the summer and fall in agency and stakeholder work groups and interim committees addressing the forming of the Behavioral Health Administration, domestic violence taskforce, Colorado Children’s Trust Fund, Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth, forming of an Early Childhood Agency, and research and education related to THC potency in marijuana concentrates. We also have been approached by certain legislators to work with them on exploring legislation for next session regarding concerns they have about the protection and well-being of children and supports for families.

We will continue to provide important policy updates as we approach the 2022 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.

 

Kempe’s Response to the ‘State of Emergency’ for Youth Mental Health

On May 25th, for the first time in its 117-year history, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “State of Emergency” for youth mental health. This declaration comes following the release of staggering statistics revealing a 90% increase in youth mental health emergency visits between April 2019 and April 2021.

These statistics give us a glimpse into the pandemic’s frightening impact on young people’s mental health. For the past two years, a persistent level of uncertainty and stress has impacted children and families across Colorado. The ability to feel productive and connected to the community has a significant impact on our emotional health. During the pandemic, these key components of mental health were taken away from us.

The pandemic exacerbated frustrations and anxieties in homes where these emotions were already high. Stressful conditions in conjunction with a marked increase in substance use has put Colorado’s children at risk. During times like these, the work of the Kempe Center is particularly salient.

The experts at the Kempe Center are uniquely positioned to address the urgent needs of this moment. The Kempe Center sits at the intersection of in-the-moment crisis response and building systems to intervene and prevent child abuse and neglect from happening. The traumatic effects of the pandemic are only starting to become evident. In order to support children and families across the state, medical providers, childcare facilities and schools must be prepared to respond to the signs and symptoms of trauma.

Long before we learned of COVID-19, the Kempe Foundation focused on funding work that interrupts the risks surrounding a child linked to childhood trauma. Our Kempe Center experts continue to develop and implement programs that prioritize a more holistic approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of children and families.

Here are some of the ways Kempe Center programs are responding to the State of Emergency for youth mental health:

Serving as an online and in-person resource center

Kempe works to connect youth, teens, families, medical and child welfare professionals, schools, and community partners to resources, tools, and best practices to prevent and treat child abuse, neglect, and trauma.  In addition to services provided by Kempe programs, the Center also provides information on how to access a variety of available community resources when abuse or neglect is suspected:

Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice Program (TRIP)

Led by Dr. Evelin Gomez, TRIP’s trauma-informed practice team provides training, coaching and consultation for educators and childcare professionals. These trainings are designed to increase capacity for childcare professionals in schools and care facilities to identify signs and symptoms of trauma and promote healing for children. As children return to school after a difficult year, equipping teachers and educators with this information is an important step to ensure student safety and success.

Stress, Trauma, Adversity Research, and Treatment (START) Center

The START Center is dedicated to providing optimal treatment for people of all ages suffering from the effects of loss, trauma, chronic stress and adversity. Kempe’s partnership with the START Center has played a key role in bringing mental health services to children and families who participate in Kempe Center programs. Throughout the pandemic, the START Center has seen a substantial increase in the number of practitioners and therapists needed to meet the needs of children experiencing multiple traumas – including COVID.

Child Abuse Response and Evaluation (CARE) Network

The Kempe Center was intentional about including behavioral health providers in the second group of trainees for the CARE Network. Accordingly, their training included the impact of the current COVID crisis. By having these conversations with our healthcare providers across the state, we are growing the community of healthcare professionals who can be a valuable resource when signs and symptoms of abuse, neglect and trauma are identified.

As we continue to witness the pandemic’s effects on youth mental health across the state, it is essential that we support the work of the Kempe Center. Experts at the Kempe Center are national leaders in research efforts to evaluate prevention and treatment programs that achieve measurable outcomes for the safety, health and well-being of children and their families. As is evident through Children’s Hospital Colorado’s state of emergency declaration, this work is particularly important today and needs immediate attention, as well as continued financial support.

When you donate to Kempe, you support our work to provide critical funding and support for doctors, social workers, researchers, trainers, policy teams and other professionals working every day to keep children safe and healthy. Click here to donate today.

To get in touch with the Foundation, contact Jon Kruljac, CEO at kruljac.jon@kempe.org. For more information about the Kempe Center, contact Mary Gangel, Marketing & Communications Manager at mary.gangel@childrenscolorado.org.

For the past 49 years, Kempe has promoted understanding, knowledge and best practices to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect locally, nationally and internationally. In 2022, the Kempe Center will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Learn more about the history of the Kempe Center and Kempe Foundation here.

Updates from Under the Gold Dome: May 2021

As of May 20, 2021

The 2021 legislative session is making progress in the Colorado Capitol! Throughout this legislative session, the Kempe Foundation has been active in advancing child focused policies and advocating for funding for Kempe Center programs.

Below is an update on the status of our legislative priorities:

SECURING FUNDING FOR KEMPE PROGRAMS 

On May 18th, after approval from both chambers of the legislature, Governor Polis signed the FY 2021-2022 Budget into law. The Kempe team has been following this bill closely, and we are pleased to share some great news for Kempe Center programs!

Within the FY 2021-2022 Budget, the Governor has recommended restoring last year’s $300,000 cut for the CARE Network compensation. After deliberation, the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) approved the full funding of the CARE Network, which means total funding for the CARE Network is $911,776 within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment budget. The Child Welfare Training System also received the full request of $6,797,102 within the Division of Child Welfare budget. In the Office of Early Childhood, the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Services received $8,182,206, of which SafeCare receives approximately $500,000.

As the Budget worked its way through the Senate and House, various amendments were added by legislators. The Kempe Foundation supported one amendment which added $1 million from the General Fund to the Tony Grampsas Youth Services program (TGYS). The Kempe Center’s Fostering Healthy Futures program received a significant grant from TGYS last year. During the JBC Conference Committee, this $1 million amendment for the TGYS funding was reduced to $250,000 because TGYS is going to receive an additional $800,000 from the tobacco master settlement program.

In addition to the TGYS amendment, the following amendments of interest were added in both the House and the Senate:

  • $5 million General Fund for the Domestic Abuse Program
  • $2 million General Fund for School Bullying Prevention and Education Cash Fund
  • $2 million General Fund for School-based Health Centers to provide mental health screenings for students
  • $1 million Marijuana Tax Cash Fund for the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment Training Program
  • $500,000 General Fund for the Suicide Prevention program

The Kempe Foundation appreciates the continued effort of the Colorado legislature and Governor to ensure the protection and well-being of Colorado’s children. In the final weeks of the legislative session, we remain committed to working with our partners at the Capitol to advance child-focused policies for Colorado’s children and families.

2021 is a critical year for us to build capacity in the state budget for programs that are demonstrated to work. We will continue to provide important policy updates throughout the 2021 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.