Topic: Child Abuse Experts

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 CARE Network Expands its Impact Across Colorado

Since 2020, the Kempe Center’s Child Abuse Response and Evaluation (CARE) Network has undergone substantial growth. The CARE Network engages health care and behavioral health providers – pediatricians, family doctors, school nurses and more – with the best education and training on conducting medical exams and behavioral health assessments to identify signs and risks of child maltreatment or trauma. Established in 2019 to address a lack of access to expert evaluations in cities and towns across the state, the CARE Network continues to increase capacity and ensure quality care for Colorado’s children and families.

The inaugural group of providers, comprised of 30 medical professionals, received their first CARE Network training in May 2020. One of these providers is Dr. Mary Vader, DO, a pediatrician in Montrose, Colorado. Dr. Vader had a very strong relationship with the Kempe Center for many years before she was invited to join the CARE Network.

“I’m always interested in learning more about health and getting advice to bring back to my own practice,” said Dr. Vader. “I was excited to get involved.”

CARE Network providers meet annually to connect with the Kempe Center and participate in a training that incorporates the newest research on evaluating child abuse and neglect. The Kempe Center also regularly surveys CARE Network providers to understand their needs and adapt the training to provide the most relevant resources. In a survey distributed to the first cohort, many providers expressed an interest in increasing their behavioral health training.

“Behavioral health is definitely one of my weaker areas,” Dr. Vader said. “When I was studying years ago, pediatricians didn’t talk much about the social determinants of health.”

Though Dr. Vader has a behavioral health specialist at her practice, she was eager to broaden her knowledge. On April 29, 2021, the second annual CARE Network provider training focused on addressing this gap.

The second group of CARE Network providers received their first training May 2-3, 2021. Like the first cohort, this group of providers are located in cities and towns across the state. Unlike their predecessors, this group includes 17 behavioral health providers in additional to 20 medical providers. This cohort will join the Network with Dr. Vader and her colleagues this coming July for a follow up training.

Dr. Vader is thrilled to witness the expansion of the CARE Network’s expertise and resources. She is hopeful for the impact it will have in the state.

“One of the components of the CARE Network that I think new providers will find most useful is the mentorship that it provides. You feel like you are part of a community that’s doing the same thing you’re doing. It’s empowering,” said Dr. Vader.

As the CARE Network continues to grow, they are actively seeking to partner with community organizations and agencies across the state. These partnerships will allow the Kempe Center to create a broad field of health care and behavioral health professionals which will become an integral part of the safety net for children in Colorado.

“When we don’t have the resources, we go to the Kempe Center,” said Dr. Vader. “We can send over a report and get pretty instant expert feedback. We’re so far away from these accessing these resources in person, but the CARE Network makes it so much easier.”

By supporting The Kempe Foundation, you allow Kempe Professionals to continue forming partnerships and expanding their reach to benefit more children and families in Colorado. Click here to get involved today.

Elevating Expert Voices During Child Abuse Prevention Month 

During Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Kempe Foundation joins organizations across the country to share stories and strategies of child abuse and neglect prevention. This month is a meaningful opportunity for all of us to engage in conversations with experts, policy makers and community members about how we can work together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect. To elevate these important conversations, the Foundation connected with our Kempe Center experts to hear about their work and what Child Abuse Prevention Month means to them.

Rashaan Ford, MD – Child Abuse Pediatrician with the Kempe Center’s Child Protection Team 

The Foundation sat down with Rashaan Ford, MD to learn about the Kempe Center’s Child Protection Team. Ford serves as a pediatrician on the Child Protection Team, a multidisciplinary group that provides assessment and evaluation for children and families where there are concerns about maltreatment, abuse or neglect. 

Learn more about Dr. Ford’s work and the Child Protection Team below.

Dr. Kathi Wells on Child Abuse Prevention Month 

The Kempe Center‘s Executive Director Dr. Kathi Wells highlights a challenging year and for families. Dr. Wells emphasizes the importance of this work saying, “Kempe’s mission of strengthening families, communities and the systems that serve them is more vital now than ever.” 

As Dr. Wells says in the video above, “At Kempe, every month is Child Abuse Prevention Month.” Learn more about how you can continue participating in Child Abuse Prevention Month with the Kempe Foundation here.

 

An Update on Fostering Healthy Futures

 

For nearly two decades, Heather Taussig, PhD and her colleagues have produced promising results through the Kempe Center’s Fostering Healthy Futures program. Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) is a positive youth development program that employs 1:1 mentoring, and group-based skills training to promote healthy youth development and reduce trauma-related symptoms and behaviors among youths facing adversity. Since the program’s launch, it has consistently progressed and promoted positive outcomes for children and teens in Colorado and beyond.

As the FHF program continues to evolve, we are optimistic about the new partnerships and funding sources that will bring more opportunities for its expansion. We recently connected with Jessica Corvinus, Director of Dissemination for the FHF program, to learn more about what’s ahead.

New Partnerships

For years, the Fostering Healthy Futures program has been a service provided directly through the Kempe Center. In order to expand the program’s reach to include more children, youth and families, FHF has shifted their focus to training, implementation and dissemination. 

In this growth phase, it is important that FHF is intentional about the organizations they select to be the stewards of the program. In order to identify sites that would execute this program successfully, the Kempe Center performs a readiness assessment on each prospective organization. This assessment accounts for the organization’s values, capacity and potential to successfully run and sustain the FHF program. 

Most recently, FHF has partnered with Colorado-based social services organizations Lutheran Family Services and Adoption Options. After being evaluated through FHF’s readiness assessment, these organizations were selected due to their enthusiasm, commitment and ability to successfully run the program. Following training from the FHF team, Lutheran Family Services and Adoption Options will begin implementing the program in the fall of 2021. 

Increased Funding

To ensure that new organizations are successful in their implementation of FHF, the Kempe Foundation has secured program funding from a variety of sources. One of these funding sources is the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program Grant (TGYS) through the Colorado Department of Human Services. This statutory program provides funding through grants to local organizations for prevention, intervention and education programs to youth and their families. The TGYS grant will fund the implementation of FHF at Lutheran Family Services and Adoption Options in the fall, as well as support FHF staff through these training and dissemination efforts. 

In addition to the TGYS grant, FHF is hopeful that they will qualify for funding through the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). In order to qualify for this funding, FHF had to receive a certain rating from the Title IV- E Prevention Services Clearinghouse – a rating system specifically designed for FFPSA. 

A program is rated on the quality of the program design and the outcomes of their studies and is reimbursed if they fit into the top two tiers of the rating system. The ratings include well-supported, supported, promising and does not meet criteria. Because the FHF Preteen program conducted two randomized controlled trials with demonstrated short- and long-term effects, it has been awarded a rating of well-supported, which should allow it to qualify for funding through FFPSA.

Looking Ahead

As we look to the future, we are hopeful that FHF will continue to expand to serve more children, youth and families across the country. In order to make this happen, FHF will need to build out a research and dissemination infrastructure to guarantee stable, successful growth. The Kempe Foundation is committed to supporting the Kempe Center as they advance this work. As the potential for more federal funding comes through FFPSA, it is incumbent upon the Foundation to raise money for FHF and the Kempe Center so that we can continue to provide youth with access to positive, empowering, and growth-promoting programming.

An Update on Kempe’s Trauma-Responsive Implementation & Practice Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought persistent anxiety to Colorado’s children and families. In uncertain times like these, trauma-informed care is crucial. The Kempe Center has made great strides in training and implementing this necessary care through the Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice (TRIP) Program, led by Dr. Evelin Gomez. This program fosters healthy, safe and responsive environments in children, youth and family serving systems across the state. Over the past few months, TRIP has made some notable progress. The Kempe Foundation is pleased to highlight some of this progress below:

Colorado Cross-Systems Training Institute
In collaboration with the Office of Behavioral Health, The Kempe Center is implementing trauma-responsive trainings for the Colorado Cross-Systems Training Institute (CSTI). Using the TRIP model, Kempe professionals developed trauma-responsive content and coaching for CSTI’s wide-reaching audience. These instructor-led (currently virtual) and self-paced web-based trainings are targeted to all professionals who work alongside children. This spring, they will provide training and coaching for school professionals on the Trauma-Responsive Schools Theory of Change Toolkit they co-authored.

NCTSN Breakthrough Collaborative
On a national level, Kempe professionals participated in an 18-month collaborative led by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). This collaborative was a call to educators around the country to keep children in the classroom. Research revealed that referrals, the term used for sending children to the principal’s office, are not a trauma-informed practice. Kemper Elementary School, located in the Montezuma Cortez School District, was enthusiastic about joining this collaborative with the Kempe Center. Kempe provided coaching, consultation and training to the school’s staff on how to implement trauma-informed care into their discipline. When these trauma-informed, individualized strategies were put into place, the school’s referrals decreased by 80%.

Aurora Public Schools
Many schools have behavioral intervention plans (BIP) and functional behavioral analysis (FBA) approaches that aren’t fully trauma-responsive and culturally informed. To improve their practices, Aurora Public Schools invited Kempe professionals to direct a workgroup to overhaul their BIP and FBA systems. The intent is to implement strategies and procedures to focus on regulation and be more individualized, culturally responsive, and cognizant of students’ trauma backgrounds and triggers.

Rite of Passage
Rite of Passage is a nationwide network of residential treatment centers which provides programs that empower youth and families to succeed. The specific center, based out of Arizona center, serves as a home and school for children who have lived through adverse experiences. After doing an assessment of the organization’s needs, Kempe’s professionals recommended training everyone, from educators to case workers to cafeteria staff, on trauma-informed care. In order to make sure this education was thorough and sustained, Kempe trained managers, directors, and supervisors to provide ongoing trainings to staff and new hires.

Challenges for Future
Looking to the future, there are a few key challenges that Kempe professionals acknowledge. Implementing trauma-informed care requires organizational policy change. Without support from legislators, organizations don’t have the funds to support this work on their own. Further, there is much work to be done on identifying metrics and best practices for evaluation of trauma informed approaches, implementation and dissemination. To ensure that Kempe is able to address these challenges and continue this work, please consider donating to The Kempe Foundation. Your donation will go towards pushing child-focused policies forward, implementing trauma-informed care, and creating a better future for Colorado’s children and families.