Head Start-Trauma Smart Program Expands

Mitigates the effects of exposure to traumatic events for children ages 3 to 5 in the Kansas City area

Dates of Project: July 2010 through June 2013

Description: Head Start-Trauma Smart, a program of the Crittenton Children’s Center in Kansas City, Mo., works with preschool children at Head Start programs in the Kansas City area to mitigate the current and long-term effects of exposure to traumatic events such as violence, child abuse, incarceration or sudden death of a parent, and alcohol and drug abuse. The program includes staff and parent training, intensive individual therapy for particularly affected children, and in-classroom skill-building and coaching for teachers.

Key Findings

  • Caregivers reported a high incidence of children’s exposure to traumatic events, with 74 percent reporting at least one event and 45 percent reporting three or more events.

  • The most commonly reported events included:

    • Having a family member put in jail or prison or taken away by the police: 41 percent
    • Being completely separated from parent(s) for an extended period through foster care, a parent living far apart, or never again seeing the parent: 32 percent.
  • Children who received individual treatment showed statistically significant improvements in four areas important for school readiness and academic performance: attention problems, attention deficit/hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, and oppositional defiance.

  • Parents also reported statistically significant improvements for children receiving individual treatment in:

    • Externalizing problems and attention/hyperactivity problems
    • Internalizing problems, such as depression and anxiety
  • After training programs, multiple categories of classroom relationships studied improved over time. For example:

    • Positive classroom climate increased and negative climate decreased over the three years.
    • Teacher sensitivity improved.
    • Respect for student perspective increased.
    • Classroom productivity increased.

“We’ve really improved individuals’ daily relationships and functioning by helping them develop skills that address stress and trauma. We see them develop coping skills that we believe will last a lifetime.”—Avis Smith, Project Director

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Traumatized children improved attention & reduced depression/anxiety/aggression thru #HeadStartTraumaSmart.