“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
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.
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.
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- Toxic Stress and the Development of Young Children October 15, 2014
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- Shielding Young Brains from the Effects of Toxic Stress November 13, 2013
- New Directions in Refugee Youth Mental Health Services February 1, 2011
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