Summer is flying by. Our public and private school teachers will soon return to their classrooms to face an impossible challenge. Again. They know that many of their students are coming from families that face huge challenges. Across all socio-economic levels, our students will endure (or have endured) adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma, abuse and neglect. And almost none of these students will ever been seen by Child Protective Services, instead suffering in silence.
This is going to end with your help. We can’t keep acting as though a quarter of our student population are OK going home to trauma.
To that end, I offer the following email you can use as a template to send to all your local school board members and superintendent. Trust me, most of those receiving your email are well aware of ACEs, struggling to find a solution. Your email could be the support they need. Tweak the following email as needed. It’s time to disrupt a status quo that isn’t working for our kids, parents, teachers and just about everybody.
Dear Superintendent and School Board Members:
Our students are facing epidemic rates of childhood trauma—with high financial costs to every level of government, including each school. The emotional costs to our students and their families are immeasurable.
I wanted to share a resource that will be useful: Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment by Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello.
Anna, Age Eight is based on the authors' work within the research department of New Mexico’s Children Youth and Families Department, and their national work developing and implementing data leadership and quality improvement programs for the child welfare systems of New Mexico, New York City and Connecticut.
Anna, Age Eight details the high rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) the students in our schools face, living in households where adults misuse substances, are threatening or violent, have untreated mental health challenges, are abusive emotionally, physically and sexually, are neglectful, are dissolving marriages or are incarcerated. Most ACEs fly under the radar of child protective services and can result in trauma and diminish a person’s capacity to succeed in school and future work.
Just as school districts have policies regarding bullying and harassment prevention, the authors advocate for school boards to create policies that acknowledge how childhood trauma, the result of adverse childhood experiences, impacts the entire school community. School boards are encouraged to develop strategies for prevention and treatment, done in collaboration with their community partners, behavioral health care specialists and city government.
The authors fully understand what a complex issue childhood trauma is, as well funding issues related to creating schools with the capacity to address ACEs. The need is urgent as a quarter of the student population will endure or have endured three or more adverse childhood experiences.
As you well know, the trauma your students experience at home comes to your classrooms every school day. Your teachers must deal as best as they can with the consequences—students who can’t focus, are depressed or afraid, act out or leave school altogether.
I hope Anna, Age Eight serves as a blueprint for preventing adversity, trauma, abuse and neglect. It is time of all of us to be reaching out to leaders on every level of government to create a citywide campaign to end childhood trauma and create resilient, healthy and safe families.
Chapter Six: Trauma's fuel tank: The ongoing crisis in mental health care proposes concrete steps a school board can take to create a school environment where students heal and the focus is on learning.
You may download free of charge the first chapter of Anna, Age Eight at www.AnnaAgeEight.org and you are welcome to share it freely. I can also send you my somewhat dog-eared copy. The authors will send you a free copy. Really. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or insights.
Thank you for all you do.
All the best,