This story is part of an EdSurge Research series about the early childhood education workforce.
HAMILTON, Ohio — Suzanne Prescott first noticed the changes in children’s behaviors in 2015
"She was fielding reports of kids knocking over bookshelves, tables and chairs; hitting their classmates; and causing physical harm to themselves and their teachers. Not only were more 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds having outbursts, they were doing so with an intensity Prescott had never before seen. In some cases, staff had to evacuate entire classrooms to ensure the safety of the other children in their care.
Prescott oversees 18 Head Start preschool programs across two Ohio counties sandwiched between Dayton and Cincinnati. She recalls that when she got the job in 2011 as director of early childhood programs for the Butler County Educational Service Center, which encompasses Butler and Preble counties, “It was usually a couple of classrooms that we’d be like, ‘Whoa, this is really chaotic.’ I would get that call maybe two or three times a year.”
But in recent years, as the opioid crisis has transformed homes and communities across Ohio—overdose death rates in the state are up 300 percent since 2009—those calls have skyrocketed in number. Prescott says that every year for the last few years, she’s seen an average of two, sometimes three, children with significant behavioral challenges in each of the 40 Head Start classrooms under her purview.
She attributes this shift to the onslaught of the opioid epidemic, adding that “we saw behaviors in every single classroom we had.”
These challenges hit her staff hard. But fortunately, they had a playbook to pull from. A few miles down the road is the therapeutic interagency preschool (TIP), a 30-year-old program designed for children who have experienced severe trauma and face significant behavioral and developmental challenges as a result......."
By: Emily Tate