Advocacy and Trauma-Informed Schools
Posted on September 22, 2017
The idea of trauma-informed schools is a new one and not on most educator’s radar. It is all our responsibilities to change this situation. If you agree with me that schools are in a unique position in our communities to help children and families struggling with trauma, let’s do something that will save lives and enact “upstream” interventions that could eventually make things like building new prisons, homeless shelters, residential child welfare facilities, and other high-level interventions unnecessary.
Imagine a country that valued its children enough to rally resource around every circumstance of homelessness, extreme poverty, abuse, and ensure that families have all the support they need to create safe environments for every child. Trauma-informed schools provide us an opportunity to address the effects of trauma before they become struggles that lead to involvement in lives dominated by pain, economic struggles, and involvement in the justice systems. We know that getting a child affected by trauma the resources and support they need as early as possible is critical in the healing process and no place is better positioned to provide these resources than schools.
The challenge of creating trauma-informed schools will require communities and our country to rethink how we fund and think about schools. The time to advocate for these changes will come in the next several years. Right now, there is a lack of knowledge that we can address by our expertise on trauma and inject much-needed energy into a transformational process.
As someone with knowledge about trauma, I see it as my duty to spread this knowledge as far and wide as possible. I use the analogy of throwing seeds to help me understand my role and deal with my occasional frustration that our systems are still failing so many people in our communities. Whenever I get an opportunity, I throw out seeds into a community through my trainings and advocacy. I know that many of these seeds will land on tough and difficult soil where they might not have the opportunity to grow and create change.
However, I also know that most of the seeds fall on fertile ground. Sometimes the seed grows to help a professional in their direct work with clients, patients, and students. Other times, it hits well-fertilized soil and an individual or group takes the knowledge and uses it to begin transforming their community. I strive hard to provide the best seeds possible, some let me help the seeds grow, giving water and sunshine through coaching and capacity building, but I know every seed I throw might, eventually, grow into something beautiful and transformative.
Here is my challenge to this community.
Most everyone reading this is connected to a school through kids, grandchildren, or community connections. Utilize your simplest connection, this might be a teacher, principal, or school board member, and see if you can schedule a ten-minute meeting. Prepare a quick and personal introduction to your experience with trauma-informed work and how you see it is critical to schools. Leave your contact with this resource (http://massadvocates.org/publications-category/tlpi/). It is an amazing free book that is equal parts science and practical approaches.
Do this small thing and you planted a seed. Many might put the resource up on a shelf and never read it again, but they heard the term trauma-informed schools and next time they hear of it they will likely be closer to action. Others will read the material and make some meaningful changes in their classroom or schools or seek out more training. A few will see the life-saving power of the material and become transformation leaders in their community and their field.
We have 2,223 followers on the blog. If each and every one of us reached out to just one educator, we could speed up the national adoption of trauma-informed schools dramatically. You might never know the results of your actions, but just ten-minutes could save lives and provide hope for so many kids struggling under the traditional education system.