As explained in my previous posts, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are detrimental to juvenile development and have lasting affects that shape adult behavior. Therefore, the subsection of youth in the foster care system is vulnerable to the detrimental affects of ACEs and should be afforded additional care and services.
But since ACEs seem to be
fairly pervasive, how do we determine who has ACEs and how many they have?
Implementation of a Universal Form of ACE Testing:
Part of what drove me to law school was a desire to leave the teaching profession. I left undergrad in 2008 and had been working with kids ever since. What I learned very quickly was that many of the youth I worked with had needs that I could never meet. The needs they had were not just educational. Many of the times they had emotional needs that I did not know how to handle. I cared SO much and yet felt so helpless.
For my research this semester, I focused on youth in the foster care system as well as foster-adjacent youth because they ALL deal with some type of trauma. These youth have behavioral issues inside the classroom as a result of trauma from childhood (see my first post for more on how trauma directly impacts a youth’s education). The educational data is shocking. Youth in foster care are severely behind in reading, writing, math, and graduating from high school (for more on this, please see my second post). Most recently, I looked at what I thought were the 6 most common barriers that schools (teachers in particular) face when confronted with a student with trauma (post three).
All of this research has led me to this final stage. How can schools effectively address the educational and emotional needs of youth with trauma? In this paper, I will discuss the various ways that schools can overcome the barriers I mentioned in my third post by examining how and why schools need to become “trauma-informed”, provide extracurricular activities, provide more counselors and reduce class sizes.
Sets the expectation for coordinated services at the local level for youth who require services from multiple agencies through formalized Memorandums of Understanding.
Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish a joint inter-agency resolution team at the State level with certain responsibilities, including but not limited to, providing technical assistance to county agencies to establish local MOUs, and link youth to needed services.
Requires the interagency team to review the availability of appropriate placements (from family homes to congregate care) that are trained and/or supported to provide trauma-informed care to foster youth and make recommendations to the Legislature for improvements in this area.
Requires the interagency team to consult with stakeholders, including practitioners, to develop a plan to increase the availability of trauma-informed services to youth in care.
All of these things are great and a step in the right direction, but what if there were state-wide Memoranda of Understanding that each county agreed upon that addressed the needs of families before children are removed and placed in foster care? Why are there not interagency teams established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to link parents to drug treatment programs, housing opportunities, child care and job training so that families have the tools to create healthy environments for themselves and their children?
In the past 20 years, doctors and public
healthcare professionals have uncovered a clear link between poor adult health
and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). According to the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are “stressful or traumatic events,
including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such
as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have
substance abuse disorders.” ACEs not only lead to early morbidity, but they
also have been found to promote participation in maladaptive, “high-risk,”
In the United States, adults who have
experienced 6 or more ACEs during their childhood are 24.36 times more likely
to attempt suicide than a person without ACEs. According to the 2017
article from the International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect,
not only are adults with high ACE scores likely to attempt suicide, but they
are also 3.73 times more likely to use illegal drugs, 2.84 times more likely to
engage in heavy alcohol use, and 2.73 times more likely to suffer from
Unfortunately, adults who suffer from drug
addictions and alcohol abuse are not less likely to have children than their
peers. Instead, they become families with adult caregivers who suffer from drug
and alcohol addictions. At a certain point, when the substance abuse is unmanageable,
law enforcement and Child Protective Services will intervene in the best
interest of the child. If the parent is unable to cure their addiction, their
child will join nearly 52,000
other youth who are in California’s Foster Care System.
In an attempt to reduce placement instability and promote the child’s well-being researchers and people involved in foster care have begun to move toward an approach of trauma-informed care. In this post, I will explain why California should use the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AEC) Trauma Systems Therapy for Foster Care curriculum to implement a standardized system of trauma training throughout the child welfare system. I will do this by examining recent actions by the California legislature and demonstrating why using the AEC materials is the best approach we currently have available.
My first paper introduced the strong impact that trauma has on kids’ ability to learn in school. I then explored the disheartening educational data surrounding our youth in foster care in my second paper. So, if we know that trauma affects learning, and youth in foster care are exposed to various levels of trauma and are therefore not performing well in traditional public schools, what are the barriers that prevent teachers and other school staff from being able to effectively teach youth with trauma?