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.
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?
As I mentioned in my introductory blog post, in my former years as a teacher, I found myself frustrated at times with not knowing how to teach students that came to me with heavy educational and emotional needs. For example, take the following experience that I had as a teacher working with pre-teens:
I was preparing my class of 32 sixth graders for the next 50 minutes of class when Javier* walked in late with his hood on. He went to his desk and sat down quietly. I walked over to talk to him in hopes of catching him up on what he just missed. Within 5 seconds, I realized Javier had no interest in what I was saying. So, I told him I was going to give him a few minutes to wake up and that I’d be back. No more than 10 seconds after walking away, Javier was engaged in a conversation with the 3 other kids in his group. Their conversation had nothing to do with the assignment the rest of the class was working on, so I went over and quietly talked to him while his group members continued working. Javier grew irritated with me because I wasn’t going to allow him to just sit there and do nothing and distract other students from the task. I left Javier alone again thinking maybe he would calm down and get himself on task without me hovering over him. Next thing I know, Javier was cussing out another student. As per school policy, I had to write a discipline referral** for him and send him to the office with work to do (which I knew wasn’t going to get done).
Certain similarities exist between the children and youth in the foster care system and those in the criminal justice system. Often these youths are in unstable housing, have parents who might have substanceabuse or domestic violence issues, have difficulties in finishing a highschool education and behavioral issues while in school. In addition, they are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system as adults and not have as much stability as compared to the general population. This comparison is not to conflate the two populations, but to explore and analyze the different treatment between them. Foster youth receive certain benefits during their time in the system that are not afforded to children in the criminal justice system. My research would explore the differences in treatment between the two populations, why there is a difference, and hopefully generate some policy suggestions to create better outcomes and safer communities. My thought from the outset is if youth in the criminal justice system were given some of the benefits and/or services afforded to foster youth, they might have better outcomes than there are now. The benefits to this approach would hopefully be better experiences for youth growing up in turbulent environments, taxpayers wouldn’t have to spend as much on incarceration, and society as a whole would be safer and better to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
My name is Pedro Naveiras and I am a second-year law student at Santa Clara University. Prior to law school I worked in education and local government, but I went to law school knowing I wanted to be a prosecutor. I attended CSU Bakersfield studying Philosophy and Political Science. I worked for the Kern County District Attorney’s Office last summer and will be clerking at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office this summer. I look forward to learning more about the approaches and taking this knowledge to whatever District Attorney’s office I end up working at.
For any child, it is traumatic to watch as law enforcement officers arrest and remove a parent from the home. However, law enforcement intervention is usually an indication of something much more alarming: criminal acts in the home. Those activities, like substance abuse and domestic violence that often become criminal, are additional ACE experiences that will effect the child. Foster youth experience parental incarceration at rates that surpass their peers. 40% of children in the foster care system have experienced the ACE of parental incarceration The Health Resources & Service Administration’s 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health ACE study found that within the subsection of youth who had experienced parental incarceration, 90.6% of those children had additional ACE scores. Knowing the detrimental effects of ACEs, we should take use the event of parental incarceration as an opportunity to talk with the child and the incarcerated parent and provide them with mental health services to treat the trauma they have experienced.
My name is Lucy Duran and I am a third-year student at Santa Clara University School of Law. My emphasis is in criminal prosecution. I have a passion for social justice and keeping my community safe. I have served as an intern at the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office and am a volunteer with the Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY) Program in San Mateo County.
I believe that helping children attain resources to provide them with a safe, healthy foundation to flourish is of vital importance to the community. Before starting law school, I worked as a youth volunteer as a teacher. I have taught Sunday School children ages 3-7 for the last 6 years and worked as a Summer camp counselor for two years. Additionally, I served as a youth director for ages 3-18. I’ve had the privilege to work with youth from a variety of backgrounds and it is important to me to try and provide children with the tools to thrive as adults.