In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Starr Commonwealth has donated more than 25,000 downloads of an online education course to support teaching trauma-informed care protocols to K-12 educators around the country.
From its headquarters in Albion, Michigan, the nonprofit has reached teachers in public, private and parochial schools in all 50 states and 63 countries since making its “Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools” available for free. This foundational course teaches school professionals how to identify, understand and respond to trauma in children by building resilience, offering proactive strategies such as fostering connections, prioritizing social and emotional skills, establishing safety and promoting play.
Education Week estimates more than 30 million children are now out of school for the foreseeable future as school districts across the country work to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Parents, grandparents and child care professionals are finding themselves dealing with their own doubts, fears and anxieties while trying to support and comfort the children in their care.
“During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to support teachers and other caring adults with tools they can use,” said Starr Commonwealth Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Caelan Soma. “We may have countless children who are impacted traumatically by this pandemic so having resources available for the adults in their lives is critical. We need to answer not just the ‘why’ but also the ‘how’ to create the best classroom and school supports possible for traumatized students and the school professionals who serve them.
“At Starr Commonwealth, we have more than a century of experience working to heal trauma and to build resilience in kids and adolescents, as well as training the professionals who serve them. We are delighted so many educators have turned to us for support.”
Trauma-informed care acknowledges that virtually anyone – children included – can experience trauma or toxic stress in their lives. When triggered, this trauma can have devastating results for that person and those around them. When a child “misbehaves” or acts in ways perceived as inappropriate, they may be experiencing symptoms related to trauma and partly or wholly unable to explain or control their actions.
To employ a resilience-focused mindset requires a teacher or practitioner abandon traditional forms of discipline and instead recognize kids need to heal, grow and belong in the embrace of an environment shaped by understanding and acceptance to thrive emotionally.
“Our ultimate mission is to get everyone who cares for children to be trauma-informed and resilience-focused,” explained Elizabeth Carey, president and CEO for Starr Commonwealth. “As we watched COVID-19 sweep across our country, we realized educators needed the tools we offered more than ever, so we made this first course available free of charge. Having an understanding on how trauma affects kids and adolescents is critical now more than ever as we prepare for uncertainty and hope for a return to normalcy.
“We were truly overwhelmed by this response. We view ourselves as the experts and industry leader, but we didn’t think so many people would take advantage of this offer. It reinvigorates everything we are doing and cements why this work is so vital.”
Unlike other agencies that focus on trauma and resilience, Starr Commonwealth offers tangible tools for teachers, social workers, healthcare professionals and others on the front line of working with children. Starr provides a wide array of services. From prevention and intervention to enrichment and residential treatment, all programs are designed to help children heal in order to flourish.
Through its training and coaching programs, childcare professionals, clinicians, educators and parents have access to Starr’s highly successful and innovative techniques aimed at bringing out the best in every child, parent and community. Many of its classes are available online. For more information, visit www.starr.org.