Addressing Trauma Among School-Aged Children

Posted in: News

Posted on August 30, 2023

In 2018, CUNY ISLG and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII), awarded the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation a grant to implement Margaret’s Place in Communities Impacted by Trauma-Exposed Youth (“Margaret’s Place”) between 2018 and 2021. This model consisted of an expansion of Joe Torre’s existing program model by integrating parents and the local community. Margaret’s Place was implemented in two public schools located in Washington Heights: JHS 143 (grades 6-8) and The College Academy (grades 9-12).

Margaret’s Place aims to raise awareness about experiences of trauma and violence among youth and provide direct interventions for those impacted, with particular attention to the many types of violence (e.g., home, community, and dating) experienced by young people. The program seeks to decrease trauma symptoms, develop healthy coping skills, build resilience, empower students to speak up against violence, and reduce exposure to violence in the community.

CJII funded the Center for Justice Innovation to evaluate Margaret’s Place to document program implementation, including adaptations during the COVID-19 pandemic and its perceived impact. This report presents findings from the process evaluation of Margaret’s Place that was conducted between 2019 and 2021, identifying key findings related to program implementation and perceived impact based on this evaluation. It also lays out key recommendations for the program and for those seeking to implement similar programs, such as:

  • Develop a clear program model. The program model should articulate its goals and objectives, clear focus areas, and how resources and activities are designed to reach such goals.
  • Develop strategies to address implementation barriers. Address implementation challenges by ensuring that schools are “implementation ready” or have the necessary structures, buy-in, and resources to ensure that the program can be successfully implemented. Readiness inventories or checklists can help to move programs in this direction.
  • Address schoolwide structures (e.g., policies) and practices (e.g., disciplinary approaches). Certain school structures and practices can inadvertently create stressful or toxic environments for students. Toward this end, Margaret’s place staff training can be further developed to guide school staff on how to alleviate school stressors that can be retraumatizing to students.
  • Use a validated instrument to screen for trauma. Margaret’s Place should utilize a validated screening tool that can help to identify students presenting with trauma and that also assesses symptomology. The use of a validated instrument will ensure that individuals presenting with a specific condition, in this case trauma, are correctly identified and will also help to inform treatment.

For more recommendations – as well as key findings related to program implementation and perceived impact, see the full report below. See CUNY ISLG’s blog for a high-level overview of the program’s impact on students as well as a look at how the program used research and evaluation findings to strengthen services.

Download the full final evaluation here.

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