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Trauma-Sensitive Strategies for School Success

Students experiencing homelessness have immediate school needs that range from transportation to supplies. However, many students have additional needs that stem from chronic stress and trauma. Those unique needs must be addressed in order for students to thrive academically and socially. There is much evidence to suggest that taking a trauma-sensitive approach can increase a student's chance at school success. 

Topic Resources

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ACES Too High

In reference to the ACEs study (Adverse Childhood Experiences), this website provides research, articles, and other resources related to childhood trauma and it’s lifelong effect. There is a also an accompanying newsletter if you want to stay up-to-date on the subject.

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Center on the Developing Child

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University aims to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.

Founded in 2006, the Center’s goal is to produce substantially larger impacts on the learning capacity, health, and economic and social mobility of young children.

The website offers many wonderful resources including a series of short info-briefs and videos that are perfect for anyone who wants an introduction to child development and the impact of childhood trauma.

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Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

CASEL is a non-profit organization working to advance the development of academic and social-emotional competence for all students. CASEL provides resources for social-emotional learning (SEL) implementation, policy, and research.

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Guides & Fact Sheets
Communications Guide for McKinney-Vento Liaisons

NYS-TEACHS:
Centering Anti-Racist Approaches to Conversations with Families and Colleagues

McKinney-Vento liaisons are responsible for the identification, enrollment, and the removal of educational barriers for students experiencing homelessness. McKinney-Vento liaisons can create meaningful change in their districts and the lives of students experiencing homelessness by providing internal trainings and connecting students to educational resources and community referrals. Unfortunately, due to systemic racism across many aspects of American life, Black, Latinx, Native American, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities experience homelessness at disproportionate rates compared to white and Asian communities. Systemic racism exists in schools; therefore, it is crucial for McKinney-Vento liaisons to reflect on school protocols and narratives that reinforce racial bias and inequity. Even small intentional changes, such as in our semantics, can have positive effects on family relationships and ultimately, the well-being and success of students. We created this tip sheet to help McKinney-Vento liaisons and other school staff reflect on their own communication styles, race, and how institutional racism impacts students and families.

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Guides & Fact Sheets
Info-Brief: Trauma-Sensitivity and School Success

NYS-TEACHS

Students in temporary housing often face challenges that go beyond everyday stress and cross the line into toxic stress and trauma. This info-brief from NYS-TEACHS illustrates how a trauma-sensitive approach can improve academic outcomes for students in temporary housing.

It offers examples of the negative impact and behavioral manifestations of trauma as well as strategies for countering those negative impacts through a trauma-sensitive approach.

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Guides & Fact Sheets
Matrix of Trauma-Sensitive Strategies for School Success

What does trauma-sensitivity look like in practice? This two-page resource from NYS-TEACHS provides suggested strategies and actions for implementing the three categories of trauma-sensitivity in a school setting:

1. Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

2. Fostering Secure Attachments

3. Strengthening Non-Cognitive Skills.

This is a simple and helpful “how-to” resource for your own reference or to hand out to school/district staff during a trauma-sensitive schools training.

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Guides & Fact Sheets
Meeting the Unique Learning Needs of Students Exposed to Trauma

NYS-TEACHS

If you are new to the concept of trauma-sensitivity or want a deeper understanding of how to implement each of trauma-sensitive strategies outlined in our “Matrix of Trauma-Sensitive Strategies for School Success,” this toolkit can help.

This detailed toolkit from NYS-TEACHS provides suggestions for HOW to apply various trauma-sensitive strategies and WHY they are necessary to improve academic outcomes for students in temporary housing.

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National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE)

NCHE serves as a technical assistance and information center.They provide research, resources, and training for schools and communities addressing the educational needs of children experiencing homelessness.

NCHE also has many resources dedicated to Trauma-Informed Care and Trauma-Sensitivity as it relates to students in temporary housing.

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National Center for Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NSSLE)

NCSSLE provides training and technical assistance on issues related to bullying, harassment, etc. The resources are aimed toward schools, districts, and individuals interested in creating a safe and supportive school environment.

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National Child Traumatic Stress Network

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) offers useful information about what child trauma is and what it can “look like.” The organization is a unique network of frontline providers, family members, researchers, and national partners committed to changing the course of children’s lives.

The NCTSN has grown from 17 funded centers in 2001 to 86 currently funded centers and over 150 Affiliate (formerly funded) centers and individuals in 2017, working in hospitals, universities, and community-based programs in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Even you aren’t a “member” of the network, the website provides many useful resources.

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Research & Reports
Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire: Trauma in the Lives of Homeless Youth Prior to and During Homelessness

This research article examines the negative effect that trauma has on homeless youth. It also makes the case for harm reduction policies rather than “zero tolerance” or punishment.

The article is written by John Coates and Sue McKenzie-Mohr and published in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.

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Research & Reports
Resilience and At-Risk Children and Youth

This 13-page research summary from the National Center for Homeless Education outlines trauma’s impact on a student’s ability to succeed in school. It offers effective approaches for building resilience, coping skills, and healthy relationships in school.

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA leads efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation concentrating primarily on mental health and substance abuse. SAMHSA also focuses on families who have experienced trauma such as homelessness.

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The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI)

The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative’s (TLPI) mission is to ensure that children traumatized by exposure to family violence and other adverse childhood experiences succeed in school.

To accomplish this mission, TLPI engages in a variety of ongoing activities including:

Helping schools create trauma-sensitive environments
Advocating for laws, policies and funding streams that will enable schools to create trauma sensitive learning environments
Improving trauma sensitive approaches to meeting the needs of individual children at school in both regular and special education
Engaging in a public education campaign to teach policymakers, educators, administrators, health and mental health providers and parents about the impact of trauma on learning and the need for trauma sensitive schools.
In particular, we suggest that you look at their 2-volume publication, “Helping Traumatized Children Learn” and the accompanying video, “5 Core Ideas of Helping Traumatized Children Learn“

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Research & Reports
Understanding Traumatic Stress In Children

This 23-page report from the National Center on Family Homelessness outlines the behavioral manifestations of trauma as well as the factors that affect a child’s ability to recover from trauma. It also makes the case for practicing self-care as a parent, guardian, or caregiver as to avoid secondary trauma.