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November 2017

Things to Consider in November 2017

“Protecting Our Children” by Janie Crecco, MA, MSEd

On November 7, 2017, Maria Mossaides will present a Webinar on her work at the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). For almost forty years, Ms. Mossaides has held a wide range of positions in the public and independent sectors as an attorney and administrator. Before assuming the position as the Child Advocate for the Commonwealth, she was the Executive Director of Cambridge Family and Children’s Service.

In 2008, the Legislature passed a law establishing the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to ensure children placed in the care of the Commonwealth receive humane and dignified treatment, examine on a system-wide basis the care and services provided to children and advise the public and government on how to improve services to children and families. The process for selection of the Child Advocate is delineated in law and consists of a 14 member nominating committee representing state human service agencies, non-profit child advocacy agencies, the juvenile court, the social work professional association and social work union.

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When Students Are Traumatized, Teachers Are Too
Vicarious trauma affects teachers’ brains in much the same way that it affects their students’: The brain emits a fear response, releasing excessive cortisol and adrenaline that can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and release a flood of emotions. This biological response can manifest in mental and physical symptoms such as anger and headaches, or workplace behaviors like missing meetings, lateness, or avoiding certain students, say experts.


Head Start May Keep Kids Out of Foster Care
“Young children who are placed in foster care often have compromised socio-emotional, language, and cognitive development and poor early academic and health outcomes,” the authors write. “Trauma and deprivation experienced before removal may largely drive these developmental deficits, but foster care often fails to alleviate them and sometimes can worsen them.” Head Start focuses on the entire family by providing preschool education and supporting parental goals such as housing stability, continued education and financial security – and can mitigate the reasons for foster care.


Can Afterschool Play a Role in Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Research has shown that afterschool (including summer) has the greatest positive impact on traditionally disadvantaged students, these being the same students that are being targeted and most affected by the school to prison pipeline. The activities offered by certain afterschool programs provide a positive focus for their energy and keep them engaged between the critical hours of 3:00-7:00 pm — the time frame in which violent crimes by juveniles occur most frequently.


Educators Employ Strategies to Help Kids with Anxiety Return to School
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates anxiety-based school refusal affects 2 to 5 percent of school-age children. It is often triggered when students are transitioning into middle or high school. Doctors say it should be treated with flexibility and therapy – not punishment. Research suggests that the immediate cause for highly anxious kids is some kind of rupture in their relationships with adults, and that school does not feel like a safe place for them to be. This article examines a program in Maine which is using cutting-edge strategies to bring students back to school.


Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children
Some five years after the Great Recession’s end, lower-income families have not seen their earnings and assets return to pre-recession levels. Updated index scores continue to show significant racial and ethnic inequities among children, with Asian and Pacific Islander and white children generally doing better in almost every area of child well-being than their African-American, Latino and American Indian peers. The Number One recommendation for a brighter future for all children?  Keep families together and in their communities.


Students in Foster Care at Risk of School Failure: Addressing Multiple Needs
This research paper focused on two questions — the first being an investigation of school performance measures of students in foster care. The findings confirm significant academic achievement gaps, more disciplinary actions, higher rates of grade retention and significantly lower rates of graduation for students in foster care. The second research question focused on the implications for special education teachers who serve students in both SPED and foster care. The special education teacher needs to facilitate prompt and effective communication between child welfare caseworkers, foster parents, birth parents in some cases, school staff, and other service providers. Students in foster care often have multiple academic and mental health needs; SPED teachers can advocate for an array of services and supports, along with more restorative and positive behavior interventions. Finally, the special education teacher can provide stable, caring, mentoring relationships for students in foster care, greatly improving their outcomes.


Better Sleep Can Build Emotional Resilience
Researchers believe that more time spent in the REM sleep phase has the role of moderating levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is also known as “noradrenaline,” in the brain. Norepinephrine is linked to the regulation of the fight-or-flight response, and lower levels of norepinephrine could explain the reduced susceptibility to stressful stimuli that would normally induce fear. Their results suggest that baseline REM sleep could serve as a non-invasive biomarker for resilience, or susceptibility, to trauma. For a reader-friendly description of this research, Click here: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/10/rem-and-trauma/543573/


Useful Tools and Resources


Trauma Smart Website
Trauma Smart helps young children, and the adults who care for them, calmly navigate difficult life challenges by combining practical, hands-on tools and effective coping strategies and bringing them into the places where kids learn and play every day. Developed by the experts at Crittenton Children’s Center, Trauma Smart was founded on evidence-based interventions recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to be effective in helping children and the adults who care for them effectively address the negative impact of violence and trauma. http://traumasmart.org/
 
ARC Reflections Case Manager Guide for Sessions One Through Nine
The Casey Foundation and the Justice Resource Institute developed ARC Reflections, a FREE training curriculum to develop foster parents and caregivers’ understanding of traumatic stress, increase their own emotional regulation and provide tools to support their parenting skills. The welcome document gives facilitators tips on implementing ARC Reflections and provides additional handouts and instructions for training. In addition to the facilitator welcome guide, the ARC Reflections curriculum includes detailed facilitator guides, training presentations, handouts, a case manager guide, implementation guide, Olivia’s story, sample pre- and post-surveys and feedback forms.


Featured Article Continued… 

On November 7, 2017, Maria Mossaides will present a Webinar on her work at the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). For almost forty years, Ms. Mossaides has held a wide range of positions in the public and independent sectors as an attorney and administrator. Before assuming the position as the Child Advocate for the Commonwealth, she was the Executive Director of Cambridge Family and Children’s Service. In 2008, the Legislature passed a law establishing the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to ensure children placed in the care of the Commonwealth receive humane and dignified treatment, examine on a system-wide basis the care and services provided to children and advise the public and government on how to improve services to children and families. The process for selection of the Child Advocate is delineated in law and consists of a 14 member nominating committee representing state human service agencies, non-profit child advocacy agencies, the juvenile court, the social work professional association and social work union.

The mission of the OCA is to ensure all children in the Commonwealth receive appropriate, timely and quality services with full respect for their human rights. Through collaboration with public and private stakeholders, the OCA examines services to children to identify gaps and trends, and makes recommendations to improve the quality of those services. The OCA also serves as a resource for families who are receiving, or are eligible to receive, services from the Commonwealth.

Anyone with concerns about a child or youth receiving services from a state agency can contact the OCA. The staff try to help people resolve their problems directly with the agency and identify appropriate resources. The OCA has a special responsibility toward children in foster care. The office responds to calls from children and youth in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and tries to help them with problems related to their care.

When a child receiving services from a state agency organized under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services dies or is seriously injured, the agency involved is required to report the critical incident to the OCA. OCA staff carefully review each critical incident report and, in many instances, follow up with the agency to learn from the situation and promote accountability.

The OCA receives reports that have been investigated and supported by DCF regarding abuse and neglect of children in out-of-home settings connected to certain state agencies. These settings include licensed preschool and day care, foster care, group homes, residential treatment programs, elementary and secondary schools, and youth correctional facilities. OCA staff review every report to identify trends that relate to treatment of children in out-of-home settings and obtain more information from agencies when needed.

Hearing from callers and reviewing reports, as described above, help the OCA to identify trends and opportunities for system improvements. In addition, OCA staff review laws, policies, and procedures, and participate on many boards and councils concerning the delivery of services to children and families. OCA staff use all this information to provide recommendations for improving the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

*Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure that the contents of Consider This… is accurate, the Federation for Children with Special Needs makes no representations or warranties in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information found within the enclosed articles. The contents within this transmission are provided in good faith, and nothing included in it should be taken to constitute or imply professional advice, an endorsement or a formal recommendation.