June 2018

Consider This…

News and information about education, research, and support for SESPs; adoptive, foster, and kinship caregivers; and child welfare and education professionals helping children with trauma and other special needs get the most from their education.

Education for Life: Social Emotional Learning

Social Emotion Learning (SEL) is all of the buzz word right now, but does it work and is it worth the investment? Some research shows that the resources invested in SEL bring a hefty payback, not just in social emotional health, which is clearly hard to measure, but also in students’ academic achievement. In 2011, a meta-analysis published in the journal Child Development found that students who participated in a well-implemented SEL program showed an 11 percent gain in academic achievement. In 2015, a study in the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis found an $11 benefit for every $1 spent on a rigorous SEL program. In Boston, SEL has taken a “low performing” school, the Mildred Avenue K-8 School in Mattapan, in risk of a takeover 5 years ago, to a “Level 1” school, the highest category.

Epigenetics in Trauma

Epigenetics. “The study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code.” A basic example of this is the BRCA gene, the breast cancer gene. About 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. By contrast, about 69%-72% of women who inherit the BRAC1 or BRAC2 gene will develop breast cancer by the age of 80. The question in epigenetics is, “What turned on the gene in the 69-72% of women, but not in the remainder of those who have the gene?” The study of epigenetics is being used to study the effects trauma on multiple generations within families and communities. The following articles take two different looks at current research in the field.

Unstable, Unsafe Housing Harms Children’s Brain Development

The damaging health effects of substandard housing, especially lead poisoning and asthma, are well known. But in recent years, researchers have collected mounting evidence that poor-quality and unstable housing can create the kind of unrelenting stress capable of causing permanent biological harm that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and depression later in life. Researchers point out that there are many other factors that contribute to whether stress reaches toxic levels for one individual vs. another. For children, the effects of this “toxic” stress can also interfere with behavior and learning and undermine school performance. The damage to health and learning can persist into adulthood.

We Have to Stop Losing Half of Foster Parents in the First Year

Foster care is intended to be a short-term solution, while child welfare agencies work to reunify a child with his or her birth parents, place them with a trusted relative or find them a new permanent family. But while they are in foster care, children need someone to love them unconditionally, and help them to grow and flourish. Foster parents try to fill that role. Unfortunately, we lose too many of our quality foster families. Nearly half of foster parents quit in their first year of fostering due to lack of support, poor communication with caseworkers, insufficient training to address a child’s needs and lack of say in the child’s well-being.

CHAMPS is a national policy and communications campaign to ensure bright futures for kids in foster care by promoting the highest quality parenting. CHAMPS builds on research that shows that loving, supportive families – whether birth, kin, foster or adoptive – are critical to the healthy development of all children. They call on policy makers to make foster parenting a priority. This requires a new partnership between foster parents and the public agencies responsible for foster care.

Helping Children and Youth Who Have Traumatic Experiences

According to data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), 46% of the nation’s youth age 17 and under report experiencing at least one trauma. That is no surprise to those working in the field with children in the child welfare system. This report explores the number of youth with Trauma and the risk for developing Severe Emotional Disturbances (SED). While looking at the statistics, it also examines what makes a successful system of care through different agencies that have been effective.

Seven-year follow-up shows lasting cognitive gains from meditation

How often do we hear that meditation is a good stress reliever and great for self-care? Well, now there is a study from the University of California – Davis, that shows that it also helps with “sustained attention and response inhibition, with the potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across a person’s life” says head researcher Anthony Zanesco.

Mental Health

With May being National Children’s Mental Health Month, we would be remiss not to talk about the mental health of youth in our communities. It is estimated that one in every fourth to fifth youth in our country struggles with a lifelong mental health issue. Situational issues are even more common, such as anxiety during high school, or depression for short periods of time, but these are transient in nature, and will pass. Mental health includes emotional well-being, psychological well-being, and social well-being. Let’s look at some of the efforts that can be undertaken to promote positive mental health in our youth.

 The Every Student Succeeds Act: Explained

Still a bit confused about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Well, this article will break down ESSA into easy, understandable details. Video included.

Useful Tools and Resources

7 Suggestions for Better School Discipline

School discipline brings into play a number of important but often competing goals for school districts: eliminating discrimination, protecting the learning time of both disruptive students and their “well-behaved” peers, upholding high expectations for students, empathizing with traumatized students, and defending the authority of teachers. With those competing values in mind, here are seven suggestions for superintendents and district-level administrators to consider for their discipline policies.

How Anger Affects Your Brian and Body

This is an easy to understand graphic showing how the stress hormones affect the body and the brain that is easy for children can understand.

Understanding the differences between pessimism and optimism can help students improve the way they respond to challenges.

We are not born pessimistic or optimistic—these are ways of thinking that we learn from our families and teachers, the media, and our social context. Think about a recent event in your life, either good or bad—what did you tell yourself about the causes of the event? Were they more pessimistic or optimistic? Pessimistic explanations include the ideas that causes are permanent, pervasive, and personal, while optimistic ones are that causes are temporary, specific, and changeable with effort. Here are three strategies that you can use to shift the way children view their situations.

Why Do Kids Have Trouble With Transitions?

Change takes more energy, even when it is positive change. So no wonder it is even more difficult for children. Usually we are being asked to transition from a preferred activity to one that we have to do. While transitions are triggers for lots of kids – what parent hasn’t gotten resistance from a child being asked to stop playing a video game and come to dinner? – they are particularly difficult for kids with emotional and developmental issues. While the behaviors may be the same, experts point out that the reasons behind the behavior are different for kids with different challenges. Here we look at why children with ADHD, anxiety, autism, and sensory processing issues, find transitions particularly difficult.

27 Ways to Press Pause

How often have we heard someone tell us to slow down, or stop and take care of yourself? Easier said than done, right? Well, we also know that vicarious trauma is real and we have to do self-care if we are going to be able to do any good for someone else. Here are some simple ideas from the guided journal Unwind Every Day.