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City in Connecticut Takes Trauma-Informed Approach

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Unhappy Pre teen girl in school

New Britain, Connecticut numbers among several cities and towns across Connecticut that are considered ‘trauma-informed.’

According to Gary Kleeblatt, spokesman of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), trauma-informed cities implement programs in schools or mental health facilities through state funding.

New Britain, though, takes the state implemented programs further. “The central focus of New Britain seems to be relationships, because programs don’t change people, people change people”(Werth 2017, p.7), said Nelba Marquez-Greene, founder and executive director of the Ana Grace Project, which works within New Britain schools to create a trauma-informed place of learning.

The Ana Grace Project began after Marquez-Greene’s daughter was murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newton, Connecticut. The project was created to take steps in preventing any troubled individuals like Adam Lanza to slip under the radar, so that children and young adults who are going through emotional difficulties can be seen and heard, rather than letting those difficulties be misdirected or mishandled.

New Britain’s trauma-informed approach also includes after school programs, so that children in abusive or troubled homes feel a support structure beyond the classroom walls.

“When students walk through our doors we want them to know that there is someone who loves them, cares for them, holds them to very high standards,” Sarra said. “I never want to mistake being trauma-informed with lowering standards. It’s about empathy, creating structure and routine, consistency and predictability so that when our kids walk in they know what to expect and that there are people who care about them” (Werth 2017, p.15).

A big effort in programs like the Ana Grace Project is to address the root of misbehavior, and acknowledge when it is a result of trauma.

“The restorative model is you bring him (a student) in, you have a discussion, you talk about why it was wrong, who it hurt, what it hurt. Walking them through an autopsy of what they’ve done in the hopes that next time they’ll think twice before they do it,” Sarra said. “We are finding that suspension and expulsion are not changing behavior” (Werth 2017, p.38).

The restorative model has statistics that support it; in 2016, out-of-school suspensions and referrals were reduced by 300 in New Britain.

A good teacher “can no longer be just the person standing up front dolling out the assignments. They need to build relationships,” Sarra said (Werth 2017, p.44).

For more on this topic please read, “To be a trauma-informed city takes a cultural shift and partnership.”

References:

Werth, J. (2017, August 29). To be a trauma-informed city takes a cultural shift and partnership. Retrieved September 02, 2017, from https://ctmirror.org/2017/08/28/to-be-a-trauma-informed-city-takes-a-cultural-shift-and-partnership/

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