New investments help teachers, staff and students transform schools so children and youth can thrive

Best Starts for Kids today launched two new initiatives that will help schools and their partners better address the impacts of trauma, and promote resilience so that children and youth can bounce back after experiencing adversity.

The combined $1.46 million in funding will provide 98 partners in 14 school districts with tools and training to support children and young people through experiences of childhood trauma and adversity, and expand mental-health support in 56 King County middle schools.

Click here and scroll to the bottom to see the full list of awardees.

Investments in trauma-informed and restorative practices and school-based mental health support will help schools and their partners build resilience in all students.

“We are helping teachers, staff, and students transform local schools so that children and young people can thrive even if they have experienced trauma,” said Executive Constantine. “The partnerships we are creating with Best Starts for Kids help ensure students get the support they need wherever they are in the community.”

Trauma-informed and restorative practices

Best Starts for Kids will award $930,000 to nearly 100 organizations – including school districts, K-12 schools, early learning providers, and behavioral health providers – to create or strengthen environments that support children and youth who have experienced trauma or adversity and build resilience in all children.

The goal is to create what are referred to as trauma-informed schools, where the faculty, staff, and students have the skills and tools needed to create environments where children facing unpredictable, ongoing stress or trauma in their lives feel safe. These environments build resilience so that all students are better able to bounce back when facing adversity. The approach extends beyond classrooms to include partner organizations, such as early-learning providers and parent groups, so students get the support they need wherever they are in the community.

A trauma-informed approach helps students learn to express themselves in healthy ways. Photo credit: Childhaven.

It will also create and expand effective restorative justice programs that empower students and teachers to resolve conflict by collaborating rather than through traditional discipline, such as detention or suspension.

One example of a successful program that will be expanded is Seattle Public School’s Cleveland High School, which has reduced discipline referrals by teachers by 75 percent and decreased racial disproportionality in the disciplinary system. The high school will use the Best Starts for Kids funding to train 10 additional teachers and 10 students to lead restorative justice circles when conflicts arise, making the school’s effective approach to conflict resolution more sustainable.

Expanding access to effective mental-health support in schools

For students who need additional support to succeed, 56 King County middle schools in 13 school districts can now plan to expand a successful model for school-based mental health support with $530,000 in funding from Best Starts for Kids.

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment, or SBIRT, is an innovative model that helps schools intervene early when substance abuse or mental health challenges interfere with a student’s ability to succeed.

Using motivational interviewing techniques, counselors work with students to identify their individual strengths to cope with stress and achieve their goals. If needed, counselors will refer students to additional services based on their unique needs, ranging from leadership development programs to chemical dependency treatment.

In 2014, King County was one of five sites selected to partner with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Reclaiming Futures to pilot test the SBIRT model in five middle schools. Funding from Best Starts for Kids will bring the effective approach to scale, expanding it to 13 of King County’s 19 school districts.

The initial funds will support training and technical assistance to create an SBIRT implementation plan. In early 2018, schools that complete a plan will be invited to apply for Best Starts for Kids funds to provide SBIRT services to students. Best Starts for Kids will use the model through a license agreement with Reclaiming Futures and Portland State University.

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