Early Learnings From Trauma-Informed And Restorative Practices Investments

As part of the first phase of our investments in Trauma-Informed & Restorative Practices (TIRP) in the school environment, Best Starts awarded nearly 100 organizations in 14 school districts up to $10,000 for the 2017-2018 school year. These awards went to partners ranging from school districts, K-12 schools, early learning providers, and behavioral health providers in order to create or strengthen environments that support children and youth who have experienced trauma or adversity and build resilience in all children.

Best Starts for Kids Trauma-Informed & Restorative Practices in schools strategy focuses on creating welcoming environments that allow students to bring their whole selves to the classroom: their unique strengths, social and emotional needs, and lived experiences. 

In the two years since we made those awards, the TIRP village evolved to now include 30 partners doing more intensive work to confront systemic and racial trauma in our schools. As we expand our partnership, it’s important to also look back to our roots to reflect and learn, so we took the time to analyze the final reports submitted by our initial awardees who received up to $10k. We consider this group our “minigrants” group. We wondered, what kinds of changes did our awardees see as a result of their work? What factors contributed to their successes and challenges? Perhaps most importantly, what were the seeds plants and sprouts grown from these small investments?


We heard loud and clear that partnerships matter! Our TIRP minigrants partners told us that partnership is the most common, critical factor that contributes to success. For the TIRP work to see results, our community partners and schools need strong relationships that are built on trust and allow for collaboration and power sharing.  

One of the key lessons we learned in this endeavor is that strong partnerships grow slowly built on a foundation of trust. Over the course of this grant period we were able to build this relationship with three [district] Schools, thus fulfilling the spirit of this grant. These relationships began prior to this grant and strengthened through the course of the grant.

Community Based Organization TIRP minigrants partner

Planting Seeds and Sustaining Growth

We were most excited to learn that the minigrants inspired schools and organizations to continue promoting trauma-informed and restorative practices. Many reported plans for continued activities in the following school year, and some even reported policy or system changes that resulted from their work.

A rather surprising result from this was while the plan this year was to include one more grade level (seventh) the educators were so impressed with the changes in student (and staff) behavior that the lessons will be taught across all three grades in the 2018-19 school year. It was also an influence in the school wide decision to shift the schedule and include an advisory period for all of the students.

Community Based Organization TIRP minigrants partner

Restore, Assemble, Produce: A Best Starts Journey

Our minigrant awardees continue to inform the work of the TIRP village, particularly the 12 minigrant awardees who are involved with the current TIRP Village. One of those awardees is Restore, Assemble, Produce; or RAP.

RAP received a minigrant to partner with Mill Creek Middle School in Kent, where they created a successful mentoring program AXIOS, with a focus on children of separated and incarcerated parents. They addressed the trauma students face when separated from their parents due to the impacts of the criminal legal system, foster care, and divorce. This small award led to a larger partnership with the Kent School District who was also awarded funds for aligned work with their middle schools.

RAP was able to build on their initial work and relationships built, resulting in a larger TIRP award to expand their work to include professional development for school staff on racism and bias, parent engagement, and a youth-powered media project “RAP Radio”. Recently RAP has joined with Best Starts’ School-Based SBIRT team at Mill Creek to convene a multi-agency team working with building leadership to create a “Restorative Mill Creek Middle School”.  

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