Trauma-informed: PWC’s approach to working with students and schools is grounded in research on the impacts of trauma and toxic stress on children. According to SAMHSA, “Trauma-informed practice is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives.” Our model is one of understanding and compassion, rooted in empathy and a strengths-based lens. At the heart of this approach is the belief that a person’s actions are a direct result of their experiences, and when someone acts out or disengages, the question we should ask is not “what’s wrong with you,” but rather, “what happened to you?”
Addressing Toxic Stress: According to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, toxic stress is defined as exposure to “strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity including the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship, without adequate adult support.” Many of the conditions associated with chronic poverty, including housing insecurity, hunger, community violence, and family instability, are deeply intertwined with enduring and systemic racism. Taken together, these social realities expose children to a potent level of stress that can be toxic if they are not adequately buffered by the support of caring adults. Sadly, a large proportion of students attending public schools in New York City face just these conditions. And, families confronting the strains of poverty and its associated burdens may not have the time, money or emotional resources to provide the support their children need to counter these strains.
School-based approach: When faced with the pressures of performing in school, vulnerable children may experience emotional difficulties, and even mental health problems. Schools too are often unprepared to offer the necessary support to children who are struggling. These students are therefore the most likely to exhibit the problems – poor focus and attention, inconsistent attendance and difficulty socializing – that make classroom learning a challenge. Clearly vulnerable children need support and services, but schools too need to learn how to be safe and nurturing environments, how to welcome and serve children and families regardless of the challenges they face, and how to make classrooms places where every child can- and wants to – learn.
Our work in Schools: PWC works with schools to address the needs of struggling students, help educators create the kind of caring, responsive and supportive environments that best serve all students, and support families so they can ensure their children’s success. PWC brings an array of resources to schools, and directly places highly qualified, full-time social workers on site to provide a multi-tiered system of support. We ensure that schools have critical mental health services, training, targeted programming, consultation support, family engagement and community outreach to make them enriching environments where children can achieve their academic goals and develop the social and emotional skills that will help them flourish.
An Equity Approach: A trauma-informed approach is also an equity approach, using tools and strategies that disrupt and dismantle systems and structures that have disproportionally greater negative effects on BIPOC students. Equity strategies are ones that look systemically and holistically at school environments, asking schools to consider their own discipline approaches, faculty trainings, and student advocacy.