First Lady Chirlane McCray Announces Launch of New Program to Support Children Suffering from Trauma

December 10, 2016

New program through ACS teaches families how to support emotional development, build resiliency in children

NEW YORK—First Lady Chirlane McCray today announced the launch of Trauma Smart, a new program through the Administration for Children's Services to help parents, caregivers and teachers better support young children who may experience adversity. This program is a part of ThriveNYC, the City's $850 million effort to prevent and address untreated mental illness and substance misuse.

On Saturday, December 10, at the Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services in the South Bronx from 10 a.m to noon, the First Lady will host an interactive morning of family friendly activities to teach parents, caregivers and teachers how to use strategies that help children navigate challenging situations and better handle their emotions.

"We love our kids, but sometimes, communicating with them about their feelings can be tough. That's especially true when a family is in distress. The goal of Trauma Smart is to help kids learn how to express their emotions in a healthy way, and help parents bond with them. By incorporating ThriveNYC, our comprehensive mental health plan, into our Pre-K and EarlyLearn Centers, we're giving parents, caregivers and educators the tools to help children build healthy relationships, handle conflict, and make good choices. We're also providing parents with information and skills that can make it easier to connect with their child. We want all children to grow up healthy," said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spearheads the City's mental health and substance misuse efforts.

"In building a mental health system that allows all New Yorkers to thrive, we cannot leave our youngest and most vulnerable behind. That's why "Act Early" is a core philosophy of ThriveNYC. Trauma Smart recognizes the needs of children who may be experiencing very real and difficult life circumstances and sets them on a path to lifelong positive mental health, with help from the caring adults in their lives," said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. "Like ThriveNYC programs in Pre-K classrooms, Trauma Smart recognizes that most brain development occurs before age 5 and brings critical services to the places where they can be easily accessed by kids and their families."

"We are thrilled to play a critical part in realizing the First Lady's ThriveNYC comprehensive mental health plan, which seizes on opportunities to act early," said Gladys Carrión, Commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services. "Ninety percent of our children's brains develop before the age of five. By bringing Trauma Smart to our EarlyLearn centers, we are making an important investment to support healthy social and emotional development for nearly 40,000 of our youngest New Yorkers. This initiative will not only help children and families address challenges as early as possible, but also bring tools that foster lifelong resilience."

The implementation of Trauma Smart in ACS' EarlyLearn child carecenters and home-based child care programs is part of the Act Early portion of the ThriveNYC initiative, which emphasizes social emotional learning for young children. Over the next four years, ACS will implement Trauma Smart in its EarlyLearn programs, which serve children from birth to age five.

Ninety percent of brain development takes place before age five, which is why it is so important to provide the tools to adults that work with young children to assist them in building skills and the capacity needed to overcome adverse experiences. As part of Trauma Smart, social emotional learning training and coaching will be provided to child care providers, parents, social workers, assistants, other program staff and community members.

Trauma Smart will help children, families and providers cope with adversity and related stress, and:

  • Prepare children for social and academic success;
  • Actively include parents and families in their child's school experience;
  • Promote a positive and stimulating work environment for teachers and school personnel; and,
  • Create practical and enduring change for children, families and communities.

Social emotional learning involves families and other key caregivers and adults supporting children as they build their capacity to cope with adversity and stress. In early 2017, ACS EarlyLearn sites will begin implementing Trauma Smart's new social-emotional learning practices, which helps teachers, staff and parents to better support and nurture children's social and emotional development. Studies have shown that brain development begins at birth and that stress can negatively impact children's brain development.

Adverse experiences of any kind, such as being abused, witnessing abuse, separation from parents or substance abuse in the home, can have a lasting impact on children's brain development and health. Well-developed social-emotional skills can protect and reverse the negative effects of stress and trauma. Research shows that supporting social emotional learning skills in children helps build a strong foundation for success in school and beyond. Trauma Smart is modeled after Kansas City's Crittenton Children's Center's Trauma Smart (TS) model, an early childhood trauma intervention initiated in 2008.

"Our children are most vulnerable during their early formative years," said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare. "Trauma Smart will equip our staff with the tools necessary to spot the signs of trauma early on, and will ensure our children have the best possible chance to overcome challenging life circumstances. I applaud the Administration's commitment to innovative initiatives that will positively impact New Yorkers for a lifetime."

"This innovative new approach to helping our kids cope with trauma will set them up for happy, healthy futures," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. "First Lady Chirlane MCCray has been an incredible leader on mental health issues, and Trauma Smart is another accomplishment that will benefit our city tremendously. I thank her, as well as ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión and her extraordinary staff for their important work."

"The First Lady's ThriveNYC Mental Health Roadmap is helping our communities develop the tools to become more healthy and resilient," said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services. "The Trauma Smart training being rolled out today for early learning educators will combat the negative effects of trauma on the development of young children. This is yet another step in the right direction for New York City."

"Mental health is a critical yet frequently overlooked factor in the educational outcomes of young children," said Council Member Fernando Cabrera, Chair of the Committee on Juvenile Justice. "Having worked in the mental health and counseling fields, I fully support good programs that address the impact of traumatic experiences on a child's cognitive development, and that train teachers and parents to help children through these events."

"I am thrilled that First Lady Chirlane McCray's ThriveNYC Trauma Smart initiative will help our city's children overcome negative experiences," said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of Committee on Public Safety. "Creating a trauma-informed environment in the classroom and home is the right step toward ensuring our children are able to thrive. I also commend ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión for her work in ensuring the wellness of our children and families."

"We know from national studies, one in four children will experience at least one traumatic event before the age of four, which can have a profound impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing. The Trauma Smart model is a means of establishing a culture of resilience that prepares children for social and academic success and is currently in operation in Missouri, Kansas, Alaska, Washington, Michigan and Wisconsin. We applaud the comprehensive and proactive approach the City of New York is taking to create practical and enduring change for children, families and communities," said Janine Hron, President of Crittenton Children's Center, "It is truly a privilege to be a part of this unprecedented initiative, ThriveNYC, to help build opportunities for tens of thousands of children over the next four years."

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