By Rebecca Honig and Francoise Lartigue, Ready4K curriculum & content
It began with a request from a small rural coastal town. They needed a new way to support families facing some of the biggest challenges. Their community was experiencing trauma at a higher rate than the surrounding towns. Community members were not getting the services they desperately needed to navigate challenges. Their suicide rates were exceptionally high. They wanted custom messages that would help parents build resilience, messages that would help them recognize signs of stress. Messages that would encourage families to reach out for help and connect families to critical local resources like food assistance programs and mental health specialists.
In the busy heart of The East Bay, this request was echoed. Too many families were experiencing isolation as a result of trauma, they wanted messages that would help families connect with others and build the systems of support that are proven to buffer trauma.
On the opposite coast, in the country’s largest city, we got the same ask. Families needed self-care routines they could actually do. They needed more tools for managing adversity, for advocating for themselves and their children. They needed to be connected to food and housing and job training programs. They needed ways to buffer trauma.
We created custom content for each of these partners.
But the call for trauma informed supports kept coming. And that is not surprising.
In rural communities, in urban cities, in suburbs across the country, families are experiencing challenge and adversity. Over half of US children experience ACEs by age 17 (source). They are common across all income groups and backgrounds. When unaddressed, they can result in maladaptive behaviors for both children and adults, having profound impacts on families’ ability to function, on children’s ability to learn and on schools ability to teach.
Luckily, we all have the capacity for resilience. Research indicates that having supportive and responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of trauma.
And so we decided to take what we had learned through creating custom trauma-informed supports and build a program that every community can use to strengthen their families’ resilience.
The result is Ready4K Trauma-Informed, a program any organization serving families of children under age 10 can offer.
Our Vision for a Trauma-Informed Solution
Applying the trauma-informed lens of the 4Rs (Realize, Recognize, Respond, & Resist Retraumatization), we created a curriculum that is designed to strengthen parent and caregivers’ ability to buffer the effects of trauma on the children in their lives. This curriculum is aligned with The Protective Factors Framework and offers tips, activities, and resources that increase:
- Parental Resilience
- Social Connections
- Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development (including math, literacy, and more)
- Concrete Support in Times of Need
- Social & Emotional Competency of Children
We know from research that when families are under duress it can be harder to comprehend information and remember it. Research shows that images can make it easier to recall information, so we created weekly tag lines, which combine an image with the theme of the week.
These tag lines, which come at the start of every week, help orient families to what we are covering. They can highlight a strategy or provide a mantra to make the message sticky. These tags also allow families to quickly search for a strategy that worked well for them, whether it’s a calm down strategy that they want to use again with their child or a self care routine that they found helpful.
Connecting Families to Community Resources
Providing concrete resources is a critical component of supporting families impacted by trauma. Our solution starts with a community asset mapping process. We guide partners in identifying local resources their families might benefit from. We then integrate those assets into text messages that are sent to families through a dedicated messaging stream. This community support stream is dedicated to sharing local resources and for you to send your own messages to families.
Through listening sessions, we have learned that resources families ask for include mental health services, food and utility assistance options, job training programs, and substance misuse treatment supports.
Checking Our Work
Developing this program was a careful process. Our team, in consultation with mental health professionals, carefully evaluated every message with questions like:
- Will this resonate for families with insecure housing or nutritional access?
- Is this activity possible when families are under duress?
- Are there any hidden triggers in our recommendations, such as references to touch?
- What’s the best way to offer a service without triggering any feelings of inadequacy or shame?
With the advent of COVID-19, we reexamined the program. This time, we made sure the activities were sensitive to the climate of the pandemic and developed additional messaging providing supports.
We’re incredibly proud of the Trauma-Informed program we’ve put together, which can act as a stand-alone solution for strengthening the protective factors for all of your families or be integrated as part of a comprehensive trauma-informed strategy.
We’d love your feedback and to hear what your community members who are facing trauma are looking for, too.