Safe Start in the Community: Aurora, Colo.

FB general coverThroughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

Tommy is an 8-year-old boy who is struggling in school after witnessing domestic violence. He often saw his mother, Gail, being hit and thrown to the ground by her boyfriend. At school, Tommy began having difficulty concentrating, getting into fights at recess, and refusing to do his homework. At home, Tommy talked back to his mom, spent time away from the family, and did not want to talk to anyone about what had happened.

Tommy had been seeing a school-based therapist. After Tommy started showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as being distracted and jumpy and not listening, the therapist referred him to the Aurora Safe Start program. Tommy’s teacher knew about the program after attending training by the Safe Start project manager. The training addressed the effects of exposure to violence and trauma on children’s educational achievement.

At the Aurora Safe Start program, Tommy receives Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He learns and practices coping skills and things to do at school and home to help him when he feels scared or angry. He learns how to relax his body with his breathing and using positive thoughts. Eventually, Tommy writes a story about the night when his mom was hurt by her boyfriend.

Gail learns how she can support Tommy and talks with him about his feelings, especially his feelings when he saw her being hit. At the end of treatment, Tommy feels more comfortable at home and school. His behavior is not perfect, but he is not getting in trouble at school and goes to his mom when he needs help with his feelings.

Safe Start small logo

Safe Start Aurora

Aurora Mental Health Center
11059 East Bethany Drive
Aurora, CO 80014


Compares the effectiveness of A Family Focused Emotion Communication Training (AFFECT), as a strategic enhancement to Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), to stand-alone TF-CBT.

Target Population:

Children and their families who have experienced traumatic events

Age Range:



  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy + AFFECT (A Family-Focused Emotion Communication Training)
  • Case Management Services
  • Medication Management Services

*Evidence-based or promising practice


One Response

  1. The post mentions several strategies that are invaluable to children exposed to violence: self-soothing (learning to do things to feel better when he’s afraid), thinking positive thoughts, and asking for help. Most children acquire these skills intuitively. Children exposed to violence don’t. They have to be carefully taught.

    Susan Craig

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