Safe Start in the Community: Spokane, Wash.

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Throughout 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.

Three-year-old Jack has already witnessed several domestic violence incidents between his parents at home and at his aunt’s house where he stays when his mom works. Lisa, Jack’s mom, has a history of experiencing and witnessing domestic abuse and does not want Jack to have the same experiences.

Since separating from Jack’s father, Lisa has been concerned that Jack’s previous exposure to domestic violence may have an effect on him. She notices that he is becoming more withdrawn and timid, so she enrolls him in Head Start. She meets with the Head Start family service worker and agrees to take the Adverse Childhood Experiences assessment. The results show both her and Jack’s level of traumatic stress.

Lisa learns that she and Jack are eligible for services from the Spokane Safe Start Initiative and begins the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC) home visiting program. A Head Start staff facilitator meets 12 times with Lisa and helps her understand and identify the negative effects of trauma. Lisa learns ways to cope with the impact of her past experiences, as well as strategies to support Jack.

Jack benefits from the Spokane Safe Start Initiative at his Head Start program, where all staff members receive training in the Fostering Resiliency in Early Learning Environments (FREE) professional development program. By learning competencies to provide trauma-informed care to children and their families, the teachers and specialists can identify Jack’s needs and address them with appropriate skills, strategies, and services. For example, Jack’s teacher, Erin, recognizes that Jack experiences changes in routine as anxiety provoking and helps him practice self-soothing exercises. Erin’s practice of announcing changes in advance helps Jack and other children. Erin helps Jack improve social skills so that he can participate more successfully in group activities.

Lisa and Jack benefit from Spokane Safe Start Initiative’s systems-level approach to addressing children’s exposure to violence. Their participation in the program is improving their chances for a more positive outcome at a crucial point during the early years of Jack’s development.

Washington State University, Area Health Education Center

P.O. Box 1495
Spokane, WA 99210


Adds a trauma-informed approach to Head Start’s strong foundation of social-emotional development and trains staff to deliver more effective individual interventions with families exposed to adversity.

Target Population:

Children enrolled in Head Start, their families, and staff

Age Range:

3 and 4


  • Fostering Resiliency in Early Learning Environments
  • Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency Home Visiting Program*
  • Circle of Security*

*Evidence-based or promising practice


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