Impact of Exposure to Violence on Development

Other than the role of “every person, every day,” this CEV Week we’re focusing on the impact of exposure to violence on children’s mental, physical and emotional development. To that end, we developed a new resource providing ways to prevent and address the impact of exposure to violence on a child’s development—from early childhood through adolescence.

Devel chartThe Impact of Exposure to Violence on Stages of Development chart provides an overview of the developmental process and ways to help children successfully achieve developmental milestones even in situations where violence and toxic stress intrude in the child’s life.

A developmental approach is based on the concept that as children grow and mature they are faced with emotional and physical tasks they must master before moving along to the next stage. The tasks build upon one another: a toddler learns to explore his world, which provides the foundation for school-aged children to make friends; this ability, in turn, allows an adolescent tries to form a separate identity and become more independent from his family.

When exposed to violence or other traumatic events, a child’s energy is diverted and they have less capacity to master the developmental challenges on which they are currently focused at their stage of development. We know that many children rebound from traumatic experiences and continue to achieve expected developmental milestones.

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New Trauma Checklist for Lawyers and Legal Advocates

Court youth toolkit

By Lisa Conradi

According to the National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence, most of our society’s children are exposed to violence and trauma in their daily lives. Each year, millions of children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. Researchers have labeled children who have experienced seven or more types of victimization as “polyvictims.” For many of these children, this exposure can have both short- and long-term effects. Short-term effects include difficulty regulating emotions, challenges in cognitive development, behavior problems and attachment difficulties. Long-term effects include a higher likelihood of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer (Felitti et al., 1998).

In order to address this critical need, multiple efforts are underway to increase awareness, early identification, and intervention efforts related to children’s exposure to violence and trauma. One of the critical areas in need of training on the impact of violence on children is the legal system. Recently, the Safe Start Center, the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, and Child & Family Policy Associates developed the “Polyvictimization and Trauma Identification Checklist and Resource Guide” (Checklist). This Checklist was designed to help lawyers and other legal advocates for children recognize the prevalence and impact of polyvictimization and perform more trauma-informed legal and judicial system advocacy. The Checklist, along with the Flowchart on Trauma-Informed Actions (Flowchart), can be used by children’s attorneys, juvenile defenders, court-appointed special advocates, and other advocates in both the dependency (child welfare) and delinquency (juvenile justice) systems.

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New resource for legal advocates

The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence showed us that children are exposed to violence at alarming rates.

Some of the results of a child’s exposure to violence can impact their development, understanding and mental health and could eventually land them in front of a judge who may not be aware of their exposure or victimization.

“Legal advocates working with youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems need to understand how past histories of violence and traumatic experiences can profoundly affect their clients’ health and their court cases,” said Lisa Pilnik, director and co-founder of Child & Family Policy Associates, LLC.

To help legal advocates understand children’s exposure to violence, the Safe Start Center partnered with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and Child and Family Policy Associates to create Victimization and Trauma Experienced by Children and Youth: Implications for Legal Advocates.

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#CEVchat: CEV in the School

We occupied a small piece of the Twitterverse on Wednesday to discuss children’s exposure to violence and the role schools can play to help. A follow-up to the release of our new toolkit, CEV in the School, the Twitter chat was a way to share our abundance of resources as well as answer any questions about the issue.

No surprise to us, the conversation drifted to the lack of resources for educators when it comes to how to deal with students who are struggling to cope after being exposed to violence. (Please visit our Storify page for a collection of key tweets from the chat) Fellow tweeters said resources lacking included professional development for teachers and mental health employees trained in identifying CEV.

The National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence found that 42 percent of children who had been exposed to violence were known to school authorities, evidence of how crucial it is for school officials to be knowledgeable about CEV. Having a teacher trained of the signs and how to help could make a huge impact on a child.

Children’s exposure to violence is a growing, evolving field and much work is being done to make people more aware of its impact and prevalence. The Safe Start Initiative is one of many steps toward awareness and solutions to children’s exposure to violence. Funded by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, eight grantees across the country are currently implementing evidence-based programs to test their efficacy in preventing and helping children who have been exposed. There is also Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which has grantees implementing similar programs with a law enforcement focus.

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about this topic. With so much of a child’s time spent in school, educators play such an important role in helping children who have been exposed to violence at home, in the community or within the school itself.

Questions? Suggestions? Feedback?  Feel free to comment below.

Guest post: Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

Jill Vialet is the founder and CEO of Playworks. Vialet has worked for more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector, during which she focused her entrepreneurial skills on conceiving of and growing two successful nonprofit organizations.

For too many children, violence in the news, on television, on the Internet and even just beyond the schoolyard fences, is a part of their daily lives. The last thing we need is for our children to be exposed to violence in school. Unfortunately, violence does occur in schools every day, in the form of bullying. Bullying is defined as  the “intentional aggressive behavior that tips the balance of power and  is often repeated over time.. And according to the National School Climate Center, every seven minutes a child is bullied on a school playground.

When bullying, teasing and name-calling are present on a school campus, it contributes to an environment in which students’ physical and social-emotional safety is at risk. It is the responsibility of the school, and in the best interest of the grown-ups working there, to create safe communities that ultimately help contribute to learning.

The good news is that there is a way to prevent bullying, one that focuses on recess and extends into the classroom. At Playworks, we have been promoting safe, healthy play on schoolyards for the past 16 years. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University showed that Playworks schools not only prevent bullying, but increase students’ feeling of safety and inclusion.

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You’re Invited! CEV in the School Twitter chat

Follow @SafeStartCenter using #CEVchat to participate!

Please join us Sept. 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET as we take to Twitter to discuss children’s exposure to violence in a school setting.

Now more than ever, it’s important that the education community is aware of the impact of children’s exposure to violence. Increasing knowledge and awareness can help educators develop a safe environment for children while also helping them heal and build resiliency.

To increase awareness, the Safe Start Center recently released a toolkit – CEV in the School – focused on children’s exposure to violence and its impact in the child’s educational environment.  The toolkit includes an easy to understand infographic as well as tip sheets on CEV and how teachers can help.

We hope you’ll join us using #CEVchat to follow and participate in the conversation. If you’re on Facebook, stop by and let us know you’re coming!

Feedback? Questions?  Feel free to contact us at info@safestartcenter.org.

A Tragic First Day of School: Tools to help students

Monday, the first day back to class for Perry Hall High School students, a 15-year-old student bought a gun to school and allegedly shot another student, who remains in critical condition.

As we’ve discussed before, community and school violence can do more than injure a child physically. The damage exposure to violence can do to children mentally and emotionally can have long-term effects and hinder their development.

A guidance counselor wrestled alleged gunman Robert Wayne Gladden Jr. to the floor, protecting surrounding students.  In the days and weeks to follow, students may need help coping with and understanding what happened. Our new toolkit, which includes an easy to understand infographic full of suggestions of how to help, is for teachers who may find themselves in the same situation as Perry Hall teachers.

Our thoughts and hopes of healing are with the injured student, his family and the young shooter who the media reports had been bullied previously.

Here are some other Safe Start’s resources in an effort to assist adults and children who may have witnessed this event.

Healing the Invisible Wounds: Children’s Exposure to Violence – A Guide for Families

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