Title

Trauma: A Nearly Unbreakable Barrier to Achievement

Location

Ballroom D

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Family & Community

Relevance

This proposal speaks to the “Head”: Academic Achievement and Leadership conference strand by addressing the impact trauma has on a student’s likelihood to succeed academically, professionally, and personally. This presentation will define trauma and inform our audience of its academic and social manifestations in young people. The presentation’s primary objective is to help professionals identify strategies to close the achievement gap for students who have experienced poverty, trauma, and homelessness with a specific focus on students from foster care. The barriers preventing the academic and professional success of foster care alumni has been named the “Invisible Achievement Gap” by the Huffington Post (August 2014). The second conference strand relevant to this presentation is number five, “Home”: Family and Community. Given the high correlation between foster care and high-poverty areas, the practice models we will present are incredibly relevant to developing community support for high-poverty populations. Our theory of interdependence as a form of social, community, and educational support argues that students should be guided to build interdependent, connecting relationships with the resources available to them versus striving toward independence. We will utilize principles of trauma-informed practice, natural mentoring methods, and the practice model of campus based support programs in Michigan to showcase how families, communities, and educational settings can support at-risk youth.

Brief Program Description

Youth that have experienced trauma face significant barriers to successfully transitioning into adulthood and succeeding academically. This presentation will define trauma and examine its effects on various stages of child and adolescent development. Additionally, the significance of trauma informed care and how it should influence your practice when working with underserved populations will be discussed.

Summary

The proposed presentation advocates for the adoption of trauma informed practices by practitioners and professionals who work closely with young people deemed “at-risk”. The high prevalence of traumatic events among disconnected youth makes the need for trauma informed practitioners readily apparent. The presentation will define trauma and explain how to implement the central principles of trauma informed practices. Traumatic events are defined by the DSM-IV2 as an event a person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the integrity of the self or others. Young people who have experienced trauma can encounter and develop a range of different symptoms including but not limited to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse and dependence, depression, anxiety disorder, and self-harm behavior (Casey Family Programs, 2013). The rate at which young people experience trauma is often underestimated. Adults who seek to support youth may not understand the developmental effects that experiences with trauma can have on young people. Studies have shown that between 50% and 68% of young people experience a traumatic event sometime during their childhood or adolescence (Copeland, Keeler, Angold, & Costello, 2004)(Dorsey et al., 2012). Over 13% of young people who experienced a traumatic event experienced post-traumatic symptoms, while 7.9% of young females and 6.3% of males had coped with PTSD by the age of 23. Rates of PTSD have also been found to be higher among certain communities, for example, 11.6% of youth who have experienced the foster care system are diagnosed with PTSD (Casanueva et al., 2011; Briere et al., 1995). The high prevalence of traumatic experiences among young people and the significant impact these experiences have on their quality of life makes it essential that advocates are competent in trauma-informed practices. Trauma-informed practice is a system rooted in respect and empowerment, consisting of several guiding principles. A sample of trauma-informed practices include recognizing the prevalence of trauma, the adoption of strength-based approaches, developing a holistic understanding of youth, and prioritizing feelings of safety and trust among participants. The presentation will include examples of how we as professionals utilize trauma-informed practices in our work with students who have experienced trauma in the form of foster care and homelessness. Statewide efforts in Michigan to incorporate trauma-informed systems will be discussed. Campus based support program models to support students, such as those who have experienced foster care, will be shared and evaluated. Alleviating symptoms and effects of trauma will be discussed as a way to lower a youth’s likelihood of exhibiting at-risk behaviors.

Evidence

Trauma-informed practices allow young people to develop healthy and supportive relationships with adults and professionals (Hodas, 2006). Without supportive relationships the cumulative stress from trauma can have a significant toll on the physical and mental health of young people for the rest of their lives (Child Development Center, 2012). The development of healthy relationships also adds to young person’s social capital which helps ensure their future success and quality of life. Different professional groups, such as educators, have recognized the necessity for trauma informed practices and have worked to adopt informed practices within their environments (Trader, 2013)(Lesley University, n.d.). Other advocacy disciplines have the same opportunity to adopted trauma informed practices and these opportunities must be pursued.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Joi Rencher, LMSW
Joi Rencher received her undergraduate degree in Sociology, with a focus on issues of race, class, sexuality, and gender inequalities, as well as her Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. She has ten years of social work experience, serving a socio-culturally diverse population of youth, young adults, and families. She is currently the Coordinator and Independent Life Skills Coach for the Mentoring, Access, and Guidance in College (MAGIC) program at Eastern Michigan University. Within this role, Joi supports students that have experienced foster care or homelessness and attending the university. Joi specializes in program development, crisis intervention, group and individual therapy, and actively facilitating empowerment through empathy and advocacy.

Joi Rencher, LMSW
301G Pierce Hall
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Office (734) 487-0899
Fax (734) 487-6908
jrencher@emich.edu

Patrick McEvilly, MSW
Patrick McEvilly is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the current Life Skills Coach for the Fostering an Academic Successful Transition program at Saginaw Valley State University, in Saginaw, MI. Within his role as a Life Skills Coach Patrick provides direct advocacy, crisis management, and life skills training to undergraduate students who have experienced the foster care system. Patrick has over five years of experience working or partnering with young people, across a variety of different social justice issues. Patrick also has approximately 5 years of experience providing trauma related crisis services to survivors, of various ages, who have experienced physical, sexual, emotional, mental, and/or financial violence. Patrick formerly worked as a co-facilitator for a community-based anti-violence program and has presented and facilitated numerous trainings around intimate partner violence and trauma.

Patrick McEvilly, MSW
7400 Bay Rd., EN 132
University Center, MI 48710
Office (989) 964-2655
Fax (989) 964-4925
pjmcevil@svsu.edu

Brittany Bartkowiak, BSW
Brittany Bartkowiak graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor’s of Social Work degree from Eastern Michigan University. Brittany is a current MSW candidate studying management of children and youth services at the University of Michigan. She has nearly 10 years experience working with and advocating for underserved populations, including students who have experienced foster care, human trafficking, and violence survivors. Brittany’s work was published by the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative, Fostering Success Michigan, and has been featured on NPR. Brittany has been a keynote speaker and presenter at several local and national conferences, including the 2013 Annual NASPA Conference.

Brittany Bartkowiak, BSW
301K Pierce Hall
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Office (734) 487-0899
Fax (734) 487-6908
brittany.bartkowiak@gmail.com

Keyword Descriptors

trauma, foster care, homelessness, achievement, professional practice, support, trauma-informed practice, interdependence

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-2-2015 3:00 PM

End Date

3-2-2015 4:15 PM

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Mar 2nd, 3:00 PM Mar 2nd, 4:15 PM

Trauma: A Nearly Unbreakable Barrier to Achievement

Ballroom D

Youth that have experienced trauma face significant barriers to successfully transitioning into adulthood and succeeding academically. This presentation will define trauma and examine its effects on various stages of child and adolescent development. Additionally, the significance of trauma informed care and how it should influence your practice when working with underserved populations will be discussed.