First Presenter's Institution


Second Presenter's Institution




Strand #1

Safety & Violence Prevention

Strand #2

Mental & Physical Health


Firstly, this proposal is concerned with preventing violence among youth in urban schools, especially those who come from high-poverty conditions and who may have involvement in gangs or other youth violence and in the juvenile justice system. Given the traumatic impact of violence exposure on adolescent well-being, we offer a mental health approach to violence prevention and intervention and for healing from violence-related trauma. This can be achieved by promoting resilience among youth to overcome adversity in the contexts of school, family and community settings. Our recommendations center on evidence based interventions that are grounded in the premise of “Creating Sanctuary” (Bloom, 2013) within our schools such that the mental health approach to violence prevention/intervention/healing is integrated into daily curriculum, pedagogy, and social-emotional skills development within schools. In this way it is not seen as “mental health” counseling or therapy; rather it is a holistic lifestyle that assists youth in navigating traumatic environments (Butler, Robinson, & Walton, 2014). without the need for violence nor the consequences that result in trauma. While we recommend the Systems of Care approach for schools, the model is generalizable to family and community based settings.

Brief Program Description

Our presentation addresses mental health needs of youth from concentrated poverty and exposure to violence. We describe the Systems of Care model and recommend a framework for implementation within school, family and community based settings. Topics include mental health, environmental trauma, poverty, and youth cultural violence. Target Audience: educators, school- and community-based counselors & support staff, social workers, and educational researchers.


This presentation will focus on the following:

  • Provide an overview of the Systems of Care approach to violence prevention and improved mental health for urban youth living among concentrated poverty and violence and offer a framework for implementation within school, family and community based settings.
  • Presenters will look at best practices in the school (Creating sanctuary, promoting resilience), family, and community based settings that support children who have gone through adverse childhood experiences (e.g., physical abuse, sexual abuse, incarcerated parents, witnessed domestic violence, witnessed a murder, emotional or physical neglect, one or no parents, placed in foster care or group home settings or experienced homelessness, human sex trafficking victim)
  • Professional development approaches that support imbedded and sustained implementation of interventions and best practice or strategies that educate teachers on how to recognize these youth and meet the needs of these youth.
  • Presenters will discuss strategies that schools can implement to develop and sustain a positive and supportive climate that promotes social and emotional well-being and reduces risk factors.
  • Participants will participate in activities to promote resilience in youth and focus on holistic approaches to address how interventions can be integrated into daily curriculum, pedagogy, and social-emotional skills development within schools.
  • Participants will develop an understanding of mental health services through the use of clinicians or other student support providers in the schools to work with students, their families, and all members of the school community, including teachers and administrators
  • Participants will develop an understanding of school-wide prevention and early intervention programs which help those students who have or are at risk of developing emotional and behavioral problems to learn the skills and behaviors that help in following school rules and achieving positive academic and social outcomes.
  • Presenters will discuss a model for school-based case management, which allows for case managers to assess needs, identify goals, resources and activities, connect children and families to other services, monitor services to ensure that they are delivered appropriately, and advocate for change when necessary


Mental health in childhood and adolescence is defined by the achievement of expected developmental cognitive, social, and emotional milestones and by secure attachments, satisfying social relationships, and effective coping skills. Mentally healthy children and adolescents enjoy a positive quality of life; function well at home, in school, and in their communities; and are free of disabling symptoms of psychopathology (Weis, 2001). Positive mental health is associated with a range of development outcomes including better health status, higher educational achievement, enhanced productivity and earning, improved interpersonal relationships, better parenting, closer social connections and improved quality of life (Weis, 2001).

Most youth who would be served by the Systems of Care model have experienced potentially traumatic life events which include exposure to neighborhood or domestic violence, stressors of concentrated poverty, peer pressures towards gang involvement or delinquency, family health related issues, and death of family/friends. These students may be involved in the juvenile justice system and have regular contact with probation officers and court counselors. Students may also experience school issues of chronic truancy, in-school behaviors that result in out-of-school suspension, and low academic achievement. Some students already have mental health diagnoses, while others may be assigned to behavior and emotionally disabled classroom settings in schools.

Very little attention has been given to the effects of trauma on students in school. Mental health responses to traumatic events experienced by such students include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and oppositional and conduct related behaviors. PTSD, an anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience, is commonly associated with violence-related trauma (Bloom, 2013; Erwin, 2014; Listenbee ,, 2012; Smithgall, Cusick & Griffin, 2011). Ford, Chapman, Hawke, and Albert (2007) indicate that post-traumatic stress can inhibit thinking and learning in children with impacts that include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses and other learning disabilities, decreased cognitive abilities, substance abuse issues, and externalizing disorders like aggression, conduct problems, defiant and oppositional behaviors when exposed to violence (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2013; Ford,, 2007; Listenbee,, 2012; Smithgall, Cusick & Griffin, 2011). According to Adams (2010), “traumatic experiences affect brain development in children” (p. 2). Further, the neurological, psychological and social effects of trauma may influence traumatized youth towards delinquency (Adams, 2010). The implications of children’s mental needs being unaddressed is detrimental to their mental, social, emotional, and psychosocial development.

Systems of Care offers solutions to provision of children’s mental health needs. The guiding principles of systems of care build meaningful partnerships with families and youth, and addresses their cultural and linguistic needs, in order to help them to function better at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life (Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes, 2009). According to Manteuffel et al. (2008), the implementation of a systems of care approach for children who have been diagnosed with a serious emotional disturbance diagnoses, contributed to their overall improved school attendance and school performance, reduction of the high school dropout rates, decrease number of school transfers, improved emotional and behavioral health, decline in depression and anxiety levels, decline in suicide attempts, increase in behavioral and emotional strengths, fewer contacts with law enforcement, reductions in reliance on inpatient care, and more stable living situations, more adequate resources, and improvement in overall family functioning.

The System of Care model is an all-inclusive wrap-around framework consisting of a multi-agency, multi-professional approach in addressing improved access to mental health services, engagement of children and families in care, efficacy of treatment interventions, and integration of care across systems, and attention to cultural differences. Conversely, the increasing level of trauma in which urban youth are exposed to as a result of environmental violence is surmounting. Youth cultural violence is a phenomenon that institutions such as schools must address in order to promote for primary prevention and health promotion oriented towards urban students’ success. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (2012, p. 1) indicate that youth violence is “…the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24”. In 2010, for example, an average of 13 youth, ages 10 to 24, were victims of homicide each day, and in 2011, an average of 1938 young people within the same age group were treated for physical assault injuries in emergency rooms per day (CDC, 2012). A 2011 national school survey revealed 33% of high school students reported being involved in a physical fight, and 5% reported carrying a weapon to school within 30 days prior to the survey (CDC, 2012). In the 1989-1995 National Crime Victimization Survey Student Supplement, a national representative sample of 23,933 12-19 year old enrolled students found that while .1% of students reported carrying a gun to school in 1995, between 5 and 30% of students reported seeing a gun at school or know of a student who brought a gun to school (Wilkinson & Fagan, 2001, p. 112). The news reports and research demonstrate that countless young lives continue to be lost to gun violence every day around the nation, particularly in impoverished urban areas and among young males of color. From their extensive research on urban youth gun violence, Wilkinson and Fagan (2001, p. 109) sum up such violence as an epidemic, “…nothing less than an outbreak of a contagious disease”. With such devastating loss of young lives, we as a nation need better data on the reasons for such violence. As well, we need to determine the impacts on those children and youth whose lives are not lost but who contend with violence exposure on a daily basis.


Adams, E.J. (2010). Healing invisible wounds: Why investing in trauma-informed care for children makes sense. Justice Policy Institute. Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Blaustein, M. (2013). Childhood trauma and a framework for intervention. In E. Rossen and R.

Hull (Eds.). Supporting and educating traumatized students: A guide for school-based professionals (pp. 3–21). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bloom, S.L. (2013).Creating sanctuary: Toward the evolution of sane societies, Revised Edition. NY: Routledge.

Butler, B., Robinson, D., & Walton, C. (2014). A perfect storm: How pose, perception, and threat converge to perpetuate discriminatory discipline practices for black male students. In Moore, J & Lewis, C (Eds), African American male students in preK-12 schools: Informing research, policy, and practice. (pp. 151-175). United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012a). Understanding Youth Violence Fact Sheet. CDC Division of Violence Prevention, web:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012b). Youth Violence Facts at a Glance. CDC Division of Violence Prevention, web:

Children’s Bureau of the United Stated Department of Health and Human Services. (2009).


Copeland, W. E., Keeler, G., Angold, A., Costello, E. J. (2007). Traumatic events and

posttraumatic stress in childhood. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64(5), 577–584.

Erwin, R. (2014). Desktop Guide to Quality Practice for Working with Youth in Confinement. (, Ch.6, Adolescent Development. National Institute of Corrections.

Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2013).America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 203 pp.

Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., and Kracke, K. (2009). Children’s exposure to violence: A comprehensive national survey. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Office of Justice Programs, October, 2009.

Ford, J.D., Chapman, J.F., Hawke, J., and Albert, D. (2007). Trauma among youth in the juvenile justice system: Critical issues and new directions. Research and Program Brief. National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. June, 2007.

Listenbee, R.L., Torre, J., Boyle, G., Cooper, S.W., Deer, S., Durfee, D.T., James, T., Lieberman, A., Macy, R., Marans, S., McDonnell, J., Mendoza, G., and Taguba, A. (2012). Report of the attorney general’s national task force on children exposed to violence. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. 242 pp.

Manteuffel, B., Stephens, R., Brashears, R., Krikelyova, A., & Fisher, S. (2008). Evaluation

results and systems of care: A review. In B. Stroul & G. Blau (Eds.). The system of care handbook: Transforming mental health services for children, youth and

families (pp. 3–24). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Ristuccia, J. (2013). Creating safe and supportive schools for students impacted by traumatic

experience. In E. Rossen & R. Hull (Eds.). Supporting and educating traumatized students: A guide for school-based professional (pp. 253–263). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Shankar-Brown, R. (2008). A case study of the social and educational experiences of homeless

children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, UNC-Charlotte, Charlotte, NC.

Smithgall, C., Cusick, G., and Griffin, G. (2011). Responding to students affected by trauma: Collaboration across public systems. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), 2011, 40-54.

Wilkinson, D.L., and Fagan, J. (2001). What we know about gun use among adolescents. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review,4(2), 109-132.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Nakeshia Williams:

Nakeshia Williams is a Doctoral student in Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Urban Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Nakeshia has 15 years of K-12 education experience, as well as 10 years in community-based mental health setting as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Nakeshia’s research interests include gender and equity issues, teacher education preparation, multicultural education, and multimedia for civic engagement. Through several community collaborations, Nakeshia has organized community-based projects which have focused on the academic, social emotional skill development, and empowerment of urban youth.

Tiffany Hollis:

Tiffany Hollis is a Doctoral Student in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Urban Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has a clear and strong commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice with over 12 years in the education setting as a social justice educator with a special education background. Her research interests include understanding the cultural and contextual (e.g., home, school, and community) factors and processes that contribute to resilience in economically, socially, and culturally diverse children and adolescents, and the families and communities in which they live. She has written several peer-reviewed articles, briefs, and manuscripts, presented at numerous conferences around resiliency, hope, and academic outcomes of youth who have experienced adverse childhood experiences and who have experienced trauma. She has over 12 years of experience in addressing risk factors facing urban, economically disadvantaged adolescents of color, including homeless youth, youth in foster and out-of-home care, youth in the juvenile justice system, and youth who have mental health issues, and youth with special needs. She also focuses on using strengths-based approaches that are culturally relevant for these populations as well as exploring assets and resources these youth can employ to thrive in the face of risk. Tiffany is currently working on several projects with community organizations to eventually create an intervention program for youth from adverse childhood experiences that focuses on academic and socio-emotional outcomes of youth, while emphasizing youth development.

Laurie Garo:

Laurie Garo is a Doctoral student in Curriculum & Instruction for Urban Education, specializing in therapeutic in-school interventions for children exposed to gang and gun violence. Laurie has 10 years of experience with juvenile justice related grants, youth programs, peer-reviewed writings, and presentations. She has worked with the Department of Justice as a research analyst and gang outreach specialist for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) since 2004 where she utilized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a tool to study juvenile delinquency, to recommend and evaluate intervention and prevention strategies, and to explore neighborhood violence indicators that may impact child well-being. Laurie served as a board member for the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the Mecklenburg County Gang Prevention Coalition. Through collaborative grant writing she has helped to obtain over $650,000 in grant funds for PSN programs and related youth empowerment initiatives. Laurie is also Executive Director of Mind, Body & Soul, Inc. (MBS), a 501c3 non-profit organization established for the empowerment of youth coming from “at-risk” conditions and especially those marginalized from education and involved in the juvenile justice system.

Keyword Descriptors

mental health, environmental trauma, poverty, youth cultural violence

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-8-2016 8:30 AM

End Date

3-8-2016 9:45 AM


Mar 8th, 8:30 AM Mar 8th, 9:45 AM

Systems of Care for addressing the traumatic impact of violence exposure on student well-being


Our presentation addresses mental health needs of youth from concentrated poverty and exposure to violence. We describe the Systems of Care model and recommend a framework for implementation within school, family and community based settings. Topics include mental health, environmental trauma, poverty, and youth cultural violence. Target Audience: educators, school- and community-based counselors & support staff, social workers, and educational researchers.