Trauma-Informed & Healing-Centered Practices
New Jersey’s students represent culturally rich and diverse backgrounds, each coming to school with their own individual set of experiences. Sometimes, these experiences can be of an adverse or traumatic nature which can impact the student’s academic achievement and social/emotional development. Schools have the opportunity to establish supportive, positive learning environments and practices for all students that not only provide structure but are also safe, welcoming, and relationship-centered. Doing so can help mitigate the effects of any trauma or adversity a student may be facing and support positive growth.
Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (before the age of 18) such as
- experiencing violence or abuse,
- a member in the household struggling with substance use or mental health issues,
- or even parental separation or the incarceration of a household member.
Relationships and environments that provide Positive Childhood Experiences, or PCEs, are essential to the prevention of ACEs. Feeling connected, having a sense of belonging, and being in a safe, stable and supportive environment all promote the positive growth and development of children and youth as well as serving as protective factors to them.
There are many ways the adults in a child’s life can help increase protective factors and PCEs, thereby reducing potential negative health outcomes related to ACEs. The following resources provide additional information on ACEs as well as how to aid in their prevention:
- Actions 4 ACEs – a statewide initiative to build awareness about ACEs and the role adults can play in helping impacted children heal.
- NJDOE Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) webpage – With many components of SEL being crucial to building resiliency and protecting against ACEs, this page offers valuable resources for schools and districts.
- The Truth About ACEs Infographic – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers information about ACEs through a visual infographic.
- Understanding Child Trauma – SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCSTI) provides information and related resources.
- Violence Prevention – this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage offers facts, data, and resources.
- Article: The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement.
- Report: Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE*.
- ASCA - Crisis & Trauma Resources.
- Blueprints – Search programs that have shown strong evidence of effectiveness.
- Child Trauma Academy (CTA) – includes a library of free resources for parents, caregivers, educators and professionals.
- National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) – Trauma-Sensitive Schools Training Package.
- SAMHSA – Tips for Talking with and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A Guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.
- Self-Healing Communities – Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) – Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators.
Mindfulness, Restorative Practices, and Positive Discipline
- Article: Meiklejohn, J., et. al. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291–307. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0094-5.
- Article: Cleveland, R. E. (2016). Mindfulness in K-12 Education: School Counselor Connections.
- ASCD – Mindfulness Resources.
- Getting Started with Mindfulness: A Toolkit for Early Childhood Organizations. (Zero to Three)
- Mindfulness in Education: An Approach to Cultivating Self-Awareness (WestEd)
This brief introduces mindfulness as a strategy, explains its potential benefits, provides examples and includes additional related resources.
- Pure Edge – Offers strategies for educators and learners to support social, emotional, and academic development through mindful movement and rest.
- Article: Wathtel, T. (2016). Defining Restorative. International Institute for Restorative Practices.
- Restorative Justice in U.S. Schools: A Research Review (WestEd, 2016).
- Restorative Practices Toolkit – provides information on how fostering healthy relationships and promoting positive discipline in schools helps to foster safe learning environments.
- Comprehensive Positive School Discipline Resource Guide.
- School Discipline and Its Impact on the Learning Environment (NCSSLE)
Includes information on school discipline practices and features related resources.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
- Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools: A System Framework (NCTSN).
- Quick Reference Mental Health Guide – Includes a list of strategies and practices addressing mental health needs and is organized to align with tiered frameworks.
- New Jersey Tiered Systems of Support (NJTSS).
- PBIS – Integrating Trauma-Informed Support in MTSS – Helps to distinguish which trauma-informed approaches should be utilized when and at which tier.
Screening and Assessment
- School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) System – offers free or low-cost screening and assessment measures in relation to school mental health.
- Trauma Responsive Schools Implementation Assessment (TRS-IA) – an evidence-informed self-assessment tool available through the SHAPE System.
- NCTSN offers a searchable database containing reviews of measures utilized in the field of child traumatic stress.
A student’s trauma may stem from the loss of a loved one, pet, relationship, or a routine or expectation that has changed or been taken away from them.
Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Beliefs, religious practices, developmental age, and cultural customs are a few factors that affect the way we mourn.
The NJ Traumatic Loss Coalitions (TLC) remains a top resource for schools to utilize when support is needed following a traumatic loss event. Examples of services that may be provided to schools include:
- Consultation and resources for schools regarding ways to support the mental health needs of those in the school community.
- Assistance for the school administration and/or crisis team in assessing the impact to the school community and identifying those who require services.
- Assistance with drafting notifications and communication to those in the school community.
- Pertinent resources for staff, parents, and students.
- Co-facilitation of the response with school personnel to provide Psychological First Aid (PFA) through a school’s virtual communication platform (e.g., Google Hangouts).
To access the above services, contact the coordinator for your county for assistance (click on “Who to Contact” on left side bar). You may also find it helpful to contact the statewide office at 732-235-2810.
In addition to support from the TLC, the following resources may be helpful to support students through loss and traumatic events.
Resources for Educators
- The Dougy Center – Resources for School Personnel.
- Good Grief - Receive support and training to help students grow from loss and adversity.
- National Center for School Crisis Bereavement - Psychological First Aid (PFA) For Students and Teachers.
- Article: Cohen, J. & Mannarino, A. (2011), Supporting Children with Traumatic Grief: What Educators Need to Know, School Psychology International, 32(2), 117–131, DOI: 10.1177/0143034311400827.
Resources for Parents/Caregivers
- National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement: After a Loved One Dies Parent Booklet.
- The Dougy Center – Offers resources for Parents & Caregivers to support both themselves and their children experiencing grief.
- Sesame Street Early Childhood Grief Resources – Features articles, videos, activities for parents of young children.
- Pathfinders for Autism – A Social Story about Death.
- Center for Loss and Life Transition – Helping Teenagers Cope with Grief.
- Imagine: A Center for Coping with Loss – Provides free, year-round grief support for children and families.
- DREAMS Program
Through a partnership with the NJ Department of Children and Families, the NJDOE offers support to the DREAMS Program, which provides school districts throughout the state with trauma-informed and healing-centered training and resources, including training in the Nurtured Heart Approach.
- Handle with Care – New Jersey
Per Attorney General Directive No. 2020-09, this program aims to address ACEs and trauma that impacts NJ school-aged children through increasing communication between law enforcement (LE) and schools regarding a notice when LE is aware that a child has been exposed to a traumatic event.
- For questions regarding these initiatives, please contact SafeSupportiveSchools@doe.nj.gov.
Building Student Resilience Toolkit (NCSSLE) – designed for middle school and junior high school educators to gain skills for cultivating student resilience.
Coalition to Support Grieving Students: Modules to Support School Professionals.
Healing Guidebook – A toolkit of tips and strategies for helping children and youth heal from trauma.
National Center for School Crisis Bereavement - Teaching Training Modules on Supporting Grieving Students in School.
NJ State Bar Foundation - Trauma Sensitive Schools trainings (At no-cost for NJ educators).
STAT – Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma: 5 online modules.
The following helplines and hotlines can be shared with families of students experiencing a crisis or needing additional support with well-being.
- Children’s System of Care – 1-877-652-7624
Call this number to find out about services for children and teens with emotional and behavioral health care challenges.
- Crisis Text Line – Text “HOME” to 741741
Connect with a crisis counselor to help defuse a “hot” moment or crisis.
- NJ Suicide Prevention Hopeline – 1-855-654-6735<
New Jersey's 24/7 Peer Support & Suicide Prevention Hotline.
- 2nd Floor - 1-888-222-2228 | Call or Text
24/7 hotline for youth aged 10-24 seeking support for daily life challenges.
Warmlines provide information and non-emergency help, support and resources.
NJ 211 (Access to Community Resources)
24 Hour Information Line for NJ State & Community Services & Resources
Dial: 211 or 1-877-652-1148
Text, Email & CHAT options also available.
Office of Advocacy (NJ Department of Children & Families)
Helpline to assist parents, caregivers and service providers with questions regarding the safety
and well-being of children.
1-877-543-7864 (Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm)
There are many government agencies involved in spreading awareness of ACEs and supporting its prevention. Though not exhaustive, please note some of the partners below:
- New Jersey Department of Children and Families – Office of Resilience.
- New Jersey Department of Human Services – Trauma Informed Care.
- SAMHSA – National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI).
- US Department of Education – Tips for Helping Students Recovering from Traumatic Events.
- Youth.gov – Trauma Informed Approaches.