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How One Philadelphia After-school Program Works to Be Trauma-informed []


On an afternoon in October, kids in the Sunrise of Philadelphia after-school program made tissue-paper marigolds, assembled little altars and created masks. It was the Day of the Dead celebration held by Sunrise partner, Fleisher Art Memorial.

They wrote poems about people who were no longer with them, either lost to death or simply separated across distance — a possibility in this largely immigrant and refugee community.

The activity gave them a chance to explore loss and sadness, which — perhaps unintentionally — fit right into Sunrise’s focus of being a trauma-informed organization.

“One of the things you can do with your staff and students [in a trauma-informed organization] is help them make sense of their experiences,” said Marina Fradera, trauma and curriculum specialist at Sunrise. She is leading the effort to integrate an understanding of trauma into Sunrise’s programs and practices.

Out-of-school time organizations across the country are increasingly exploring ways to serve students impacted by trauma, but few are taking a comprehensive approach, according to a report recently released by the expanded learning unit in the Los Angeles County Office of Education and by LA’s Best.

Most begin by using their resources to train staff, wrote report author Jimena Quiroga Hopkins. 

But how do they incorporate the new knowledge into their programs?

Fradera said the four principles delineated by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are a guide for organizations:

  • Realize the widespread impact of trauma and the potential paths for recovery
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms
  • Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices
  • Resist retraumatization. 

“Trauma-informed care is often referred to as a paradigm shift as well as a set of strategies,” she said.

But practices can be implemented in a structured way, she said.

To read the full article by Stell Simonton, click here.

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