California officials announce free trauma-informed training for educators

The Office of the California Surgeon General will release in late June a free, two-hour online professional learning module designed to help early care and education personnel respond to trauma and stress in children.

The goal is to provide greater awareness of the impacts of stress and trauma on health, development and learning, as well as present key strategies related to trauma-informed response principles and help create conditions for safe and supportive learning environments for all children.

“As we begin to recover from the trauma of the pandemic, there is an urgent need to equip our early learning and care providers, educators, and school personnel with foundational knowledge of adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed principles,” said California Surgeon General Dr. Diana Ramos.

The Surgeon General’s office was allocated $1 million under the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) to develop the training, known as Safe Spaces: Foundations of Trauma-Informed Practice for Educational and Care Settings.

CYBHI is a $4.7 billion state investment to enhance, expand and redesign the systems that support behavioral health for children and youth. The objective is to promote overall well-being and prevent behavioral health challenges while improving screening, support and services for children and youth experiencing emerging and existing behavioral health needs, including mental health challenges and substance use.

Feedback provided by 200 advisors, educators, early child care providers and school personnel spanning dozens of counties from Humboldt to San Diego who signed up to beta-test the training was overwhelmingly positive. According to an email from the Surgeon General’s office, 97 percent of participants agreed the testing improved their knowledge; 99 percent said the material provided useful information for their work; and 99 percent said the content and objectives reflected the diversity of early learning and care providers and school personnel in California.

In addition to CYBHI funds, the state is working to address trauma-informed learning through other means. The California Department of Education in 2021 launched the California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP), which supports schools’ efforts to partner with community agencies and local government to align community resources to improve student outcomes. In 2022, legislators passed a bill that added funding and expanded the program through 2031. Grant recipients under the program must commit to providing trauma-informed health, mental health and social services for students at the school site.

Addressing student trauma will be critical in the coming years, as so many children faced significant challenges during the pandemic, from family job loss to homelessness and more.

During CSBA’s Feb. 21 webinar “Trauma-Informed Education: What governance teams need to know,” panelists discussed principles and strategies of equity-centered, trauma-informed education that local educational agencies could implement to support staff, students and families. While many resources related to trauma-informed education are designed for administrators or classroom educators, this forum was designed with the board member role in mind, covering everything from policy-setting to resource allocation to aid governance teams in supporting trauma-informed education.