Theses Doctoral

Adoption of Trauma Sensitive Practices in NYC Elementary-Level Community Schools

Okoya, Wenimo Chaunne

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) influence student learning, behavior, and lifelong health and success. About one in four children have experienced at least one traumatic event (e.g., household dysfunction, neglect, and/or abuse) before the age of four, and that rate more than triples for children living in poverty. Trauma sensitive schools have been disseminated as a way to address this need, but there is little research on the topic.

This study sought to improve understanding about adoption of trauma sensitive practices in a representative sample of the 77 elementary-level community schools in New York City and to identify facilitators and barriers to adoption of these practices. Thirty schools were randomly-selected, and interviews were conducted with 23 (76.7%) community school directors. Comprehensive Educational Plans were reviewed to supplement the interviews.

The measurements and data analysis were informed by the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Framework (The Framework). Diffusion of Innovation Theory was used to classify facilitators and barriers. Data analysis comprised both deductive and inductive approaches.

The findings indicated that community schools have adopted some practices aligned with the Framework, though services and resources are not delivered in strategic and coordinated ways. School cultures, priorities, and goals are not always well aligned with trauma sensitive practices. There is a wide range of experience among staff and agencies responsible for driving the adoption of trauma sensitive practices, and this is a barrier to adoption of coordinated school-wide approaches. Consequently, while community schools are a promising model, many social-emotional, mental health, and other needs of children and families persist.

Schools are clearly an important social institution within society to foster upward social mobility and increase the chances for youth and children to develop in healthful fulfilling ways and contribute to the democratic society in which they live. But given the unequal and unfair distribution of access to educational resources, employment, housing, health care, income among other social resources, long-term efforts by communities as well as government policies, and investments are needed to ameliorate the traumatic experiences that continue to affect children and families and to prevent the intergenerational trauma that has occurred for centuries.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Basch, Charles E.
Knight-Manuel, Michelle Georgia
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2019