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Edward Street Partnerships: Worcester Prevents & Treats Childhood Trauma

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Imagine 1.9 million fewer cases of heart disease, 21 million fewer cases of depression, and 2.5 million fewer instances of obesity in Worcester and across the United States.

We can make this dream a reality simply by preventing and treating potentially traumatic events in children. At Edward Street and across the city, early educators, providers, parents, and health professionals have already gotten started.

Adverse Childhood Experiences affect millions, with serious repercussions in adulthood

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES, are traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs include violence, abuse, growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems, living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, frequently moving, and food insecurity.

Toxic stress from ACEs disrupts brain development, affects how the body responds to stress, and contributes to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. 

The prevention and treatment of ACES can reduce depression by 44%, pulmonary disease by 27%, asthma by 24%, kidney disease by 16%, strokes by 15%, heart disease by 13%, and more. Unemployment in adulthood can be reduced by as much as 15%.

How Edward Street and our partners help identify and treat ACES

Trauma has far-reaching consequences for families but the presence of a single caring adult in a child’s life can mitigate its effects. That’s why Edward Street and our partners and collaborators are building awareness and knowledge among early educators.

  • Professional development: Edward Street’s trauma sensitive training professional development helps educators identify ACES in young children and guides appropriate responses.  
  • At Woo-Labs: A grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education helps Woo-Labs, an Edward Street partner, improve educators’ trauma awareness and social-emotional teaching practices.
  • Edward Street’s Trauma-Sensitive Training: Edward Street Master Teacher Jo Ann Borinski, M.S., a specialist in early trauma, mentors early educators and providers in a variety of settings, including local childcare programs and Project Flourish, an apprenticeship program. 
  • Mindfulness education by Edward Street Board Member Wendy O’Leary: Mindfulness consultant, author, and Edward Street Board Member Wendy O’Leary, M.Ed., teaches mindfulness techniques around the world and locally. She trains early educators, visits classrooms, performs readings of her books, including Breathing Makes it Better, and runs workshops for parents. Edward Street’s 2022 Day of Play Family Festival featured a Mindfulness Play Area organized by O’Leary.
  • Local childcare programs: With support from Edward Street, Central Massachusetts’ early educators play a vital role in identifying and treating trauma. Grants acquired by Edward Street have helped local childcare programs introduce activities that target healing and recovery, from music and art therapies to curriculums designed by Playworks.
    But the role of local providers goes beyond curriculum. Programs like Rainbow Child Development Center provide a safe and nurturing environment for children where “there are trusted adults here who care about them,” says Rainbow CDC’s Nancy Thibeault. “It’s a little oasis for the children, and for the parents themselves. They know we’re always here.” 

UMass Memorial’s new Coaching Academy on Resilience and Trauma introduces teams throughout Massachusetts

More help has arrived in Worcester and across the state. 

UMass Memorial’s Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma, in collaboration with the state’s Office of the Child Advocate, recently announced the launch of the Coaching Academy on Resilience and Trauma (CART).

Led by Executive Director Audrey Smolkin, who has trauma expertise and more than 20 years’ experience in child and family programs, CART offers online resources and training plus additional in-person coaching opportunities.

In Worcester, CART is led by the Worcester Cross-Initiative Coalition for Resiliency. Team members include Daniel Hartnett, Anne Bureau, Gabriel Rodriguez, Dianne Langford James, Mari Gonzalez, Yolanda Ramos, Maggi Kilcoyne, & Jennifer Davis Carey. 

As of January 2023, CART has approved six local coaching academies across Massachusetts:

  • Handle With Care Responders: North Central/North Quabbin region
  • Bridge Builders: Pathways to Healing Through the Arts: Springfield
  • Equitable Family Engagement Taskforce: Winthrop
  • STAT: Stoughton Trauma Advisory Team: Stoughton
  • Trauma-Informed Hampshire County (TIHC): Hampshire County
  • Worcester Cross-Initiative Coalition for Resiliency: City of Worcester

Says Smolkin, “Many communities have experienced trauma over the last few years, and providers across various child-serving sectors have done important work during this difficult time. CART will support cross-sector teams in learning about trauma, race and resilience so they can make progress at a local level.”

Edward Street is a proud to support high-quality early learning and care. Donate today so children, families, and businesses can thrive, and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.