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Start early: Providing trauma-informed, systems-focused professional development in early childhood development and learning contexts


Adverse and traumatic childhood experiences can have profound negative health and mental health consequences across the lifespan. Prevention and early intervention strategies to mitigate such impacts and foster resilience are essential, yet extant approaches often do not consider the systemic nature of trauma exposure, particularly among communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and historic disinvestment. Addressing the impacts of trauma early in life is critical in order to mitigate their long-term effects on child development. The current project worked with a community Head Start/Early Head Start partner to adapt, deliver, and conduct a formative evaluation of Trauma-Informed Programs and Practices in Schools-Early Childhood (TIPPS-EC), a systems-focused professional development approach to creating and maintaining trauma-informed early childhood development and learning contexts serving children ages 0-5 years and their families. Training materials were designed to highlight community and systemic sources of trauma exposures; acknowledge teacher stress and burnout; and present research-based information on trauma exposure, how effects may manifest, and the impacts of trauma exposures on very young children and the adults in their lives. Data were collected to evaluate participants' responses to TIPPS-EC and solicit their input regarding implementing systems-focused, trauma-informed approaches in EC settings (n = 56 Head Start/Early Head Start professionals). Participants were satisfied with TIPPS-EC and endorsed greater knowledge of trauma-informed approaches and systemic trauma after the professional development sessions. Participants made multiple suggestions for next steps for implementing systemic approaches in EC settings. TIPPS-EC presents a framework for understanding systemic trauma exposures as they manifest in EC contexts, and for identifying systems-level strategies that can support EC professionals to help mitigate the impacts of trauma on the children and families they serve. Implications for addressing stress, burnout, and trauma impacts specifically in EC educational settings are discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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