State gets federal grant to assist stressed children

WILMINGTON — With a new federal grant Delaware will increases support for children who have experienced academic, social, and behavioral health challenges as a result of exposure to trauma and toxic stress, state officials said.

In a news release Monday, Gov. John Carney announced that Delaware will receive almost $7.5 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education’s Trauma Recovery Demonstration Project Grant Program.

Delaware’s project aims to strengthen collaborations among families, schools and mental health service providers.
“We know that many Delaware children arrive at school each day with their own unique challenges,” Gov. Carney said.

“In many cases, that includes exposure to trauma. It’s our job to help those children cope with the effects of trauma, so they can focus on learning in the classroom. This grant will help us connect families, school leaders, and health providers to make sure that Delaware children are receiving the best services possible.”

Through the grant, the Delaware Department of Education will:
• Increase screening for a larger population of students to identify those experiencing trauma;
• Augment immediately available support services for identified children;
• Strengthen partnerships with agencies that can provide additional short- and long-term services for referred students; and
• Enhance understanding by teachers, staff and providers about signs and symptoms of trauma and the broader adoption of a trauma-informed approach.

This new grant will build upon work already underway in the First State to support trauma-informed practices in schools, state agencies and other providers across Delaware. “We must support parents and families in understanding mental health challenges and delivery systems so they can be informed consumers on behalf of their children,” said Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education.

“We believe that this grant will have a significant positive impact on the learning outcomes of our students and will add to the evidence base around the effective trauma sensitive strategies in schools,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “The mental health and social services assistance provided by this grant will help in developing resilient, engaged, and academically successful students while also providing safe, stable, and supportive school environments.”

In October 2018, Gov. Carney signed Executive Order 24, directing the Family Services Cabinet Council to help mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences and build resilience in children, adults and communities.

The Family Services Cabinet Council is working to identify gaps in available services along the prevention and early intervention-treatment continuum for children and their caregivers statewide.

Its members also are charged with developing a comprehensive plan focused on early intervention for children and their caregivers exposed to adverse childhood experiences in order to help prevent abuse and neglect.

Gov. Carney also worked with the General Assembly this year to pass a three-year, $75 million Opportunity Funding program that will support students from low-income families, and English learners. The Opportunity Funding package sets aside $15 million for additional mental health and reading supports in Delaware schools.

Also, the state-sponsored Take Care Delaware pilot program will allow officials to consider students’ emotional needs immediately following a crisis.

State Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover North, sponsored legislation that allows law enforcement officers or emergency care providers to notify school administrators of stressful events occurring after school ends.

House Bill 74 passed unanimously during the 150th General Assembly in June and Gov. Carney signed it into law on July 26.

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