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Bringing Trauma Education to Early Childhood Educators

CCFH Helps Develop New Content for NC Community College Curriculum

Challenging behavior in young children is not always the result of a traumatic experience, but understanding how things like abuse, neglect, or separation from a caregiver affect children can provide much-needed insight for early childhood educators.

In March 2019, CCFH’s Training Services team began to bring that trauma-informed lens to North Carolina community college faculty who teach early childhood educators.

“We all knew how important this topic was, but I don’t think we knew the magnitude,” said NC Community College System Education Program Administrator Mary Olvera, PhD, at a webinar on October 19.

“When we got into the training, we realized the depth of what we were dealing with, but we also realized that it wasn’t just about learning what trauma is – we also need to look at all the levels of trauma. We need to look at how to identify children [with trauma]. We need to learn how to help teachers help children, but also help teachers help themselves, and help faculty who may be seeing trauma in their college students.”

Trauma-informed training with CCFH continued later that fall, reaching faculty from 36 community colleges across our state. The faculty quickly recognized the need to incorporate trauma-informed practice into the curriculum for their early childhood education students.

With support from Dr. Tripp Ake, CCFH’s Director of Training, the faculty developed modules for three courses in the early childhood education curriculum. Each course includes a module to introduce trauma and a module to dive deeper into its implications for that topic. For example, in EDU 153, “Health, Safety, and Nutrition,” students learn about recognizing child traumatic stress, providing psychologically safe environments, and helping children regulate their emotions. As of this fall, the modules have been piloted in six NC community colleges, including Durham Tech.

The new modules on trauma have been welcome and eye-opening for both early childhood education faculty and students.

“These modules have opened a door for students to really see children compassionately and have that empathy for children instead of looking at them differently, or [thinking] they’re trying to trigger me or they’re being defiant,” said Cyndie Osborne, M.Ed., of Stanly Community College.

Moving forward, the aim is to continue training early childhood education faculty to deliver the new modules so that more early childhood education students in North Carolina receive this foundation in trauma-informed practice. In January 2022, faculty who’ve piloted the modules will take part in a two-day training with CCFH to equip them to train their own colleagues to teach the modules.

Tripp Ake reflects on what this shift will mean for early childhood classrooms.

“Ultimately, we hope that kids in early childhood settings are benefitting because students are showing up with a better understanding of what behaviors they might see and considering alternatives for why kids might have different emotional or behavioral struggles.”

This project is made possible with funding from the Winer Family Foundation, Child Trust Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation, Anonymous Trust, and Dogwood Trust.

Posted on November 2, 2021