The UCSF Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS) project is a comprehensive, multilevel school-based prevention and intervention program for children who have experienced trauma. The goal of UCSF HEARTS is to create school environments that are more trauma-sensitive and supportive of the needs of traumatized children. A main objective of this project is to work collaboratively with SFUSD to promote school success by decreasing trauma-related difficulties and increasing healthy functioning in students within the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) who have experienced complex trauma. Trauma-sensitive school environments will likely benefit not only traumatized children, but also those who are affected by these children, including child peers and school personnel.
Why is it important to address trauma in schools?
Children's exposure to community and family violence is a significant concern in San Francisco, and cannot be ignored as a serious public health issue. Children who have experienced early, chronic trauma such as family or community violence can develop emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and relationship difficulties that can make it very hard for them to learn and function well in school (Cole et al., 2005). Exposure to trauma is associated with a higher risk for school dropout (Porche et al., 2011), and in turn, dropping out of school increases the risk of being imprisoned (Center for Labor Market Studies, 2009). The Children's Defense Fund describes the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline," in which 1 in 3 African American and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of being imprisoned during their lifetime (Children's Defense Fund, 2007). They attribute these tragic statistics to the dangerous intersection between poverty and racial inequities. It is clear that unaddressed trauma is a major factor in the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline" as well. Addressing trauma in schools, where children spend most of their waking hours, can help to head off the ways that trauma can derail a child's life.
What does UCSF HEARTS do?
In collaboration with SFUSD, UCSF HEARTS focuses on three main areas:
UCSF HEARTS has been implemented in several SFUSD schools in the southeast sector of San Francisco. These schools serve some of the most under-resourced communities in the city. We are working closely and collaboratively with SFUSD personnel throughout the development, implementation, and evaluation of the project in order to tailor it to the needs of SFUSD schools and the children served by SFUSD. The project's planning phase began in December, 2008, and implementation of UCSF HEARTS began August, 2009.
Joyce Dorado, Ph.D., is the Project Director for UCSF HEARTS. She is an Associate Clinical Professor in the UCSF-SFGH Dept. of Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Services (CAS).
This project is based in part on a framework published by Massachusetts Advocates for Children ( MAC) entitled, "Helping Traumatized Children Learn: A Report and Policy Agenda." The fundamental concepts discussed in this report are being implemented in a number of schools across the country (in Massachusetts, New York, and Washington).
UCSF HEARTS has been made possible through the generous support of Metta Fund; the John and Lisa Pritzker Family Fund; the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; The Tipping Point Foundation, and SFUSD School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds.
American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, October 2011: Keys to making integrated care work: Psychologists discuss how to improve access to care for underserved populations.