HELPING CHILDREN REACH THEIR POTENTIAL
How can we welcome each new baby as a miracle endowed with immense potential? How can we support their spiritual, emotional, physical, and psychological well-being? How can we ensure that all children and youth have the opportunity to succeed based on their unique individual ability and not be limited by the conditions they were born into, or the preconceptions of who they are based on their culture, class and race?
Pre to Three: We believe that each child is born with enormous potential and that the sooner they can be given healthy environments in which to grow, the better they will be able to progress through the development stages so critical to their later life. Recognizing that the primary points of engagement with very young children and their families often lie within the healthcare system, we are increasingly interested in working with medical providers and their partners to improve long term outcomes for children and their families. Embedded in these efforts is recognition of the critical role of the parent as primary care provider, teacher, and role model.
Traumatic Stress: Over the last few years there has been substantial growth in awareness about the impact of traumatic stress on the brain development of children, particularly those who are very young. Research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) has led to changes in pediatric practice as articulated by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris in her TED Talk. We are investing in incorporating this knowledge into our local medical system, to improve outcomes for young children and their families. Embedded in this work is the need to ensure that new practices that improve outcomes, prevent problems, and save money, are supported by medical reimbursement models.
In 2018 this movement became the Santa Barbara Resiliency Project, and a pilot project for ACES screening and response in well baby visits was launched at the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, and in partnership with CALM and UCSB. In 2019 a second pilot began in Carpinteria, as a partnership between the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Carpinteria Children’s Project. A concerted effort is now underway to promote ACES screening and response in all pediatric practices in Santa Barbara County. This is now called PeRC (Pediatric Resiliency Collaborative), and is housed in the Cottage Health Population Health Department.
At the same time, the recognition of both the causes and impacts of traumatic stress is growing in fields beyond healthcare. Schools, social service agencies and in some cases law enforcement increasingly recognize the role traumatic stress plays in their work, and how much it impacts the results they are trying to achieve. Catalyzed largely by a recent youth suicide cluster, we, along with many foundation partners, have made substantial investments in behavioral health initiatives, mostly around schools. Going forward, our focus will be to change systems and culture in order to improve how organizations respond to the ways in which children have adapted to the traumas they have faced. We have invested in several pilot efforts in the last two years, the largest of which is the Mental Health Consultation model, which is a partnership between CALM and several local school districts.
Culture, Class, and Race: There is a clear divide in our community between the experience and expectations of youth that come from low income, often Latino backgrounds, and their counterparts who are economically better off and often white. We believe there is a strong consensus that dramatically changing this dynamic is a critical issue for the well-being of our entire community. We will support projects that address this in a comprehensive way by addressing issues of cultural proficiency, implicit bias, and racism.
We are also interested in supporting efforts that focus on changing the systems that support marginalized children and young adults. One of the best examples of this kind of work is the Program for Effective Access to College (PEAC) which emerged from a partnership between La Cumbre Junior High School and San Marcos High School, and has now expanded to all secondary schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District. We have also provided multi-year support for the Academy for Success, which started at Dos Pueblos High School and is now also District wide. Finally, we have been a long term supporter of Just Communities and their work addressing issues of implicit bias in local schools.
Bringing it Together: One of the things that makes progress in the early years even more challenging is the lack of integration between the various systems that support families, from pre-natal care, birth, post-natal care, integration into the pre-school system, and then schools. This lack of coordination exists vertically as children and families grow through time, and horizontally in cases where greater chances of success require coordination of many agencies and systems. Not only does this lack of coordination limit the impact of individual programs and the resources used to support them, it makes it very difficult to track the impact of each effort on the ultimate success of children as they mature. We are very interested in supporting efforts that bridge the systems engaged in early childhood and beyond with an ultimate goal of integrating unique programs into more comprehensive neighborhood or community wide efforts.
We recognize that none of this work would be possible without the strong partnership with our local school districts. For more information on them, please click on the image links below.