“It Takes a Village”
Recent headlines about alleged child sexual abuse in the sporting world have captured the nation’s attention. Sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic experiences a child can endure. Trauma is the hidden precursor to many mental health and substance abuse problems. One in four children will experience a serious traumatic event by their 16th birthday. The impacts of such experiences include increased depression and anxiety, increased substance abuse, lower GPA’s, truancy and increased risk of criminal justice involvement. For these reasons, early detection and treatment of trauma is both humane and cost effective.
The Journey Mental Health Center has been strategically engaged in child and adolescent trauma treatment since 2004 through an evidenced based program entitled Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in the Schools (CBITS). Journey Mental Health Center leads a coalition that includes the school districts of Madison, Sun Prairie, Middleton-Cross Plains, and Oregon, Project Face-Kids (a five agency cooperative effort for the behavioral treatment of children in the schools) and the United Way of Dane County that brought CBITS to Dane County, resulting in over 8,000 children being screened for serious trauma to date.
Elementary and Middle school students, their parents and teachers participate in the manualized 10- session program. The successful program has produced the following results:
• Increased awareness by parents and teachers of trauma and its effects
• Improved connections with “hard to reach” children and parents
• Teachers reframing some children’s “bad” behavior as traumatic stress responses and
• Increased awareness among CBITS participants of the traumatic effects of witnessing violence in the home and at school
The students who completed the CBITS program experienced measurable improvement in their mental health and academic performance. During the last eight years, Journey Mental Health clinicians have trained hundreds of schoolteachers, social workers and psychologists in the CBITS method, thereby expanding the professional trauma network.
The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” is true. By directing the combined vigilance, wisdom and compassion of the adults in our community toward the growth and well being of our children, we ensure their safe and healthy arrival at adulthood. There is no greater gift we can give them.