(LOUISVILLE, Ky, June 25, 2019) A demonstration program in Louisville elementary schools to foster resilience among students experiencing trauma reduced student behavior referrals, improved staff skills, led to gains in school climate surveys and boosted teacher retention, according to a Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky report and video. The hope is to improve the future health of the students, which research shows can suffer as a result of toxic stress in childhood, the Foundation said.
The program was funded in part by a grant from the Foundation to the Bounce Coalition in Louisville. It was designed to address Adverse Childhood Experiences - known as ACEs - which include abuse, neglect and other potentially traumatic experiences during childhood and youth. ACEs can cause toxic stress, generate risky behaviors, and lead to chronic illness in adulthood and early death. The Foundation's $299,875 grant over six years was matched by local funds totaling $252,737. The Bounce program began at Semple Elementary in 2014 and expanded to Wheatley in 2015 and then Englehard in 2016. In addition, Bounce provided teachers at Blue Lick and Shelby with some ACEs training. The Foundation's evaluation report analyzed only Semple and Wheatley, because the program had been implemented the longest in those schools.
"What we know is that abuse, neglect or situations such as parental drug use or incarceration that kids experience not only causes many of them to act out - it may mean they'll have poor health as adults that could lead to an early death," said Ben Chandler, Foundation president and CEO. "This grant program was about finding ways to mitigate the impact of ACEs early on, while patterns can be changed, with the goal of preventing both the short-term and the long-term problems ACEs create."
Bounce is a cross-sector coalition of community partners to build resilience in children. Under the grant program, Bounce provided training for teachers, counselors, school staff and parents, as well as classroom lessons and parent engagement activities. The training is built around an approach of, "What happened to you?" instead of, "What's wrong with you?" when adults are working with children who've experienced ACEs. The trauma-informed model mitigates the impact of ACEs that have been correlated to poor health outcomes.
"Bounce has shown us that adults have the ability to change children's lives by reframing their interactions. Children need at least one caring adult to believe in them. It is really that simple," said Betty J. Adkins, Bounce co-lead.
David L. Fink, the other Bounce co-lead, added: "By helping educators and caregivers of our youth better understand the short and long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, we were part of a healthier environment in which our community's youth can grow and develop."
The Foundation required a strong evaluation component for its grant. According to the final report, the evaluation of Semple and Wheatley after three years showed:
- A 56-point improvement in the percentage of staff who felt they were equipped with skills to work effectively with students experiencing ACEs;
- A decline from 30 percent to 24 percent in students with 10 or more referrals;
- Gains in nine of nine categories in school climate surveys;
- Growth in both parent conferences, which nearly doubled, and PTA membership, which grew from zero to 213 members; and
- An improvement in teacher retention from 87.8 percent to 90.2 percent.
Leveraging the Foundation grant, Bounce won additional funds from the Kentucky Department for Public Health to hold public screenings of a documentary film about ACEs, and to host other community events to raise awareness about ACEs and discuss practical strategies for fostering children's skills to bounce back from adversity. Bounce also provided training for health care providers and other organizations to foster resilience building practices in Louisville and neighboring counties.
Given the Bounce program's success in an urban setting at Jefferson County Public Schools, the Foundation decided to implement a similar demonstration program in a rural setting. Bounce received a two-year $200,000 Foundation grant in May to work with Russell County Schools and the Lake Cumberland District Health Department to implement the ACEs program there.
"Our goal is to create a blueprint for successfully addressing ACEs that coalitions across Kentucky can use to secure funding from other sources to implement in their own school districts and communities," Chandler said.
The mission of Bounce is to build the resilience of children and families by improving knowledge about the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the skills to help youth bounce back from adversity.
Bounce is a fiscally sponsored entity of the Community Foundation of Louisville, a 501(c)3 public charity. See www.bouncelouisville.org.
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth