For three years, a Crittenton Children’s Center program has helped students in the Kansas City area work through crises so they can focus on learning.
The organization announced Thursday that a grant will allow it to double the size of the program’s staff and triple the number of students it reaches.
The $2.3 million, three-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will expand the Head Start-Trauma Smart program into 156 more classrooms across Missouri.
The program’s staff works with family members and teachers in Head Start classrooms and teaches them the effects of traumas, such as homelessness, abuse and the death of a parent. Paula Neese, Crittenton’s senior director of community-based programs, said that when children experience a traumatic event, they are less able to focus on learning.
“They’re experiencing a lot of things, and they can’t attune and learn as well,” she said. “This teaches them how to help themselves regulate their emotions.”
Between 7 and 10 percent of students in Head Start classrooms receive individual therapy. Of those referred for therapy, 70 percent have experienced at least one traumatic event, and 50 percent have experienced more than one.
In 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gave Head Start-Trauma Smart a $500,000 grant, which was matched by $700,000 in local funding to develop the program.
Because the 7 to 10 percent of the students who need the most help showed significant improvement after going through the program, the foundation gave the latest gift, which will dramatically increase the size of the program.
The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, which also helped fund the initial development of the program, has already committed to providing a $200,000 grant this year for the program in the Kansas City area. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant will take effect July 1.