Compassionate & Resilient Schools

Over the past year and a half, the staff at The Dragonfly House have been working closely with key personnel at Davie County Schools to create our own, local, community-specific version of a trauma-informed/trauma-sensitive school and community.  This is called “Compassionate & Resilient Schools” (CRS).  Our CRS model is a whole school, whole child, trauma-sensitive framework that supports all students by creating Compassionate & Resilient schools that will improve academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes for students.

It is our mission to show compassion and promote resiliency both in our schools and in our communities.  We will be intentional about building relationships with all students so that we may more effectively prevent, recognize and heal childhood trauma by creating safe and nurturing relationships and learning environments.

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Childhood trauma can have a direct, immediate, and potentially overwhelming impact on the ability of a child to learn. We want educators and school professionals to understand the role of trauma, its effect on children and learning, and how they can change methods of interacting and responding to children impacted by trauma. By adopting a Compassionate & Resilient approach, schools undertake a shift in perspective at the staff and organizational level to recognize, understand and address the learning needs of children impacted by negative experiences. This requires a commitment to shaping school culture, practices, and policies to be sensitive to the needs of traumatized learners. This effort positively impacts schools and changes the life-trajectory of vulnerable students.

It is a fact that all schools and educators are working with children who have experienced trauma, but you may not ever know who these students are or what their trauma experience was/is.  A Compassionate & Resilient school operates much like a wheelchair ramp does for handicap accessibility… it exists for those students who we already know need it, it is there for those students who may not have been recognized as in need of it, for students who may not need it now but could need it in the future, and those who may not ever need it but having it in place teaches them compassion from modeling the mindset and perspective shift that their peers and teachers display within a Compassionate and Resilient school framework.

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The CRS logo was uniquely created using key elements of logos from both Davie County Schools and The Dragonfly House. The CRS website explains in more detail.

By joining together to provide education, training, resources, awareness, and support, we can open our eyes to the realities our children are facing and give them a successful learning experience that will only help them grow into successful, productive members of society.  By joining together as a community, a children’s advocacy center, and a school system, we can extend our reach and catch children before they fall.  Please take some time to visit our website at www.compassionateresilientschools.com to learn more about this initiative and the data, reasons, & resources behind it.

Currently Mocksville Elementary School and South Davie Middle School are piloting the program in Davie County.  Davie County Schools has designated through their Strategic Plan that by June 2023, DCS will create and enhance learning environments that support and prepare students socially & emotionally as measured by annual student & staff surveys, discipline, attendance, dropout data, and counseling data. One strategy for this is to Implement a compassionate and resilient schools approach district-wide.

In Davidson County Schools, Churchland Elementary School and Tyro Elementary School are piloting the program and have just begun their first steps of implementation.

We are excited to be partnering with Davie County Schools to create this model and to be working with each of the individual schools and their staff to create real change – change in mindset and change for our children.


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“It is hard to play chess in a hurricane, just as it is hard to focus on school learning when struggling with trauma. However, teachers who are kind during the storm increase the likelihood that students will return to chess after the wind stops blowing. Long after students may have forgot what you tried to teach them, they will remember how you treated them. Whatever your approach to teaching and discipline, remember to treat your students with respect and compassion.”  ~The Heart of Learning and Teaching: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success

Compassionate and Resilient Schools Website:  www.compassionateresilientschools.com

National Children’s Alliance Position on Family Separation

national childrens alliance logoEarlier this year the Trump Administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that arrests and prosecutes all individuals who illegally enter the United States. However, because this policy applies to adults and not children, families that are attempting to cross the border together are being separated, with the parents being arrested and the children being placed with sponsors, in shelters or other facilities.

We are deeply concerned of the impact a policy of separating families at the border may have on children. Because Children’s Advocacy Centers have been on the front lines in protecting children and serving abused kids for almost 30 years, we see first-hand the effects childhood trauma can have on children, families, and communities.

Individuals may differ on the best policy prescriptions to address immigration and border security.  What is indisputable, however, is the potential for lasting harm to children experiencing family separation due to the implementation of such policies.

A sizeable body of research literature exists on the negative health and mental health outcomes of children who endure traumatic separation from parents and caregivers.  For a child to grow to a healthy and contributing adulthood he/she must be able to trust, feel safe, and form lasting familial attachments.  Threats to any of these seriously threaten healthy childhood development.

Children who are separated from their parents experience overwhelming fear, anxiety, loss of attachment, and terror.  That is greatly exacerbated when the separation is sudden, inexplicable, and neither the child nor parent knows the location of, nor can communicate with, each other.  Whatever the intended public policy outcome of such practices, the only sure outcome for children is trauma.

To prevent lasting harm to these children, we urge Congress and the Administration to work together to end family separation immediately and permanently as a part of immigration policy and border enforcement.

National Children’s Alliance
516 C Street NE
Washington DC 20002
202 548 0090 telephone
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How an injury on a child could be an opportunity for intervention

In the past six months, both the Davidson County and Davie County Departments of Social Services (DSS) have seen dramatic influxes of child physical abuse case reports. In fact, Davidson County DSS set a record for the month of August for the number of reported physical abuse cases. Due to this increase, The Dragonfly House has experienced a 120% increase in physical abuse cases seen here when compared to the same time period as last year.

Several staff members, along with two Davidson County detectives and three Davidson and Davie County social workers, recently had the opportunity to attend a physical abuse simulation in Chapel Hill along with other Children’s Advocacy Center health care providers, Child Protective Services social workers and detectives from throughout the state. All attendees have experience working with child abuse cases within their communities.

The focus of the training was physical abuse in children two years of age and younger. These are our most vulnerable population because they lack the verbal skills to provide details of what has happened to them. In addition, there may be no witnesses to the events happening and the family dynamics might prevent family members talking about their suspicions of other family members.

In our training, the main topic was “sentinel” injuries. Sentinel injuries are previous injuries of children that may precede a future non-accidental trauma or even death. These types of injuries may be a bruise on the face, ears, back, upper arms or upper legs, trauma to the mouth or a broken blood vessel in the eye. Sentinel injuries are sometimes seen as warning signs of impending traumatic injuries.

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When health care providers are presented with sentinel injuries, the recommendations for additional testing are skeletal surveys, head scans, eye exams and comprehensive blood work. Skeletal surveys and head scans might show healing fractures indicating previous breaks in the bones. Head scans could also reveal soft tissue swelling in the brain which might be sign of a child being shaken. Eye exams may uncover retinal hemorrhages from a child being punched or slapped in the area of the eye. Blood work rules out any blood disorders that could cause excessive bruising or might even indicate irregularities that point to an abdominal punch or kick to the liver or pancreas.

Our training took each group through a scenario that involved several, different sentinel injuries of a child that had previously been missed by multiple healthcare providers in various healthcare settings. We were able to see the differences in the roles of detectives and social workers and the questions they ask. However, the primary goal for all of us was the safety of the child. Each group worked together as multidisciplinary teams to make recommendations on whether to bring charges against one of the parents and the safest place for the child to live. At the end of the training, we were brought together to discuss the different recommendations from all of the groups which were all very similar. Two Assistant District Attorneys then discussed the court process once charges were filed.

While we all gained significant knowledge of the responsibilities that each discipline provides in the investigation of child abuse cases, the most significant lesson learned from our training was for all of us to remain mindful of sentinel injuries in children 2 years of age and under and the role these injuries might play in children’s futures. Sometimes injuries that seem insignificant could actually be opportunities for intervention and may save children’s lives.

Daughn Eagan, RN, BSN
Medical Coordinator
The Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center

Don’t Play With Prevention

CSAPreventionMonth2017DidYouKnowInfographicExperts estimate that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. It is a fact that child abuse does not discriminate. As you are reading this sentence, a child is being abused in your neighborhood. While these abuse statistics are staggering, the solution is crystal clear. 95% of child abuse is preventable through education and awareness. 95%!! What are we doing as a community to prevent child abuse from happening? What are you doing to prevent your own children from being victims of abuse? We have many wonderful agencies and organizations in our community to protect and support children after they’ve been victim to abuse or neglect— but what can WE do as a preventative measure? On-going, open and honest communication is a great place to start.

Parents— talk openly and often with your children. Talk to them about their bodies and use correct terminology when discussing private parts. Do not get creative or cute with naming private parts. Correct terminology is important and plays a vital role in prevention. Offenders will try to teach secret names for private parts to children. It is our responsibility to educate our children on their bodies and plan for their safety before an offender has the opportunity to do so. As parents, we must take the initiative to be the first ones to educate our children.

Have regular and on-going conversations with your children about safe and unsafe secrets. An example of a safe secret would be keeping it a secret that Dad is planning a surprise birthday party for Mom. An unsafe secret is a secret that involves someone being hurt, shame and/or any potential unsafe situation. A great online free resource for families is to use to become comfortable talking about safety and family safety planning is https://safersmarterfamilies.org/. Be sure to check out this resource and the custom family safety plan generator!

Life gets busy but make talking to your children be a top priority. Check-in with your children every single day. I try to ask my kiddos every evening what their favorite part of their day was and what the least favorite part of their day was. For our family, this is a great way connect with our kids and be supportive as they navigate the through the ups and downs in life. You may be surprised the things you may learn when asking your children about their least favorite part of their day. This question can often be a natural segway into important reminders you can offer them, such as: they can talk to you about anything, you will always believe them, good touch versus bad touch and safe versus unsafe secrets.

Lastly, trust your instincts. Be aware. Do not assume all people, family and friends have the same good intentions as you. If something about a situation does not feel right, trust your instincts. As parents, we are the most vital advocate for our children. Teach them, trust them, educate them and empower them every opportunity that you have.

Aubrey Draughn, BSW/MA, CTP-E
Multi-Disciplinary Team Member of The Dragonfly House and Guest Blogger

An upstream solution…

During our Child Abuse Prevention Month Kick-off, I suggested two opinions of child abuse prevention. “Prevention is for everyone” and “We, the adults, are responsible.”

My personal philosophy of child abuse prevention is that it be a purposeful initiative to reduce child abuse occurrences and liberate those that may be silent victims.  When working with young people I am responsible for directly communicating what abuse is to children of all ages and intentionally engaging with students in the simplest way possible to allow them to hear and respond to a dark and unfortunate piece of our real world. There is no guarantee that child abuse occurrences will be fewer in a community exclusively because of active prevention.  However, with prevention there is some possibility that more children are given the knowledge in how to recognize and respond to mistreatment or danger of themselves or their peers.

The Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center has given hope to hundreds of victims of child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment in Davie, Davidson, and surrounding counties.  When looking at data, the number of reported abuse cases are not decreasing; this identifies a cycle of abuse within our communities.  Investigative services will always be needed.  These services will protect and defend victims, but may not necessarily prevent the issue.  Prevention is an additional step taken by the people in a community.  Caring to know and knowing what to share are the first commitments.

When abuse of a child happens, it breaks down the connectivity of the child and the community around them in some sense.  Child abuse can cripple the ability of a community to grow if it is not seen and not heard.  Child abuse divides people–those that are advocating for children, those who may be ignoring children or the problem, and those that are mistreating children and causing the abuse. Any one of us can know or be an acquaintance to someone that has experienced or is connected to child abuse.  No one is excused or eliminated from THE ISSUE.

The staff at our center and the members of our multi-disciplinary team are here to help repair the damage after the disclosure has been made, but what about the work that can be done to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place?

Take a moment to write down the first names of 10 children you know – friends of your children, children of your friends, children in your neighborhood or church, etc.

Reflect on each name and remember that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.  Who on your list WILL be affected by sexual abuse, if they haven’t already? Are you willing to wait until that abuse occurs to put help apply the band-aid or are you willing to speak up now and teach those children about abuse and how to end it?

Let’s work together to provide an UPSTREAM SOLUTION to this downstream problem.

E-mail me today at sheria@thedragonflyhouse.com and ask how you can help upstream.

Sheria White, Community Educator

Youtube video is a courtesy of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.

All I Want For Christmas…

During Christmas 1987, Sharon Batts took our nation by storm.  PowerSource, a Christian Pop band out of Bedford, Texas, made headlines throughout our country with their hit single (released in 1986 but made a staple on holiday radios in 1987) about something real; something that very few people wanted to talk about.  With a voice of innocence and sweet sincerity, Sharon mournfully sang about a national crisis then and now.  Dear Mr. Jesus is a “child’s lamentation” for abuse.

When I first heard this song, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I felt a combination of anger, sadness, and fear.  Sharon’s tiny voice singing for reason and resolution to something so large brought tears to my soul.  Today, we can read about how the country responded to Dear Mr. Jesus.  It touched many, was requested on the radio, and provoked a rise in calls to many child abuse hotlines during that time.  When nine-year-old Sharon was asked to share her thoughts of the songs impact, she responded innocently, “I didn’t know it would ever come to anything this big.”

In and beyond our community, child neglect and abuse is a growing issue. An issue where excuses are made and indications are overlooked.  The words that young Sharon sang forced our nation, at that time, to visualize the physical abuse of children.

Please don’t let them hurt your children
We need love and shelter from the storm
Please don’t let them hurt your children
Won’t you keep us safe and warm

These same words are a cry for all forms of child abuse to stop.  It seems that people place so much value in music and entertainment; how revolutionary it might be to have awareness and prevention of child abuse regularly at the forefront of media.  I wonder the response if Sharon’s song was aired or re-created today.  Artist and songwriters of today like Matthew West (Broken Girl), Christina Aguilera (I’m OK), Martina McBride (Concrete Angel) are among others that have used their voices as vessels of hope for ending child abuse.

As you look forward to your holiday time with loved ones, consider the words of Dear Mr. Jesus.  Should you hear it, pay attention to the complex thoughts that come from the lyrics.  Take a moment to feel for the heartache of the children that are not so jolly during this time of year.  For many of us this may be imaginable, but not our reality.  As with the song, a child requesting love for all children can make the strongest of hearts feel a discomfort that makes them realize there needs to be a change.

Stay Focused on Child Happiness During the Holiday and Everyday:

  • It is common for families to face challenges and frustration. There is so much to do and so many emotions that adults and children alike feel. Remember to stay calm with the children you care for before resorting to hitting or yelling in response to behavior challenges.  Often intense anger or reactions come from other issues of an adult, not the child.
  • As you may plan to attend adult-only holiday gatherings and events, assure a suitable sitter for your children. Make sure that you’re a child is comfortable with this individual as well.  If your child can communicate, question their time and enjoyment with their caregiver.
  • While visiting with new and familiar faces during this time of year, keep in mind to not force your child to give hugs and kisses to every friend and family member. They are children and should not be required to be overly affectionate if they do not wish to.  If a shy hello is all a child is willing to give, that is okay.
  • School-age children are home for the holidays. There are more possibilities of extended TV, electronic, and bed times. Many children will be given cell phones, tablets, and other devices for Christmas.  Don’t provide permission without oversee! Check to make sure your children are watching and accessing appropriate shows, movies, websites, chat groups, and games.  Don’t hesitate to check social media activity!
  • Enjoy your family time! This may be one of a few opportunities where everyone is together with little rush.  Laugh, love, and talk together.  If you are fortunate to have time off, engage with your family, especially your children.  Talk to them about what is happening in their lives, get a gauge on their wellness and happiness, grasp insight on what they want and believe in as children of this world that we live in today.  You may be surprised by what you learn from engaging in conversation with a child of any age. 

    Have A Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year,
    Sheria White
    Community Educator at The Dragonfly House

 

The Little Elephant; Circumstance, In Your Control

little-elephantI once heard The Little Elephant.  The short story was told that one day, a boy and girl went to the circus with their mother and father.  There, they saw a huge elephant tied to a tiny stake with a rope.

“Daddy”, asked the boy, “The Elephant is so big and strong, but the stake is so small and short. He could set himself free just by taking a few steps over. Why doesn’t he just do it?”

The mother and father smiled first at each other.  The father replied, “When the elephant was very small and just a baby, he did try to break away from that stake.  Back then he wasn’t quite strong enough to break free. He tried and tried, until he finally gave up, believing that it was impossible to free himself. Now, he is a larger elephant, but he doesn’t try anymore.  He doesn’t believe it’s possible to break free.”

The moralistic themes of the story could go in many directions and could be used to drive many points, especially to young people.  However, I would like to focus my thinking on one thought that is considerably relevant.  People can be the same as the circus elephant.  Many things happen to us during childhood.  Those things can be common life events or continuing circumstances that we are born and raised into. Often, we try relentlessly, even during our childhood, to change those things.  If a person gives up, for whatever reason, on trying to change circumstances and fix things; they may remain tied to them, as if with ropes to tiny stakes, just like the elephant. Adverse things that we could easily move from, can become things we are willing to stand by.

I concluded a prevention class with teens by reminding them to consider the fact that they are in control of their circumstances.  I explained the value of our community and the people that are responsible for assuring children are safe and well.  It is important that youth all over know that they are in control of changing things that are confusing, uncomfortable, or unsafe in their lives by seeking the help that they need by, first, speaking up.

The circumstances that children are put in vary.  Children are well cared for by parents that are emotionally involved and responsible in nurturing.  Other children are raised by caretakers and busy parents working multiple jobs.   Some children have an incarcerated parent, an addict parent, or a parent emotionally detached from the family.  To imply that children are in control of their circumstances seems erroneous and perhaps insensible.  Consider that perhaps if young people are given appropriate explanation of their worth early in life, and taught how to address a need for any change, they may find that their circumstances are not, ever, out of their control.

When working with teens in our community, I stress that they are to recognize a plan for their life…their blueprint.  We focus on four words in this prevention program; You, Others, Cope, and Live.  The emphasis of the prevention is placed in empowering participants with the understanding that they are first in control of themselves, YOU; this is identifying what they want in life, of themselves, and what they know they should have. Next, I have them reflect on OTHERS; others will have an impact on their lives. We evaluate what happens in relationships with others by interpreting the positives and negatives that can occur between people.  Finally, we discuss how to COPE in numerous dilemmas.  We focus on the various outlets that a person can use to speak out during struggles so that they may LIVE with hope and strength for their future.

The rise and fall of life’s roller coaster can make anyone want to stop trying.  Especially for those that become a victim of any form of abuse.  Perhaps, if early on we believe that we have a priceless tag on us–then we can certainly believe that we should want more for ourselves.  This means never settling for less than the best of love, care, and support of those present in our lives.  Understanding that we can step away to make a change, it’s never too late.  More specifically, one must try not to let tiny stakes remain to become giant posts that cause interferences in their ability to cope and believe in more for their future.

Sheria White, Community Educator