We are currently applying our global disaster expertise to a very local tragedy: the psychological trauma experienced daily by vast numbers of children living in poverty and homelessness, right here in our own affluent city of Los Angeles.
Teachers are mandated by law to report any cases of abuse or other emotional trauma, resulting care or treatment for at-risk children from outside agencies and professionals, and are often the only hope they have for a safer, healthier life. However, teachers and school staff receive no training in how to identify psycho-trauma in children, how to encourage children to open up and share their experiences, and how to offer supportive assistance and guidance. The Real Medicine Project L.A. was developed to fill this gap and provide teachers with the professional psycho-trauma training they need to support the emotional health of their students and themselves.
Unlike victims of a one-time natural disaster, children living on the streets and in conditions of poverty have no safe, emotional refuge. Exposure to violence, hunger, illness, drug abuse, and crime puts children at an increased risk of costly physical and emotional illness throughout their entire lives. A joint CDC/Kaiser-Permanente study of Adverse Childhood Events (ACE Study) clearly outlined the increased lifelong physical and emotional effects for these children, including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, alcoholism, suicide and other major killers.
For most of these children, school is their only safe haven. Their teachers are among the only consistent, reliable adults they know, and the only adults with the potential to protect and guide them to a better way of life. In fact, teachers in California are required by law to report suspected cases of trauma, including domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other crimes, so the children can receive appropriate support from local agencies.
However, there is currently no mandated training to support teachers in their efforts with these children. With no training or support, educators are left on their own to identify and help victimized children. This tragic gap in training leaves teachers feeling overwhelmed and helpless, and children who might be helped continue to suffer, physically, emotionally, and academically.
Under the direction of Dr. Kevin Becker of Harvard University, Real Medicine has provided trauma training and interventions around the world following such devastating tragedies as the South Asian tsunami, September 11th, and the Pakistan earthquake. After hurricane Katrina, Real Medicine provided training to educators in the Memphis Catholic school system working with displaced children evacuated from New Orleans and surrounding areas. The Real Medicine program was received with great excitement, and follow-up surveys indicate an ongoing change in teachers’ confidence and skill helping at-risk children in need.
Real Medicine Project L.A. will train teachers and childcare workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of children in need, so the children can receive the services they need to lead healthier and safer lives.
Teachers and staff will spend two days with trainers from The Real Medicine Foundation Psycho-Trauma Team, learning the principles and techniques that will help them support some of Los Angeles’ most troubled children. Several programs have been chosen to receive the specialized training, beginning with the Para Los Niños Charter School in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles. In keeping with the highly-personal approach of Real Medicine, every school served will be individually accessed, to provide a customized program. Real Medicine believes it is important to understand the needs, culture, and resources of the communities being served, and does not employ an “off the shelf” program.