Lynchburg leaders continue to push for community wide Trauma Informed Care

Published: Mar. 22, 2018 at 11:04 PM EDT
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In Lynchburg, the city's focus on fighting the 24 percent poverty rate continues. Tonight the topic was children and understanding trauma, as the community gathered to watch the documentary “Paper Tigers”.

The movie follows an alternative school miles away in Washington state, but what people were hoping to learn hits close to home.

The audience members Thursday night were no strangers to the community. Case managers, Lynchburg City Schools employees, CASA of Central Virginia volunteers and students sat in the crowd. Many of them work with children and in some cases those children are living in poverty.

“You run into so many different things,” said one attendee who works as a case manager. “Their backgrounds, what they’ve experienced growing up.”

That's why they were gathered in the theater, watching a documentary about trauma informed care.

“Trauma sounds like a word that is pretty intense, but there are things that are included in that definition such as divorce, which is very common and many of us experience,” said Ashley Graham who works on the Education Subcommittee for Bridges out of Poverty.

According to Bridges out of Poverty, those experiences can then go on to affect kids in schools, their behaviors, and ability to do work. The trauma is referred to as “adverse childhood experiences” or ACE.

Megan Versen is an intern at Lynchburg City Schools and says she sees this play out every day.

“For the students it’s like…Okay well how do I sit here in school trying to do what these people are telling me when there is so much hurt,” said Versen.

At the last city council meeting, school and city leaders discussed behavior issues. They're even adding new bus aides to help ease the problem.

Trauma informed care teaches how someone can respond differently to behavioral issues.

“Instead of saying what's wrong with you, why can't you just sit still and pay attention? We say: what happened to you?” said Graham.

The idea is understanding the child's situation and connecting with them. It’s a connection that they are hoping will have a snowball effect.

“By making sure the schools are equipped with the support that they need to support the students to be successful that will eventually decrease poverty in the community,” said Graham.

Right now the movie screenings are open to the community. The sessions are not fully implemented in the school system yet, but that is the goal.