Schools prepare to help students work through ‘unprecedented levels’ of trauma

SPOKANE, Wash.– The changing status of local schools has resulted in some unintended consequences. Shuttered schools mean some kids are trapped at home enduring more than your average pandemic pains.

In a meeting this week, Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Adam Swinyard addressed a concerning trend.

“We have heard reports that CPS referrals from Child Protective Services are down almost 50 percent in our community. Our teachers are the reporters in many cases, so there is significant trauma and significant hardship that our students are incurring by not being in our schools,” Dr. Swinyard said. “There is absolutely anticipation that the level of trauma that our kids have incurred during this crisis, them being away from our school building, is unprecedented.”Cps Referral Graph Wtf

A quick Google search will bring up multiple headlines showing this trend is nationwide. Child abuse reports have dropped without any real indication that the abuse has slowed. As Dr. Swinyard said, teachers aren’t seeing their struggling students face-to-face.

Central Valley Associate Superintendent for Equity and Whole Child Initiatives Terrie Vanderwegen said staff were trained on how to create connections despite the distance.

“Every school participated in a workshop before school started, talking about the importance of relationships, what to look for when we’re having those virtual meetings with our students and then really, how to take that time to get to know each student,” Vanderwegen said.

Data shared by the Women Helping Women Fund showed CPS-accepted referrals for child abuse and neglect have been well above the state average for years. In 2017, more than 6,500 cases were referred to CPS.

A specialized outreach team for CV does its best to meet families where they’re at during the pandemic and beyond, according to intervention specialist Renee Pryor.

“We put our feet on the ground, started to knock on doors and ask families what are your barriers?” Pryor said.

The outreach team can help address food insecurity, access to technology and unsafe living conditions. Pryor said getting help early is critical.

“The sooner we get them engaged and into a classroom and connected to a school, whatever that looks like, the better off all students are going to be,” Pryor said.

There is help available for children being hurt and for parents who feel overwhelmed. Vanessa Behan offers services for parents, including child care and free parenting classes.  To report child abuse, call the Statewide End Harm Line at 1-866-363-4276. Help is available 24/7.

RELATED: ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’: Spokane mom starts homeschooling for the first time

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