It’s About T.I.M.E. Year Three Update, Pt. 2

This blog post is continued from It’s About T.I.M.E. Year Three Update Pt. 1. To read part one, click here. We’re thrilled to announce the expansion of our It’s About T.I.M.E. program to new schools and the addition of new team members. Read on to learn about the program’s exciting growth.

Last school year, It’s About T.I.M.E. provided some training and consultation to the Long Beach Head Start and Educare preschool programs, but this summer, The Guidance Center began a new partnership; something I think will be revolutionary. The Guidance Center now officially provides both trauma-informed training and consultation through It’s About T.I.M.E. as well as direct mental health services at Educare of Los Angeles at Long Beach.

Educare is a national early education public-private partnership between organizations committed to ensuring all children receive high-quality care and education from the moment they are born to the day they enter kindergarten. Educare Los Angeles at Long Beach is located in north Long Beach near Clara Barton Elementary School and serves 191 families and children, ages 0 to 5.

A full-time member of The Guidance Center staff will be on site at Educare, providing a number of mental health and trauma-informed related services. Priscilla Gomez, ASW, clinical therapist formerly with The Guidance Center’s School Based program, was selected for this position, and is joined by one of The Guidance Center’s post doctoral interns, Erin Yip. Priscilla will balance direct clinical therapy with clients and their families by providing staff with ongoing trauma-informed training and consultation, and also focusing on outreach and engagement with the Educare parents.

Priscilla has years of experience as both a clinician and as a family advocate for Head Start. Priscilla will be supervised by Annica Nilsson, LCSW, who has been with The Guidance Center for over 18 years. In the past few years, Annica started a relationship with the Head Start program to ensure young children ages 0-5 were able to easily access mental health treatment that was appropriate for their age and for their families. As a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor (RPT-S) and also endorsed by the state of California as an “Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist (IFECMHS), Annica will provide ongoing supervision for Priscilla and continue the connection between The Guidance Center, Educare and Head Start.

Priscilla and I spent several weeks over the summer at Educare, consulting with staff and interacting with the children directly, modeling trauma-informed practices for the staff. Priscilla’s knowledge, skills, and ability to connect with children and staff have been tremendously impressive. I asked her to contribute to this blog post so you can get to know her:

“Eight years ago, I was introduced to the helping profession through my employment at Head Start as a Family Advocate. I learned the importance of building relationships with parents to best assist families in areas of need (i.e. housing, food, mental health), but above all I realized, through my conversations with teachers and staff, that when families were facing adversity the children exposed to chronic or constant levels of stress (i.e. poverty, intimate partner violence, home displacement, immigration status) had more challenges in the classroom.

Teachers would report low levels for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral abilities. Children presented with excessive anger, physical aggression, temper tantrums, inability to self-soothe, constant crying, and/or developmental delays. Teachers and educators would often disclose their own frustrations and inability to cope with the unsafe behaviors displayed in the classroom.

I sought out further training to better understand the complexities of the challenges families faced. I learned about the impact of early brain development when children are exposed to violence and other stressors. I was blown away by the fact that infants and even fetuses had impacted brain development when experiencing constant violence in the home. Exposure to such violence constantly activated the startled flight or fight response and in-turn affected the child’s normal brain development and ability to develop healthy coping skills. I began to understand children’s behaviors through a different lens and now have a sensitivity for the experiences that shaped the child and families’ well-being.

This new knowledge encouraged me to pursue a Masters in Social Work and enter the professional field as a clinical therapist of children and families. I was honored to work with the School Based Program at The Guidance Center for the last two years and provide services to families with children in K-12th grade. I utilized best practices to aid children and families in their recovery, but I also found it extremely crucial to help teachers and educators understand the impact of trauma on the brain and how children’s symptoms and behaviors present in the classroom.

As I have transitioned into my new role at The Guidance Center as the Educare Clinician, I am thrilled to be back in the early childhood educational setting. I enjoy working with the amazing and dedicated staff committed to providing children with the best and safest practices that will help children flourish. Nathan and I have been able to provide context to children’s “misbehavior” and give language to children’s expression of pain or trauma.

In a recent encounter with a child that had been utilizing inappropriate language to express his needs, I modeled for the teaching staff how to validate the child’s exposure to foul language, help verbalize his feelings toward his experience, and engaged the child and the teacher in a connecting activity to assist the child regulate his heighten stress response. The child was able to practice an appropriate way to express his feelings, verbalize his need for connection, and re-engage with his classmates.

Engagement with parents is a crucial component to the development of the Educare family that is being built. I have had the pleasure to meet children’s parents, caregivers, and grandparents who are advocates of their child’s needs and are eager to engage in their child’s development and education. I am excited to be here with Nathan to bring the trauma-informed lens and extra sensitivity to the adversities and challenges families at Educare may be currently facing.” –Priscilla Gomez, ASW

What a privilege it is to get to do what I do. On any morning, I may walk into PAAL high school, greeted with a handshake, hug, and boisterous, “WHAT UP NATE-DAWG” before debriefing about updated struggles and successes of students and staff. We look at these things through a trauma-informed lens and spring into action to help both students and staff.

On any other morning, I may walk into Addams elementary or Educare, with Priscilla, greeted with the ear-piercing shriek of a young boy or girl, barreling toward me, full-speed, arms wide, driven with elated impulsivity to seek caring contact with an adult unlike few they’d ever experienced; one who truly and unconditionally values everything about them and allows them to feel safe.

Whatever happiness I give to them, they return to me more than they could ever know. I LOVE my job!

 

Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, has worked as a Clinical Therapist at The Guidance Center for more than 10 years. In this role, Swaringen helped guide children and families toward positive and productive futures through mental health treatment. In 2016, Swaringen developed and launched our trauma-informed pilot program based on ChildTrauma Academy’s Neurosequential Model in Education, called It’s About T.I.M.E. He is passionate about working with school staff to create nurturing environments where all students can thrive. Swaringen earned a Master of Social Work from University of Southern California, and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton.

 

 

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