At Children’s Law Center, we meet children who are exposed to trauma every day. Executive Director recently sat down with Jonetta Rose Barras to discuss the problem.
“Trauma can be any extreme bad experience,” explained Judith Sandalow, director of the DC Children’s Law Center, which represents as many as 5,000 children to ensure they receive the services they need and deserve from government agencies, including public schools. “If [the problem] is in your family, it’s an ACE, but if it’s an outsider it’s still pretty horrible but it’s considered a trauma.”
“It probably doesn’t matter which one it is because they all create some of the same problems for kids,” added Sandalow.
Trauma inducing experiences can range from abuse and neglect, parental abandonment or incarceration, bullying, living in a home where there is chronic unemployment and palpable poverty, including not having enough food to eat or being unable to wash your clothing, living in a household where there is obvious substance abuse and its attending effects and witnessing domestic violence or general community violence.
“Trauma can affect children’s language development, inhibit their academic achievement and make it difficult to form relationships with both peers and adults,” explained Sandalow, who for the past five years has advocated for more trauma-informed or trauma-sensitive schools in DC. “Traumatized children may hyper-vigilance, emotional withdrawal or dissociation, and spend the school day focusing solely on their safety—making it impossible to learn.”