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June 2014 Newsletter: Reducing the Effects of Trauma and Incidences of Resulting Problematic Behavior among Children

This month’s MECP newsletter explores promising practices for supporting children who have experienced trauma. Our feature article provides an overview of the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) program, created by the Treatment and Services Adaption Center for Resilience, Hope and Wellness in Schools at the University Of Southern California School Of Social Work. CBITS offers resources and tools for parents and teachers on implementing intervention strategies to assist children who have experienced trauma and to improve their recovery process.

MECP also partnered with Betsy Offermann, Co-Director of the Trauma Training Academy with The Family Center at Kennedy Krieger Institute for this month’s 3rd Wednesday at 2 p.m. webinar, entitled The SMART Model. Ms. Offermann provided insight into the SMART (Safety, Mentoring, Advocacy, Recovery, and Treatment) Model as well as information about the resources available to assist practitioners who serve children that have experienced trauma. She also discussed the implications of trauma on addressing resulting problematic sexual behavioral among young children.

3rd Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET Webinar Series: The SMART Model

Betsy Offermann, Co-Director of the Trauma Training Academy with The Family Center at Kennedy Krieger Institute, examined promising practices aimed at addressing sexual abuse and problematic sexual behavior in young children. She addressed the multiple stages of healthy sexuality and sexual development among children and discussed tools for caregivers to support the recovery process and address problematic sexual behavior. Ms. Offermann also discussed how the SMART model approach promotes recovery from symptoms, decreases and eliminates problematic sexual behavior, prevents future abuse, and strengthens resiliency in young children and their families.

To view the recording of this webinar, please visit here.

Supporting Traumatized Students in the School Setting
Pamela Vona, MA, Program Manager, Treatment and Services Adaptation Center for Resilience, Hope and Wellness in Schools, University of Southern California School of Social Work

In 1997, members of the district crisis intervention teams within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) expressed concern about the number of students exposed to violence. Many students were from neighborhoods with extensive poverty, gang activity, and drug use and were experiencing distress resulting from exposure to violent events such as the injury or death of a student, teacher, or family member. Marleen Wong, who at the time was the Director of Mental Health, Crisis Intervention, and Suicide Prevention Programs for LAUSD, approached researchers from the RAND Corporation and UCLA with two objectives: to empirically determine the rates of violence exposure for students in LAUSD and to develop a strategy for supporting students experiencing symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety resulting from these events.

To assess violence exposure rates, the LAUSD Mental Health Unit, under Dr. Wong’s direction, surveyed 28,000 6th graders. The results were staggering. Over 90% of the students reported exposure to at least one violent event within the past 12 months, and 40% reported exposure involving a deadly weapon. For Dr. Wong and her research partners, these findings were a call to action. The team reached out to school stakeholders including administrators, teachers, and parents to develop a strategy for addressing this district-wide epidemic. This community-academic partnership aimed to create an intervention for traumatized students that would be both soundly based in research and accepted into the school setting.

Out of this collaboration the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) was developed. CBITS is delivered in 10 group-based sessions and teaches students core cognitive-behavior skills including: relaxation, problem-solving and cognitive restructuring. Incorporating school personnel feedback, CBITS sessions are delivered from “bell to bell” during the course of one class period, and parent and teacher sessions provide information for ways to support students at home and in the classroom. Studies demonstrate that CBITS improves symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression (Stein et al 2003, Kataoka et al, 2003) and is associated with improved school performance in math and language arts (Kataoka et al, 2010).

CBITS has been used with ethnically and geographically diverse students. The program was originally offered to immigrant students in LAUSD from Mexico, Central America, Russia, Armenia, and Korea. Since then, CBITS has been implemented in urban communities including San Francisco, Chicago, and the District of Columbia; following disasters such as in New Orleans post-Katrina; on Native American reservations in Montana, and in rural and suburban settings in Madison, WI and Newtown, CT.

In 2010 www.cbitsprogram.org was launched. Intended to support training and implementation, the website has three primary sections: 1) an on-line training course that includes videos of master CBITS trainers conducting a live training; 2) implementation resources including screening materials and video clips of clinicians addressing common implementation challenges; and 3) a community forum where clinicians and administrators from across the country can collaborate and share their experiences. To date, over 5000 individuals have accessed the website to support CBITS delivery in schools.

The success of the CBITS has provided a foundation for members of the CBITS team to develop additional interventions for traumatized students. Support Students Exposed to Trauma (SSET) is an adaption of CBITS, designed to be implemented by non-clinicians in recognition of the paucity of mental health providers in schools. Bounce Back shares many of the same clinical components as CBITS but is designed to be implemented with elementary-aged students. Preliminary studies have demonstrated promising findings for both of these interventions. The team hopes these efforts will ultimately help schools better support traumatized students on campus.


The Office of Justice Programs’ CrimeSolutions.gov offers additional information and reviews of justice programs to determine what works in criminal justice, juvenile justice and crime victim services. To learn more about promising evidenced based programs and practices in your field, please visit crimesolutions.gov.

MECP Blog: Reports and Resources

We welcome you to view the most recent reports, resources and available tools to assist practitioners who work on missing and exploited children’s issues. Please continue to visit our MECP Blog to stay up-to-date on resources and opportunities.

Below is a list of recent reports that are featured on our blog:
• Report: Indicators of School Crime and Safety - 2013
• News Release: FBI Rescues 168 of “America’s Children” from Sex Traffickers
• Four Action Steps to Create More Inclusive Mentoring Programs for LGBTQ Youth
• IACP Launches Online Training Series on Juvenile Interviewing and Interrogation
• CDC Releases Report - Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action
• Office for Victims of Crime Launches Online Toolkit to Support Child Victim Outreach
• Campaign: It’s A Penalty – Taking a Stand Against The Sexual Exploitation of Children 17 and Under
• Event: 2014 Juvenile Justice Youth Summit
• Video: Jimmy Carter - End Impunity for Sexual Violence
• Technology: The FBI Child ID App
• Webinar: Abuse of People with Disabilities - A Silent Epidemic
• Event: Missing Children Chief Executive Officer Seminar
• Report: New Directions - Questions to Guide Future Child Abuse and Neglect Research

To view these resources and more, please visit our MECP Blog here.

Upcoming Events

July 13th- 16th, 2014: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) 77th Annual Conference. Join the NCJFCJ in Chicago, Illinois for this year’s 77th Annual Conference. This year’s conference features a wide range of juvenile and family law topics including child abuse and neglect, trauma, custody and visitation, judicial leadership, juvenile justice, sex trafficking of minors, family violence, drug courts, psychotropic medications, children testifying in court, detention alternatives, substance abuse, and the adolescent brain. To learn more, visit here.

July 14th- 18th, 2014: APSAC’s Forensic Interview Training Clinic. This comprehensive clinic offers a unique opportunity to participate in an intensive 40 hour training experience and have personal interaction with leading experts in the field of child forensic interviewing. Developed by top experts, APSAC’s curriculum teaches a structured narrative interview approach that emphasizes best practices based on research and is guided by best interests of the child. Attendees will receive a balanced review of several protocols and will develop their own customized narrative interview approach based on the principles taught during the Clinic and contained in the 2012 APSAC Practice Guidelines on Forensic Interviewing in Cases of Suspected Child Abuse. To learn more about this training, visit here.

MECP’s Training Center
Request Training and Technical Assistance from MECP. MECP offers training and technical assistance tailored to meet the specific needs of State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other juvenile justice practitioners. For information on how your agency or organization can receive training and technical assistance on missing and exploited children’s issues, please contact MECP at 1–888–347–5610 or [email protected]. To submit a request for training and technical assistance, please complete a training and technical assistance form.


Kataoka, S., Jaycox, L. H., Wong, M., Nadeem, E., Langley, A., Tang, L. Effects on school outcomes in low-income minority youth: preliminary findings from a community-partnered study of a school-based trauma intervention. Ethnicity & disease, 21(3 Suppl 1), S1-71-77.

Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott, M. N. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence. JAMA, 290(5), 603-611.