Penn State conference to focus on child trauma in schools

One of every four students in the United States shows up to school each day shouldering the burden of a traumatic event that affects their learning habits and behaviors. Child welfare researchers, educators and advocates will be coming together to study and strategize around this relevant concern at Penn State’s Fifth Annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being being held Oct. 10 to 11 at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Trauma Informed Schools: How child maltreatment prevention, detection, and intervention can be integrated into the school-setting.” According to Jennie Noll, director of Penn State’s Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and professor of human development and family studies, schools provide a unique opportunity for prevention of child maltreatment.

“School is where children are taught at a very young age how to protect themselves, how to talk to adults about things that may be bothering them, and how to get help when they need it,” she said. “Protecting children is the responsibility and the work of everyone in the community, and teachers, school counselors and administrators, if they are aware of the unique issues, can be the front line.”

Dedicated efforts to incorporate child abuse identification into the education system are currently underway, initiated by the state legislation that has named teachers primary mandated reporters of suspicion, and persisted by the schools taking on the task. By hosting programs and training their staffs, schools can prepare their faculty and take an active role in prevention, which is the first of four conference session topics.

Following the discussion of prevention, session two shifts focus to the developmental influences of trauma on children, across the social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive plains. Session three zooms out from the campus to the caucus to cover policy change considered pivotal to this movement, and session four examines cooperation between schools and communities.

The conference will wrap up with a culminating panel on Oct. 11. This is where, through open deliberation, Noll hopes to sketch and ultimately concrete the steps moving forward in regards to research, policy and schools.

“Encouraging the audience to participate is what sets our conference apart from the rest. The audience will include cutting-edge researchers in both prevention and treatment, teachers and school administrators, educative policy makers, and students, all brought together to form a creative discourse. This provides an exciting arena to start a conversation,” Noll explained.

This is a conversation everyone is invited to join. For more information about the conference and to register, go to http://protectchildren.psu.edu/content/2016-conference. Deadline to register is Sept. 23.

The Child Maltreatment Solutions Network was created to advance Penn State’s academic mission of teaching, research and engagement in the area of child maltreatment. Since the network was launched in fall 2012, its conferences have established a concrete frontier of understanding child maltreatment through advanced research. It is a part of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State. For more information on the network, visit here.