Violence Intervention at Early Childhood

Posted by Hechinger Report on February 23, 2015

How to help preschoolers who witness violence and trauma

A large and complex issue is present in many early childhood centers that serve children impacted by violence and poverty, writes Margaret Ramirez for The Hechinger Report. According to a nationally representative survey, 13 percent of infants a year old and younger, and 44 percent of all two-to-five-year-olds, were assault victims in the prior year. Eight percent of infants and 14 percent of two-to-five-year-olds had also witnessed violence. Other studies confirm these findings; still, few preschools have mental health professionals on staff, though early investment would save both expense and heartache later on: “If we put money at the front end, we will spend less on special education classes for behavior disorder, we will spend less on adolescent substance abuse, we will spend less on gang violence, we will spend less on the juvenile criminal justice system,” said Margret Nickels of Chicago’s Erikson Institute. Nickels still encounters ignorance from childcare workers, preschool teachers, and even principals who wrongly believe that young children don’t understand what’s happening when violence occurs and are unaffected. One model that could work elsewhere is that of the Erie Community Center in Chicago, whose preschool spends $160,000 annually for a full-time psychologist and a social worker, and heavily supplements support through unpaid graduate students.

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