California Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris visited Locke Early Education Center April 30, to help staff and students there celebrated Dias de Los Ninos (Day of the Children) and to also talk about the services LEEC is providing for the community. Harris took a tour of the facility where the staff specializes in addressing childhood trauma. She also asked about ways providers at the school thought they could improve.
“What are some of your challenges,” Harris asked during the tour, and the staff was ready with answers.
“I think the hardest challenge is stigma and getting families here to [take advantaged of] services,” said one staff member..
“A majority of the families we see here are dealing with underlying trauma like family violence or housing issues. Mental health may not be at the forefront.”
To that, Harris posed the question, “As you are dealing with children who have issues at home, perhaps they have a parent dealing with mental issues or other concerns or stressors… how often do you see parents and caregivers struggling to overcome those issues and what is your approach to that?”
“Kids come with parents,” responded another staff member who said she is a child psychiatrist.
“So, engaging with them as part of our assessment, we are automatically working with the parents and caregivers. Once we gain their trust that really opens the door to us working with them. We refer a lot of our caregivers [to therapeutic resources].”
LEEC has partnered with child advocacy group First Five L.A. to help provide some of their services. One notable service, “PCIT (Parent Child Interaction Therapy),” continued the staff member.
“PCIT has been amazing since we implemented it over a year ago. We have been able to really get the students involved (in therapy).”
“We’re really excited about working with the little ones,” added one of the PTIC providers.
“If you could wave a magic wand and make one thing happen,” Harris continued with her questioning, “what would it be?”
“Being able to reduce stigma [around mental health],” was the consensus.
“Resources where families can come to treatment without obstacles,” was another.
Harris rounded out the day with a full tour of the center and interaction with the students.
Burke Harris’ visit was part of a statewide listening tour to raise awareness about the connections between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), toxic stress, and serious health conditions.
“As California’s first Surgeon General, one of my top priorities is to raise awareness that Adverse Childhood Experiences, like emotional abuse or witnessing domestic violence, can increase the risk of major health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. But adversity is not destiny,” said Dr. Burke Harris. “The science is clear: early intervention improves outcomes.”
Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, LEEC shares that priority with Harris. According to qualitystart.org, LEEC has been rated on the quality of teacher-child interactions and has a plan for improvements, has been rated on if the quality of the learning environment is safe, clean, and enriching, and has a plan for improvements; meets licensing requirements by assessing the state of a child’s health and ensuring immunizations are up-to-date, uses a state-approved tool to observe children’s development at least twice a year from which the results are entered into a software program to track children’s progress and to plan learning activities in the classroom.
Also, there are at least three teachers for every nine infants, three teachers for every 12 toddlers, one teacher for every eight preschoolers and a group size less than 20. The staff completes 21 hours of professional development annually.
Dr. Burke Harris is a pediatrician, known for linking adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress with harmful effects to health later on in life. She is an advisory council member for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail campaign, and the Founder and former chief executive officer of the Center for Youth Wellness.