On Wednesday April 13th, CASA of San Mateo County hosted an audience of 180 educators, therapists, social workers, school board members, probation officers, CASA volunteers, and interested community members for the screening and panel discussion of the documentary film Paper Tigers. Paper Tigers documents an alternative high school’s use of research about the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress on brain development and students’ ability to learn. By educating the staff, faculty, and students on this topic and making structural changes to how the school functions, Lincoln High School was able to make a remarkable turn around and become a place where the hardest to reach students achieve. The film tells the story of this transition by highlighting the stories of five students who have numerous “ACEs” and the teachers and administrators who help them beat the odds and succeed in school.
The screening was the first in San Mateo County, though communities across the country are using this film as a way to open dialogue about the profound impact that childhood trauma has on a child’s life, behavior, and future health outcomes. In partnership with the San Mateo County Trauma Learning Collaborative, CASA was able to pack the room with leaders and professionals representing critical local institutions, like school districts, child welfare, mental health, and probation. The film was followed by a panel discussion, which was moderated by CASA Program Director John Ragosta and focused on ways to make our youth and family serving agencies trauma informed. Panelist Lynn Dolce, the Director of Foster Care Mental Health in San Francisco, shared her experience creating and managing the HEARTS program, which is a partnership between UCSF and SFUSD that promotes school success for children and adolescents who have experienced complex trauma. Dr. Elizabeth Grady, physician with the South San Francisco Clinic, explained the science behind ACEs and toxic stress. Behavioral Health & Recovery Services Clinical Services (BHRS) Manager Ziomara Ochoa spoke to the critical need for cultural humility and the impact of racial trauma on children of color. Rocsana Enriquez provided a powerful youth voice to the panel, while Jim Rutherford from BHRS shared some trauma-informed practices, including the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), already being utilized by the County’s consortium of mental health providers.
This event is both the beginning of conversations with the larger community and an extension of efforts already initiated by the San Mateo County Trauma Learning Collaborative, which is available to help local youth-serving institutions use this film and other educational resources about childhood trauma to make their programs better equipped to meet the needs of children growing up with toxic stress. Contact John Ragosta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-517-5845 to screen the film for your organization or get connected to trauma work in San Mateo County. Or visit some of these websites to educate yourself and find more tools for educating your staff and colleagues.