Support Services

I’m optimistic that schools can become the best place and a refuge for kids who experience social, emotional, and mental health challenges.

Community Provider

What is this section about?

Support services in schools help students and families address academic, behavioral, and mental health challenges that may be barriers to student success. Support services are an important part of a trauma-engaged system, but Alaska school services often look very different from services in other places. Because of these differences, Alaskan schools can benefit from working closely with community organizations to shape and enhance support for students and families.

What do we mean by support services and what does each provider offer? Support service providers in schools may include nurses, counselors, and social workers. Schools may also employ other specialists like school psychologists, and speech, occupational and physical therapists. For the purposes of supporting trauma-engaged work in schools, support services providers work most effectively when they work as a team with other school staff certified and classified school staff, family members, and community organizations. These organizations could include public safety officers, local tribes, clinics, community mental health providers, domestic and sexual violence prevention organizations and others.

This chapter explains how to build capacity in school districts to intentionally provide support services to students and their families.

Trauma Engaged Schools Knowing to Doing Video Library

The Trauma Engaged Video Library offers over 50 peer-led and statewide experts short videos tied to the topics in the Framework. They are under 10 minutes and easily accessible for personal review or in a group setting to stimulate discussion. Below is the video series for this chapter.

Click on the banner on the top left of the video screen to see the chapter video titles.

What can leadership do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Brainstorm a facilitated discussion with staff, families and community members about various ways to harness strengths and address gaps in support services like the reallocation of existing resources. Invite a representative group of stakeholders that includes youth voices.
  • The School Mental Health Quality Guide from the School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation System is part of a collection of resources developed by the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for The SHAPE System. The Quality Guides provide guidance to help school mental health systems advance the quality of their services and supports. The guides  contain background information on school mental health screening, best practices, possible action steps, examples from the field, and resources.
  • The School Health Index is a tool schools can use to self-assess programs and policies for promoting health and safety. The nice thing is  there are 11 sections that relate to the areas of the Whole School Whole Community Whole Child. You do not need to look at all 11, but you can pull out the sections that are most relevant. There is  an elementary school version and a middle school/high school version.
  • Conducting a Strengths and Needs Assessment A strengths and needs assessment is a tool used to identify available services and gaps in services and assess the level of knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of a target population. The assessment will help a school or consortia of schools collect information about existing policies, prevention and intervention; student’s knowledge and perceptions of abuse; and resources and services available to students in schools and in the community. This information will assist the school or consortium in identifying strengths, gaps in resources and services, and highlight successes in order to leverage resources to achieve desired outcomes.
  • The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) comprehensive needs assessment can serve numerous purposes, including identifying strengths and weaknesses of your school or district and helping prioritize areas of concern. Needs assessments can be specifically targeted around an area of interest for your school (e.g., perceived safety among students, discipline data, reading fluency among specified grades) or be more broad and exploratory. Your  impact can be  intensified when we working collaboratively in this process, while demonstrating how you can help meet the identified needs, goals, and priorities using your skillset.
B. Update current job descriptions to allocate more time for qualified personnel to provide support services to students and their families; always include a Trauma Engaged School lens.
  • School counselors design and deliver school counseling programs that improve a range of student learning and behavioral outcomes. These programs are comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in nature. “The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs” (ASCA, 2019a) outlines the components of a school counseling program. The ASCA National Model brings school counselors together with one vision and one voice, which creates unity and focus toward improving student achievement and supporting student development.
  • The ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards & Competencies outlines the mindsets and behaviors school counselors need to meet the rigorous demands of the school counseling profession and the needs of pre-K–12 students. These standards and competencies help ensure new and experienced school counselors are equipped to establish, maintain and enhance a school counseling program addressing academic achievement, career planning and social emotional development.
  • Trauma Informed School Counseling School counselors understand the impact adverse childhood experiences have on students’ academic achievement and social emotional development. School counselors strive to identify, support and promote the success of students who have experienced trauma through the implementation of a data-informed school counseling program.
  • School social workers provide a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team. School social workers are trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic, and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators as well as provide individual and group counseling and therapy.  School social workers are instrumental in furthering the mission of the schools which is to provide a setting for teaching, learning and for the attainment of competence and confidence. School social workers are hired to enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving student success.
  • School nurses serve in a pivotal role that bridges health care and education. Grounded by standards of practice, services provided by the school nurse include leadership, community/public health, care coordination, and quality improvement. It is the position of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) that every child has access all day, every day to a full time registered professional school nurse.
C. Build meaningful partnerships and agreements (Memorandums of Agreement, Release of Information) with community providers and partners, as well as providers that may offer telehealth, and distance delivered services.
  • The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is a non-profit (Tribal health) organization designed to meet the unique health needs of Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska.
  • The Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA) is the trade organization representing behavioral health providers in the state. The association was formed in 1996 to help improve the delivery of substance abuse and mental health treatment services in Alaska. With leadership from over 60 community mental health and substance abuse treatment providers across the state, they offer a diverse perspective with the common interest of providing access to the best quality, cost-effective behavioral health treatment available.
D. Provide space and time for staff to use team approaches for working with students who may need additional support to succeed.
  • Circle Forward is a system for collaborative governance.  Its methods and tools enable networks and organizations to design their own inclusive and equitable governance systems around the principle of Consent.
  • In the BARR model, teachers meet weekly to discuss each student in the cohort’s performance at a very granular level with a focus on identifying strengths, fostering relationships, and engaging with students more deliberately.
  • The Collaborative Team Approach from New Jersey uses the active cooperative involvement of diverse school and/or community resources to comprehensively study and creatively problem-solve the educational issues which place students at risk for school failure.
E. Recognize that all staff in schools provide some level of support services. Provide ongoing professional development (revise topics regularly) about how to provide appropriate support services for students and families.
  • Include regular Trauma Engaged schools training in staff meeting agendas.
  • Recognize the role special education staff play in meeting the needs of students.
  • Recognize all school staff need to be involved paraprofessionals, lunch staff, bus staff, custodians and provide support and training.
  • In staff meetings, model some examples of tools to use with students to help self or co-regulate.
  • Offer training and tools for reporting professional boundaries violations, mandatory reporting training, and key tools for safety planning for families or students.
  • Work with partners to share information on key topic areas. (PD, curricula delivery)- establish a MOA with organizations to make this systematic.

What can staff do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Build meaningful partnerships with community members and providers. In many communities there may be partners who can help offer services to students and families, such as: after-school programs, cultural educators, tribal councils, elders, local and regional health and behavioral health services, village and community counselors.
  • Prohibited Actions It is important to remember school personnel can only share general concerns with the student’s parents. In the state of Alaska, only school personnel who hold a Type C special services certificate can recommend a specific licensed physician, psychologist, or other health specialist to a parent or guardian for a child. AS 14.30.171. Prohibited Actions.
  • The Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA) is the trade organization representing behavioral health providers in Alaska. The association was formed in 1996 to help improve the delivery of substance abuse and mental health treatment services in Alaska. With leadership from over 60 community mental health and substance abuse treatment providers across the state, they offer a diverse perspective with the common interest of providing access to the best quality, cost-effective behavioral health treatment available.
B. Develop trauma engaged approaches to working with students.
  • Why Do We Lose Control of Our Emotions? is a video that is a simple, easy-to-understand, whiteboard animation to help early elementary-aged children gain an understanding of the way their brains work to recognize and manage their emotions.  This is intended as a beginning resource to help children, parents, educators, and those who work with children encourage mindfulness, empathy, and emotional regulation.
  • DEED’s “Self-Regulation” course provides a foundation for understanding self-regulation and walks you through how to help students develop these skills. Students who have experienced trauma may have trouble developing self-regulation skills.
  • DEED’s “Mind Body Connection”  course provides a good foundational understanding of how non-academic mindfulness tools and techniques can help students focus in the classroom. You may also find these activities helpful and healing for yourself. To ensure the academic success of students who have experienced trauma, it is necessary for schools to address their health and emotional well-being.
  • Dr. Dan Siegel’s “Hand Model of the Brain.” video.  For all of us, there are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed. Understanding what is happening to us in these stressful moments can help us to respond in less traumatic ways. The hand model of the brain video is an easily understandable way to explain the brain and body’s stress response system. Children and adults can use this insight to “tame” their stress response system.
C. Build student peer-to-peer support systems.
  • DEED’s eLearning classroom modules “Navigating Transitions: Promoting Wellness to Prevent Suicide” The Saving Teens At Risk series is aimed at fifth through twelfth graders, to help them learn how to successfully navigate challenging life transitions. The series contains eight courses, one for each grade. Each course is a self-contained lesson with narration and includes a printable instruction sheet for the teacher/instructor. The teacher projects the course to the class and uses the course’s cues to lead activities and discussions. Each course has age-appropriate objectives aimed at promoting resilience and preventing suicide.
  • Sources of Strength is a best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. The mission of Sources of Strength is to prevent suicide by increasing help seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults. Sources of Strength moves beyond a singular focus on risk factors by utilizing an upstream approach for youth suicide prevention. This upstream model strengthens multiple sources of support (protective factors) around young individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on.
  • Training Young People to Be Peer Leaders and Educators Is Powerful is about youth engagement, youth leadership, youth participation, youth voice and choice, and youth as leaders and decision-makers.These ideas are not new to the youth development and youth work field, and yet there are many challenges to engaging youth at meaningful levels. This challenge is a result of the longstanding norm that most of the information youth receive comes from adults.
  • Reconnecting Youth is a school-based prevention program for young people in middle and high school who are at risk for school dropout, drug involvement, anger/aggression, depression and/or suicidal behavior.
  • “Cultivating Restorative School Communities” is a resource packet for implementing restorative circles. In schools, restorative practices are multifaceted in nature. The roots of the understanding and practice are grounded in the traditions of indigenous cultures around the world that underscore the value of respect, compassion, dignity, and inclusion of all members of the community. This approach rests with the belief that everyone is an equal member of society and has a contribution to make.
  • Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships & Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools – A Guide for Educators is intended for all educators who support the growth and health of students in schools. It is an introduction for those new to restorative concepts and will help support and enhance the work of teachers already implementing these practices in their classrooms. The toolkit includes accessible models, frameworks, and action steps for school-wide implementation, accompanied by guiding questions to support reflection for practitioners looking to make restorative methods part of the fabric of daily life in schools. It also recognizes the significant role all education professionals play in maintaining a school community that models respectful, trusting, and caring relationships.
D. Build family school partnerships.
  • DEED’s “Family Partnership” course provides information about  how students and families should actively engage in school-wide planning and implementation efforts to address trauma. These efforts include the development of school-wide policy, protocol, and guidelines to create a trauma informed school climate and to implement trauma-informed practices. Schools should embrace practices that incorporate peer and parent support and guidance.
  • NAMI Family-to-Family is a free, 8-session, in-person educational program for family, significant others and friends of people with mental health conditions. It is a designated evidenced-based program. This means that research shows that the program significantly improves the coping and problem-solving abilities of the people closest to a person with a mental health condition.
  • Stone Soup Group When you have a child with special needs it can be overwhelming knowing where to start or figuring out the next step, whether it is with medical providers, in the home or at school. Stone Soup Group offers a link to relevant community resources and support.
  • Stronger Together: The Power of School and Family Partnerships by the Association of Alaska School Boards is an online resource that describes core elements and offers key strategies and tools to help educators and families work together to benefit each student. When school staff and families see each other as equal partners in students’ success, students perform better, attendance increases, and graduation rates rise. True family partnerships result in more equitable learning opportunities and improved outcomes for all students.
E. Continue cultural competency(ies) training
  • Cultural Resources for Alaska Families: Traditional Health and Wellness Guide This guide is designed for use by the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) in the case planning process with Alaska Native parents and children involved in the child welfare system; however, this guide is open for use by any programs and partners who may benefit from its content. It is the expectation that all families involved in Alaska’s child welfare system be offered the ability to choose case plan services or activities that are available as close to their home as possible. Services and activities should be aligned with cultural and personal beliefs and selected based on that individual’s preference regarding what will have the maximum impact on their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
  • Alaska Wellness Coalition envisions communities throughout Alaska where individuals thrive in an environment that supports healthy choices. Its membership is diverse, including Alaskans working in public health, positive youth development, the recovery community, social services, Alaska Native tribal health, and community development. AWC has its foundation in the Positive Community Norms framework. 
  • A Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Improving Cultural Competence (SAMHSA) This protocol uses multidimensional model for developing cultural competence. Adapted to address cultural competence across behavioral health settings, this model serves as a framework for targeting three organizational levels of treatment: individual counselor and staff; clinical and programmatic; and organizational and administrative.  The primary objective of this TIP is to assist readers in understanding the role of culture in the delivery of behavioral health services both generally and with reference to specific cultural groups. 
  • Mental Health America believes the best response is for all providers, including MHA and its affiliates, to embrace and integrate a multifaceted, holistic, approach to diversity which focuses on acceptance, inclusion and understanding of the needs of all communities.
  • American School Counselor Association’s “Culturally Competent School Counseling” is a webinar that focuses on select components of the ASCA National Model to create an organized space within which to think about infusing cultural competence at your school. Learn practical steps toward becoming a culturally competent school counselor. As the United States continues becoming  more multicultural, it’s more important than ever to develop your cultural competence.

Milestone Guide

The Transforming Schools Guide offers some steps and a starting point to deepen personal growth, establish a common vision with colleagues and community, and remind each of us that this is a process of preparing, starting, applying, and refining our trauma engaged work. Individuals and teams move through the steps and cycle many times to continue to improve upon and deepen our trauma engaged approach. Seeing the path forward and celebrating successes are key components of effective implementation. These Milestone guides offer four levels of section to complete, broken out by role. Each of the 11 components within the framework and toolkit.