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NY Daily News op ed calls for social worker in all schools to help kids deal with toxic stress

Jan 24, 2020, New York Daily News: (OP ED) All NYC kids need social workers An invisible threat is clouding the future of the 73% of New York City public school children growing up in poverty — and represents one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. This is the impact of chronic stress, which is caused by the unrelenting trauma of homelessness, food scarcity, family instability and other effects of poverty. Imagine not knowing where you’ll sleep, what you will eat, or how your life will change tomorrow. Without appropriate mitigating factors, chronic stress turns to toxic stress, a neurological condition that creates a constant “fight, flight or flee” mental state. For many of our city’s young people, this affects the parts of their brain that enable them to think critically, make decisions, self-regulate and focus in school. Toxic stress can also lead to long-term behavioral problems and mental and physical health illnesses — from low self-esteem and substance abuse to diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions later in life. It’s a cause-and-effect in brain science studied deeply by the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. …Children need to feel safe in order to level set their stress response systems. For those children whose parents also suffer from instability, uncertainty and scarcity, we need to provide these relationships at school. A recognized way to do this is to provide a full-time social worker in every school, available all day, every day, to foster a supportive environment in a child’s school. In a recent letter to the Department of Education, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer reiterated a bold call for a social worker in every school. This underscores an important point: Once mental health issues interfere with learning, they become education issues. As a 100-year-old nonprofit that has hired, trained and supervised social workers in public schools for decades, Partnership with Children knows that the payoff can be spectacular. Our approach is to place full-time — five-day-a-week — Master’s-level social workers and community school directors in schools, elementary through high school, across New York City. With neuroscience to guide them, they provide not just crisis management, but also preventive, trauma-informed care, one-on-one and small-group counseling, and mentoring to ensure that chronic stress does not turn toxic. …. Social workers provide a safe, dedicated retreat for children to unpack the complexities of their lives. This consistent, wrap-around service is crucial to improving the social, emotional and cognitive skills children need to weather trauma, alleviate chronic stress and build the coping skills they need to navigate it independently….

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