by Adam Sloter, Hope Academy Community Liaison
As many of you know, Hope Academy of Northwest Arkansas will be the first Trauma-informed school in the state. This is a big deal! Trauma-informed education is a relatively new field of study. It has only seen prevalent use for the past 25 years, and most schools in the nation do not identify as being trauma-informed. Unfortunately, across the US, thousands of children experience severe trauma, whether it’s abuse (mental, physical, emotional, sexual etc.), neglect (environmental, educational, nutritional etc.), abandonment, or witnessing traumatic events (violent death of a relative, a sibling being abused, a difficult divorce etc.). Research shows that these traumatic events can severely hinder the brain development of these children, which can result in poor academic performance, destructive behaviors, and multiple mental health issues. In Northwest Arkansas alone there were 5,291 reported cases of abuse and neglect in 2019. And that number only represents the reported cases! If every case were properly reported, the number would almost certainly be much higher. Even so, 5,291 is a staggering number, especially for an area that tends to present itself as a bit more prosperous compared to the rest of the state. Benton and Washington County lead the state in reported cases of child abuse. Trauma is a pervasive and serious issue in our community, and that is why Hope Academy is focusing its educational values on trauma-informed care. Being trauma-informed means that our school faculty and educators recognize that the children we serve have experienced trauma, and our teaching methods and practices will be dedicated to healing and recovery from the negative effects of said trauma. Our goal is to treat the reason for the behavior and not only the behavior itself. This educational model requires each and every member of the school faculty to undergo extensive training that will help them recognize the effects of trauma on a child and give them the tools they need to adequately address it in a loving and safe way. We want every family and child who comes through our doors to know that there is hope for the future, regardless of the effects of severe trauma.
Combating the effects of trauma for each child will be a long process. Trauma roots itself within the brain and only after years of intentional work and guidance does the brain begin to recover. We know that childhood trauma is a serious problem, and we are ready to face it head on. Hope Academy opens in six months, and our success is dependent upon a core faculty that dedicates all of their efforts towards providing the best trauma-informed care. We face this mountain with boldness and determination, and we look toward the day when each child can stand at its peak and see the world of possibilities laid out before them.