Monday, August 19, 2019

Supporting Our Youth in Times of Fear and Threats

By Sam Piha

As our young people are returning to classrooms and afterschool programs, our country is gripped by confusion, fear, and anger that is a result of hate speech, mass shootings and deportations. This is particularly true for communities of color and other marginalized groups. It is important that afterschool program leaders think about how they will respond and support their young people in light of this crisis. 


“My family is documented and we’re residents, but regardless of that fact, we’re just scared. We’re afraid that something can go down. Personally, I didn’t want to go to school. Anywhere I go, I feel threatened.” 
- Roman, 17yrs. old, El Paso, TX

The Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (AzCASE) offers the following tips for afterschool providers:

  • Understand and acknowledge that some anxiety is normal.
  • Connect with your community. Talk to parents in your program, talk to others working in your program. Just let people know that you are there for them and the kids.
  • Turn anxiety into action. If your program works with a community that is more deeply impacted and you have the flexibility, find a way to allow the kids you work with to volunteer or find a cause they can support that builds the community up.
  • Be available. Kids hear more than we may think. While you don’t want to introduce a topic that may trigger trauma, make sure the kids you serve know that you are there and willing to talk to them about their concerns and fears.
  • Take care of yourself. These events are hard for adults too. Take your own mental health temperature and know when you need to ask for support or seek help. Remember you can’t help the kids if your trauma has been triggered.
We would add that it is important for program participants have a regular opportunity, such as a sharing circle, for young people to express their thoughts and concerns - not just when there is a local or national crisis. 

Source: Washington Post

It is important that adults and youth do not fall into hopelessness. To avoid this, it is suggested that we find ways to take action for change. Below are some leading organizations, assembled by Youth Service America, that will help you take action:

March for Our Lives
Everytown for Gun Safety
Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence
The Brady Campaign

We are currently researching how  expanded learning programs should respond to ICE raids that impact their participants. We do know that some school districts have addressed this and if your program is school-based, you should seek advice from your school district host. Below are some recommendations from Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), who developed a 10-step guide to help schools and educators support children affected by Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids:

  • Make counselors, social workers, and other professionals available to help students and families who may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Identify bilingual liaisons who can, if needed, provide support and translation for students and families.
  • Designate safe spaces, such as school gyms, where students and families can wait for assistance if a parent is detained.
  • Provide the support and legal protections afforded by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act if students have no place to live.
  • Ensure that law enforcement officers are not on school grounds, unless needed, because their presence could re-traumatize students and discourage families from seeking support.

Source: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

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