Monday, February 28, 2022

How Can Afterschool Support Grieving Youth (Part 1)

Artwork by Lauren Coakley

By Sam Piha

There is a growing awareness of the importance of emotional regulation, social emotional learning, trauma informed practice and healing centered engagement. However it is important that we understand more about the needs of youth who are grieving or experiencing loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic (deaths and illness, as well as the loss of “normal”), the opioid crisis, the rising gun violence and the racial violence that is plaguing the country. Below we interview Brittany Collins, author of the book Learning from Loss: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Supporting Grieving Students. We have divided this interview into 2 parts and part 2 will be released next week. (Ms. Collins will be a guest presenter on an upcoming Speaker’s Forum/ Webinar.) 

Q: Can you briefly describe what your new book is about and why you wrote it?
A: I wrote Learning from Loss because, as a formerly bereaved student turned educator, I have always been keenly aware of both the ways in which teachers, coaches, youth workers, and other caring adults can have a lifelong impact on the lives of young people who are grieving, as well as the ways in which adults are often socialized into spaces of discomfort surrounding students’ grief – not knowing what to say, for example, or not wanting to make things worse and thereby slipping into silence. 

The question that drove my writing process was, in regards to creating learning environments that are supportive of students who are grieving, “How can we do this better?” I was privileged to interview numerous teachers, social workers, guidance and grief counselors who shed light on the intersections of theory and practice, and to offer snapshots of their stories to readers alongside actionable practices for use with young people.

Q: How many young people are actually affected by grief and loss? Is this higher in low-income communities or communities of color?
A: Before the pandemic, we knew that 7 out of 10 teachers had a student in their classroom who was actively grieving. Now, that number has likely risen, as 1.5 million children have lost a primary or secondary caregiver to COVID-19 worldwide, over 140,000 in the U.S. alone, and we are seeing that Black, Indigenous, People Of Color (BIPOC) youth are facing much higher rates of bereavement due to systemic health inequities. Of course, these statistics relate only to grief that is experienced in response to a physical death, but there are many other kinds of losses that can elicit a grief response in our brains and bodies: “living losses” describe things like divorce, a familial falling out, experiences in foster care, a move or change in schooling – transitional losses and absences that are rife in this pandemic moment but that do not involve death. 

We can also experience “anticipatory grief” in expectancy of a loss; “disenfranchised grief” if our grief is not socially or societally acknowledged (e.g. a miscarriage, the death of a loved one to suicide, or other forms of loss/grief that somehow intersect with societally-reinforced silences or taboos); vicarious grief when exposed to others’ losses; and generational grief/trauma in communities that have historically faced brutality and loss. These are just several examples – and when we take them into consideration, the rates of impacted young people are really astronomical. I would bet that it’s safe to say every youth program comprises folks who are grieving.

Q: Is grief and loss only in relation to a death or can it be experienced indirectly? Example: The COVID pandemic fears and the loss of "normal", or racial violence?
A: These types of loss are certainly valid examples and can produce physiological grief responses; for example, COVID pandemic fears may take the form of anticipatory grief regarding one’s own or a loved one’s health and/or mortality. But the pandemic has also incited other forms of living losses, like those caused by a lack of proximity to friends and loved ones; grief for our former life/way of living; grief for growth milestones missed, like a prom or graduation, wedding or job transition – “the loss of ‘normal’” is a great way to put it. 

And then, of course, racial violence connects to all of these forms of grief as well. There is grief for those lost; anticipatory grief, especially in BIPOC communities, about who might be impacted next; generational grief, when we think about the deep roots of racial violence across history; and vicarious grief and trauma for folks of the global majority who see acts of racialized violence committed against those with similar identities. And this isn’t just conceptual; there is much scientific research that explores and explains the ways in which racial violence, discrimination, and bigotry impact the brain and body. Race-based traumatic stress is a public health crisis.

(Part 2 of this interview will be released next week.)



Brittany Collins is an author, educator, and curriculum designer dedicated to supporting teachers’ and students’ social and emotional well-being, especially in times of adversity. Her work explores the impacts of grief, loss, and trauma in the school system, as well as how innovative pedagogies—from inquiry-based learning to identity development curricula—can create conditions supportive of all learners. She is the Founder of Grief-Responsive Teaching, a professional learning community and resource hub that supports students' and educators' well-being in times of loss.

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar featuring a presentation by Brittany Collins and a panel of experts on Responding to Grief and Loss in Afterschool Programs, Thursday, March 17, 2022 from 10:00am - 12:00pm (PST). To learn more and register, click HERE.



Monday, February 21, 2022

Journaling with Teens to Promote Mental Health and SEL


By Sam Piha

Introducing journal writing, whether it’s once a week or daily, is good for all, and fosters social emotional learning (SEL) skills, especially self-awareness. “Journaling activities can be designed to help young people gain insights into the major areas of their lives. Its purpose is to help adolescents gain a more positive perspective on their lives by developing an awareness of events, memories and feelings in their lives and learn coping skills that can be used throughout life. At the same time, journaling can also help adolescents to use their imaginations and natural creative talents, to improve their communication skills, and to realize self-interests and possibilities.” – Lynn Blinn Pike, Human Development and Family Studies

“It is important to provide youth with opportunities to reflect on and/or express themselves and their feelings because they HAVE them and don't always have space to express them. Journal writing is a good way to provide these opportunities. Even if it's just a stream of consciousness writing. Journaling allows you to slow down and notice yourself and your thoughts, which is greatly therapeutic!”Daniel Summerhill, California State University, Monterey Bay


Tips for Journaling with Teens

  • Ignore outsiders who proclaim “those kids won’t go along” [referring to adolescent boys or boys of color].
  • Agree with your teens whether their journals will be fully private or if the adult leaders are allowed to read them. Remember that entries may involve things that adults are required to report, such as endangerment or abuse. 
  • To personalize and encourage buy-in, begin by asking youth to decorate and personalize the cover of their journal. Be sure to have art materials and magazines with photos if some prefer to create collages. 
  • Choose a sturdy and inexpensive journal book, like a composition book.
  • Journal entries can take many forms: writing, drawing, collage, etc. Youth will be more interested if they don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar. They can use “inventive spelling.”
  • “A writing prompt is an excellent tool to get kids of all ages putting pencils to pages! Since it’s not always easy to think of something specific to write about, it’s not a bad idea to make a Journal Jar and fill it with ideas.” Youth can add their own ideas to the journal jar and be invited to pull out the journal prompts. There are many ideas for journal prompts on the internet, such as Daring to Live Fully. 

After doing these (journaling) activities I am glad...because it's good for me to think about myself and my thoughts and feelings, which I don't always do on a regular basis.— youth, 17-year-old



Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar featuring a presentation by Stu Semigran and his team from the EduCare Foundation on Heartset® for Self-Care and Resiliency on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 from 10:00am - 11:30am (PST). To learn more and register, click HERE.




Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Afterschool Worker Shortage: Voices from the Field


by Sam Piha

We thought it is important to understand the issue of worker shortages from afterschool practitioners. To accomplish this, we issued a “snap” field survey in which we received 44 responses from practitioners across the country in 12 hours. Below we share some of the responses from our “snap” survey as well as from a survey from the East Bay Asian Youth Center (representing a collective of 13 lead agencies providing afterschool programs to a total of 76 OUSD schools.


SURVEY OF AFTERSCHOOL PRACTITIONERS CONDUCTED BY TEMESCAL ASSOCIATES ON 12/6/21: 


What are the reasons for the worker shortage? 

I believe many of the people that worked for us before the 2020-21 school year went on to find other work. I also believe that some have enrolled in college and some no longer are able to live in the area due to being priced out of the housing market.” – School District Coordinator, California

1. Competitive hiring market with higher pay than pre-pandemic. 2. Not all youth are vaccinated and fear of contracting or passing Covid. 3. High cost of Bay Area living and relocation of workers. 4. Work from home job options more prevalent. 5. Stimulus checks led to savings for some and not needing to immediately return to the workforce. 6. Secured alternate work with higher wages instead of returning to the afterschool field.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

After school programs generally do not pay well, and we're dealing with a major inflation. Also, I think fear of exposure to COVID plays a large part, too. Working with a large number of mostly unvaccinated people, even if they're kids, is scary sometimes.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

Low wages, part-time work (only), no benefits; perception of lack of career path (rather, just a part time, temp job on the way to something more permanent. People staying home to take care of own kids.” – Afterschool Provider CEO, Pennsylvania

There are a variety of stressors that bring about this shortage: loss of work hours, loss of loved ones and family members, mental exhaustion, and lack of adequate health care and better wages.”- Afterschool Provider CEO, Florida

We had trouble finding qualified staff who were also fully vaccinated.” – Afterschool Program Staff, Ohio


How has your program been impacted by the worker shortage?

Programs have had to limit youth attendees in some programs, sometimes programs have had to cancel a day or so due to lack of substitute staff, and less activities are offered in some sites due to lack of instructors.” – Afterschool Evaluator and Consultant, California

We are serving less students than we have spaces for. The staff is overwhelmed, and the program quality has decreased.”- Afterschool Program Director, California

Depending on the site location, we are at 50%-75% of capacity to serve youth after school. Fewer students are being served which jeopardizes our local/state/federal grant awards.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

The current staff shortage has prevented our 13 programs from fully enrolling our ASES funded sites. We are at about 50% capacity at this time. It is very distressing to not be able to serve the maximum number of families.” – School District Coordinator, California

We’ve had substantial turnover at our site coordinator level, and front-line staff is more of a revolving door than before.” – Afterschool Program Director, Michigan

Our enrollment is low because we only have 2-3 staff per site (as opposed to 5-6).” – Afterschool Program Director, Utah


What are some things that the field can do to address the impacts of a worker shortage? 

I believe we were better positioned than many organizations to hire because we budgeted for a higher wage than many other youth programs. I think increasing wages and explaining the necessity of that to funders so that they can support the organizations they fund in that increase. Afterschool and youth development work also need to be seen as a viable career path with professional training and education.” – Afterschool Program Director, Ohio

Hire high school students who are 18+ to work at elementary sites, provide university credit for field service hours, increase pay rates.” – Afterschool Program Director, Michigan

Formal pipelines for after school to educators. Schools facing the same concerns. Increasing wages is tough - in our area, California’s Afterschool Education and Safety (ASES) program will not cover the full cost of the program nor will parents be able to afford the true cost of program.” – Afterschool Provider, California

Beyond livable wages? Benefits that compensate for the low pay such as full-time employment, fully paid medical and dental, free childcare, reimbursed college tuition, access to robust mental health coverage.” – Afterschool Program Director, California

We need more money. We are criminally underpaid and overworked.” – Afterschool Program Coordinator, California


Any suggestions on how we can improve the worker shortage at the policy/systems level? 

Could give credit for high school students that work in afterschool programs under an elective or community service requirement.” – Afterschool Evaluator and Consultant, California

Funders and contracting organizations like Starting Point and Say Yes could set a $15 minimum wage for afterschool program work and fund programs accordingly. Local colleges could offer Youth Development degrees/certifications and place students in afterschool programs for field experience.” – Afterschool Program Director, Ohio

Encourage funders to raise grant amounts to get to living wages. Create full time jobs. Consider hybrid work schedules if appropriate. Paid training and prep-time.” - Afterschool Provider CEO, Pennsylvania

The California Department of Education has to truly make it a pathway to education careers and the Unions should let LEAs and CBOs hire combined positions, so both the school and the afterschool program are fully staffed, because offering more hours attracts more staff. Higher compensation.”- Afterschool Program Director, California

Bring back funding to invest in and manage workforce development by building a formal pipeline between high school to community colleges and state universities, including the UC system and tap into the resources of private universities.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

Loan forgiveness or tuition credits as many part time afterschool workers are in school. Regional or statewide benefits packages as the cost to smaller orgs is tremendous but better benefits could entice workers to stay in or take these jobs. Ensure the jobs are pipelines to full time opportunities and careers.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California


SURVEY OF 13 AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM LEAD AGENCIES CONDUCTED BY THE EAST BAY ASIAN YOUTH CENTER: 


What program strategies are being implemented to hire staff?:

  • 92% Use of “Indeed”
  • 85% Recruitment through Colleges & Universities
  • 85% Recruitment through Personal Network
  • 77% Recruitment through Professional Network
  • 77% Increase Hourly Wage
  • 62% Recruitment through social media (Facebook, Etc.)
  • 54% Referral Bonus
  • 31% Idealist
  • 23% Paid Recruiter
  • 15% Sign-on Bonus
  • 23% Other 

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar featuring a presentation by Stu Semigran and his team from the EduCare Foundation on Heartset® for Self-Care and Resiliency on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 from 10:00am - 11:30am (PST). To learn more and register, click HERE.


Monday, February 7, 2022

Addressing the Afterschool Worker Shortage: Keeping Equity in Mind


by Sam Piha

The emergency triggered by COVID-19 lays bare the structural failures of a nation where the most vulnerable continue to be the worst hit. To realize the promise of equity, every policy and investment must provide significant, sustained support to the people hurting most; and serve as a bridge to creating an equitable economy…” Policylink.org

Turning an equity lens on the recovery of afterschool is critical in order to not recreate past equity issues. According to California Afterschool Network (CAN), “Communities of color and low-income communities––the very same communities that make-up a large percentage of the expanded learning workforce––are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

These same communities now have disproportionately less access to afterschool programs than before. Recent studies reveal that:

  • low-income students are far less likely to have access to afterschool programs in person this fall, compared with children and youths from higher-income families.
  • 45% of providers serving mostly high-income families report plans to provide fall in-person services, compared with only 15% of providers serving mostly low-income families.
  • The disparities across income levels to in-person after-school program access reflect trends showing that race is a strong predictor of access to in-person schooling, with predominantly white schools being more likely to offer in-person or hybrid schooling options rather than being fully online.

As programs respond to the crisis by shrinking their footprint, Felicia Young, Senior Manager of Education, Training and Program Development at the Metro United Way in Louisville, KY, notes that site closures have been concentrated in marginalized neighborhoods of Louisville, creating significant barriers for the communities that need them most.” Desiree Morales

The California Afterschool Network (CAN) formed a Workforce Strategy Committee which developed recommendations and resources (such as Considerations for an Equitable Recovery for the Expanded Learning Workforce) to assist afterschool programs to make changes, taking equity into account. It is recommended that the reader references their website. 

Source: Seattle Times

PROGRAM TOOLS
These are some program tools that leaders can use to ensure that their programs do not advance inequities. 

  • Equity Screen Tool: A statewide committee of out-of-school time stakeholders, convened by the California Afterschool Network, develop a tool that agencies can use to ensure that recovery decisions, policies, and strategies best meet the needs of employees most negatively impacted by COVID-19.
  • AWAKE to WOKE to WORK: Building a Race Equity Culture: This tool was developed by Equity in the Center to provide evidence-based guidance for leaders working to advance race equity in their organizations.

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar featuring a presentation by Stu Semigran and his team from the EduCare Foundation on Heartset® for Self-Care and Resiliency on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 from 10:00am - 11:30am (PST). To learn more and register, click HERE.



Integrating Mindfulness into Afterschool Youth Programs

By Sam Piha For the past decade we have been promoting the use of mindfulness activities in afterschool to address the needs of youth partic...