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Missouri Parent-Education Group Offers Trauma Resources for Young Children

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Parents as Teachers, a St. Louis, Mo.-based organization that manages parent-education programs in all 50 states, is promoting resources to help young children work through trauma, such as the continuing unrest over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager earlier this year. 

The tips for parents are geared toward the needs of young children (Education Week has compiled several additional resources for older children and for classroom teachers.) 

Michael Brown, 18, of Ferguson, Mo., was shot after a confrontation with a police officer Aug. 9. Over the summer, the shooting sparked violent protests which had largely died down until Monday, when a grand jury found there was not enough evidence to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, in Brown's death. That decision sparked more unrest in the St. Louis suburb and in other cities, and several districts in the affected area chose to close

Parents as Teachers trains early-childhood professionals it calls "parent-educators," who then work directly with families, instructing them in their homes on child development, school readiness, and other factors that lead to a healthy early start. The program got its start in 1981 in four Missouri school districts, including Ferguson-Florissant, which serves the city of Ferguson. By the mid-1980s, the program had expanded to the whole state, and now operates nationwide and in six other countries.  

Local Support

Parents as Teachers has also provided needed resources to parent-educators in the St. Louis area as they dealt with the unrest this summer. Parents, as well as parent-educators who worked with them, had to maneuver around police roadblocks, for example, to continue their visits.

The organization held special workshops for parent-eduators in affected districts (Ferguson-Florissant, Riverview Gardens, Jennings, Normandy, Hazelwood and Ritenour) to teach them about stress and trauma, and how to address the racial tensions. 

The organization has tried to maintain as much routine as it can, in some cases moving visits out of the family home, or creating small-group sessions where parents can talk to each other about any stress. Parent-educators have also maintain phone contact with families in the program when they could not visit directly. 

The parent-educators have been likened to "first responders," said Ann Young, who oversees all of the Parents as Teachers programs in Missouri. The parent-educators are "in the homes with these families. They're really getting to the heart of what's going on with them," she said. 

Children watch from their home Aug. 20 as people march about a mile to the police station to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown, leading to renewed protests both in the St. Louis suburb and in other cities nationwide. 

—Charlie Riedel/AP

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