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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Project FORECAST Trainings Build Connections Between Faculty, Partners

SDSU faculty and partners take part in a Project FORECAST trauma-informed training.
SDSU faculty and partners take part in a Project FORECAST trauma-informed training. Photo by Nolan Voge.

During the first week of spring semester classes, several San Diego State University faculty members — along with their community partners — were the ones receiving an education. The topic: trauma-informed child advocacy.

Sixty participants from across SDSU and other local agencies gathered at the Chinese Cultural Center Jan. 22-24 for the Project FORECAST trauma-informed learning collaborative. The free training — brought to campus by Dr. Audrey Hokoda, Senate Distinguished Professor at San Diego State University in the Department of Child and Family Development (CFD) — provided three days of interactive problem-based learning simulations designed to build the skills needed to effectively work with children and families exposed to traumatic stress.

What's really exciting is that a lot of us are meeting each other for the first time. It's amazing to see how much our work with children and families overlaps.
—Dr. Audrey Hokoda
Trauma-informed care is a model that seeks to understand the nature and impact of trauma and develop practices that promote recovery and healing. Funded by a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant, Project FORECAST was developed by faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) with the goal of creating a more trauma-informed workforce within academia and community organizations.

“You see how difficult it is to be a child welfare worker or to be — as a teacher — the first person to hear from a child that they had been abused,” Hokoda said of the simulations. “You get to learn what you do and where it goes from there.”

Connections and Adaptations 

SDSU participants included faculty from COE’s departments of Child and Family Development (CFD) and Counseling and School Psychology (CSP), as well as the School of Social Work. Faculty from UC San Diego and Alliant University, and partners from organizations like Harmonium, the YMCA and San Diego Unified School District as well as tribal community members, also took part.

“I think one of the reasons that this has taken off so much is that San Diego County is really progressive in terms of promoting trauma-informed and restorative practices,” Hokoda said. “At San Diego State, we have a lot of faculty in many different areas doing this kind of work. What's really exciting is that a lot of us are meeting each other for the first time. It's amazing to see how much our work with children and families overlaps.

“But everybody comes at it from a different angle.”

Dr. Carol Robinson-Zañartu, professor emerita in CSP, attended the trainings alongside Tiffany Haswood, a school psychologist for the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, and Ann Pierce, a counselor for Mountain Empire Unified School District. The three are partners in a new initiative to serve the mental health needs of Kumeyaay youth.

“The process has been really interesting as well as the multidisciplinary aspect and the fact that — largely due to Audrey — we have a group of people across the university that work on similar issues,” Robinson-Zañartu said. “So we have made deeper connections.”

The three indicated they were eager to adapt the simulations for their graduate student counselors to make them culturally relevant and address the historical trauma experienced by young people in the tribal communities they will serve.

“I just started working for the Manzanita tribe, so a lot of what I do is looking for resources,” Haswood said. “We are way out in East County and we have limited resources as it is out on the reservations. I feel like just bringing all these resources together here and having these conversations was the most powerful thing for me.”

Large Turnout 

This is Project FORECAST’s seventh university cohort, but its first time providing trainings on the West Coast. Dr. Jerry Dunn, clinical professor at UMSL and the principal investigator on Project FORECAST, was on site to help facilitate the trainings with her colleagues. She came away impressed by the turnout at SDSU, which she said was the largest number of teams they’ve ever had participate.

Dunn was also pleasantly surprised at the progress San Diego has already made in moving toward a trauma-informed model, as well as the attendees’ expertise on issues like implicit bias.

"What we've learned from our participants is how we can take this idea and then expand it into, say, a different culture or a different issue,” Dunn said. “We always have our ears open to find ways to be more responsive to the actual communities who are going to need this.”

A second round of Project FORECAST trainings will take place at SDSU on May 28-29.