Creating Trauma-Informed Environments for Children



The Sustainable Mental Health Support for Children in Puerto Rico program, funded by UNICEF USA and implemented by the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz, created a two-tiered program of response to the mental health needs of children in response to Hurricane Maria, and was adapted and expanded to address the additional needs created by the 2020 earthquakes. The program was structured in two tiers:

  • Tier 1 focused on the infusion of trauma-informed classroom training in Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) schools. Using a train-the-trainer model, educators throughout the island are being trained in understanding and responding to children exposed to trauma.
  • Tier 2 provided a psychoeducational group intervention for children who needed additional mental health support beyond what can be provided in the classroom, facilitated by graduate counseling interns from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).

Together, these two tiers were designed to lay the foundation for the development a sustainable network of mental health service provision for children. It creates an island-wide cadre of professional educators trained to deliver mental health support training to other educators, while also equipping future mental health providers with the training and experience necessary to effectively work with children exposed to disasters and traumatic events

This program and curriculum is currently being adapted to address COVID-19 related stressors and needs, as well as being expanded to other regions.


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