Abstract: Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools: Increasing District-Level Readiness to Change (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools: Increasing District-Level Readiness to Change

Sunday, January 15, 2023
North Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Travis Hales, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Susan A. Green, LCSW, Director, Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, State University of New York at Buffalo, NY
Samantha Koury, MSW, Co-Director, Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, State University of New York at Buffalo, NY
Background and Purpose: Trauma-informed practices in schools involves creating school cultures and climates that are grounded in the five guiding values of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, empowerment. While trauma-informed practices in schools has a strong theoretical background and experienced significant increases in adoption and implementation, there remains a significant gap in the literature on data to support and inform these change processes. The current study examines the impact of building organizational capacity and delivering introductory trainings on staff readiness to adopt and implement trauma-informed practices in schools. As readiness to change is a significant predictor of implementation success, examining district-level strategies to bolster readiness for change will make a significant, evidence-based contribution to the literature.

Methods: The three measures of readiness to change (Acceptability Intervention Measure [AIM], Intervention Appropriateness Measure [IAM], and Feasibility of Intervention Measure [FIM]) developed by Weiner et al. (2017) were used pre- and post-capacity building and introductory trainings in a large school district located in Western New York, with 18-months between assessments. Each of the three measures contain 5-items and are based on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 ‘Strongly disagree’ to 5 ‘Strongly agree.’ As the three measures had not been used in school settings, confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were conducted to assess their construct validity. After assessing the construct validity of the measures, mean scores were computed and dependent samples t-tests were used to compare readiness to change from pre- to post-test. Individual respondents were requested to provide unique identifiers to enable matching individual’s pre- and post-test scores.

Results: Using Hu and Bentler’s (1999) heuristics for assessing construct validity, the CFAs provided support for the validity of the instruments, with a χ2 (49) = 126.79, RMSEA = .07, CFI and TLI of .99 and .98, respectively, and SRMR = .03. The results of the dependent samples t-test indicated that readiness to change across each of the three constructs significantly improved following the intervention activities. The AIM, IAM, and FIM measures increased with moderate effect sizes (Cohen’s d of .43, .42, and .59, respectively), and all were significant at the p > .01 level.

Conclusions and Implications: The current study findings indicate that readiness to adopt and implement trauma-informed practices in schools can be increased through systematic and coordinated efforts. The success of district-level change efforts is contingent on truly engaging leadership, both formal and informal, before trying to roll out the initiative at the school level. The increases in readiness to change were positively associated with capacity building through identifying a nucleus of Champions across the district, with representation from all levels of the organization. Future research directions include examining the long-term impact of district level adoption and implementation of trauma-informed practices in schools. Such research might focus on the impact on student learning outcomes, behavioral incidences, truancy, as well as a variety of staff indicators. Practical implications for bolstering readiness to change and supporting districts in their transition to trauma-informed educational practices are discussed.