Andy Combs oversees all of the youth programs at Sunshine. Over the past two years, staff have been learning and training about the importance of Trauma Informed Care and how trauma impacts people in the community, particularly youth. “We know that trauma affects our brain development and plays out in our actions and decisions. When we experience trauma, it can literally affect the wiring in our brains,” Combs explains. He goes on to add, “But even though trauma can explain behavior and we have been implementing tools to address the trauma, we were left with a gap. We knew that building resilience is important, but we needed tools to help us accomplish that.”
The partnership with FamilyHood, which equips parents to instill the 40 Developmental Assets with their children, will be the vehicle to help us further incorporate these assets into our youth programming during the school year. Young people with more Developmental Assets report lower levels of high-risk behaviors (such as alcohol use and violence) and higher levels of thriving attitudes and behaviors (such as doing well in school, leadership, and valuing diversity). This correlation has been shown to be consistent across multiple settings, with studies conducted among nearly 6 million youth across the United States and globally. Research on childhood trauma has been largely linked to avoiding long-term health risks. However, there is a strong connection between understanding trauma while helping youth avoid risky behaviors. In essence, the more assets a child has, regardless of the trauma they’ve experienced, the more resilient they will be.
Combs and Sasha Simmons, Familyhood Director, are working with the youth staff to develop a curriculum suited for each program that incorporates the 40 assets. Combs says, “As we became more familiar with these assets, we realized that many of them were already being incorporated into our youth programs, but in a less formalized or structured way.” Over the course of an 8-month program, the assets will be broken into the following categories: Support, Empowerment, Boundaries & Expectations, Constructive Use of Time, Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competence, and Positive Identity. Each month a different category will be covered with its appropriate assets. The assets will be taught and discussed corporately and they will be reinforced through Bible time, creative elements and posters/images in the spaces. Simmons further emphasizes, “The Sunshine youth staff are incredibly gifted in their jobs. Creative direction will be left up to them to determine other ways to incorporate the assets into their programming.”
Asset assessments will be given to the students at the beginning of the school year and the end of the year. Combs explains, “We recognize the need for focusing our direction on asset development as a way to build resiliency and are very hopeful because of the large body of research that’s been done nationwide over the past 30 years years, that this new curriculum and measurement tool will allow us to further expand our reach and support in the Woodlawn community and help our kids to flourish into who God created them to be.”