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Bill aims to train daycare workers to care for traumatized foster kids

There are nearly 18,000 children in L.A County's foster care system. 300 of them have serious behavioral and mental health problems.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
File photo: There are nearly 18,000 children in L.A County's foster care system. 300 of them have serious behavioral and mental health problems.

The California legislature is considering a bill that would train childcare providers in how to better take care of children who've been traumatized. 

Nearly 20 percent of Los Angeles County’s children have experienced at least two traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, or poverty. And that number spikes when you're talking about kids in foster care. Nine out of ten children served by the nation's welfare system have been exposed to violence.

When trauma happens to very young children, it can impact their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Early intervention can help, and childcare providers can be an important factor in that early intervention.

The bill to help train providers on how they can better intervene is part of a larger bill designed to increase the number of foster parents who will take in babies and young children by giving them immediate access to subsidized childcare. 

The Assembly Appropriations Committee will determine Friday whether to pass the bill, AB 1164.

"What we’ve found over the years is sometimes even once we can get young children who’ve been abused and neglected into our childcare system, they have behaviors and traumatized responses to things that make it challenging for a traditional childcare provider to keep them," said Susanna Kniffen, the director of child welfare policy at Children Now, an advocacy group that supports the bill.

"So we’re reaching out to childcare providers to train them on trauma, and to provide them with approaches that will help them to be able to stabilize these young children in their care," she said.

Kniffen said the needs of children who've experienced trauma can be much different from those who have not.

"They may have sensitivity to certain sounds or certain touches, certain levels of behavior that some people might believe are defiant, which instead are just very appropriate responses for someone who has been through a difficult situation," she said. 

Children who've experienced trauma may also be more shy or silent. They may need more attention.

"Every child responds to trauma differently," Kniffen said. "So it’s more about teaching people to look for different behaviors, and to create an environment that can work for that child." 

The entire bill will ultimately cost $31 million a year. It sets aside four million dollars a year for the training.