State Funds Social-Emotional Learning and Child Protection

With competing priorities and new initiatives launched frequently, it can be a challenge for school districts to designate sufficient funding to bring social-emotional learning (SEL) to their classrooms. However, the state of Georgia is leading the way with an innovative funding program, brought about through a unique partnership that combines federal and state prevention funds with school- and districtwide Second Step implementation.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) has taken the initiative to promote SEL statewide while allocating key prevention funds for Second Step. “We determined that the Second Step curriculum is a way to prevent child abuse and neglect,” says Deborah Chosewood, interim director of the Office of Prevention and Community Support at Georgia DFCS. Because the state found a link between SEL and child abuse prevention, they decided to ease the burden on school districts and provide the needed funding.

“We use federal funding streams, including Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) funds, along with state-directed child abuse and neglect prevention funds. We provide those funds directly to schools to purchase and implement the Second Step program. In this way, SEL has become the cornerstone of our child abuse prevention strategy in the state of Georgia,” explains Chosewood.

Funds are available to districts through a competitive grant, and all schools must respond to a statement of need. “We encourage schools to work with Committee for Children when developing their application,” Chosewood says.

Because of the grant, now in its fifth year, the number of Georgia schools using Second Step SEL and Child Protection Unit keeps growing. In the fall of 2018, 9 different school districts encompassing 102 schools and over 40,000 students will implement the Second Step Program, including all of Atlanta Public Schools.

In Atlanta Public Schools, a Transformative Effect

In addition to reaching thousands of children in rural, suburban, and urban districts across Georgia, SEL has had a transformative effect in one of Georgia’s largest school districts. “Social-emotional learning is shaping the culture of Atlanta Public Schools by providing students and staff with tools to build positive relationships both in and out of the classroom. As a district, we are intentional about our actions and our words while providing students and staff with opportunities to practice and showcase problem solving skills, self-awareness, and social awareness that lead to better communication and relationships,” says Dr. Rose Prejean-Harris, Director of Social-Emotional Learning. ”It is amazing to see the difference in culture when everyone uses a common language and practices that build trust.”

Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, adds, “I think social-emotional learning needs to be pushed up as a top priority—as important as math, social studies, science, or language arts.”

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Atlanta Public Schools Transform through Social Emotional Learning

Earning Statewide Support Helps Ensure SEL Funding

Chosewood also notes the importance of bringing other state agencies together with the DFCS in championing a statewide SEL initiative. A key agency relationship is the Georgia Department of Education. Says Garry W. McGiboney, PhD, deputy superintendent of external affairs, “The Georgia Department of Education supports the ongoing efforts of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to help schools improve school climate so that students can go to schools that are supportive, nurturing, safe, and secure. Second Step is a powerful framework that improves the conditions for learning and helps students develop essential social-emotional skills.”

Committee for Children is happy to work with state child abuse prevention agencies, schools, and districts to educate stakeholders on the benefits of social-emotional learning, assist in the completion of grant applications, and pursue funding avenues for Second Step implementation. For more information, contact us.

For more information on resources, trainings, or funding opportunities, contact Georgia Division of Family and Children Services Office of Prevention and Community Support.