Nominations Open for Delaware’s Compassionate Champion Award

Program recognizes individuals, organizations providing trauma-informed services

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Monday announced nominations are now open for the Compassionate Champion Award, the State of Delaware’s trauma-informed care recognition program that highlights outstanding achievement by individuals and organizations that provide trauma-informed services. Nomination forms are available online until midnight on June 30, 2020.

View nomination form.

“We know that folks are experiencing trauma, and we need to continue doing everything we can to support children and families in Delaware,” said Governor Carney. “We have many dedicated workers across the state who serve their fellow Delawareans, and who have been leaders and advocates in the trauma-informed approach. We thank them for their compassion, leadership and commitment to our state and our citizens, and I look forward to again formally recognizing these efforts that help build a stronger and healthier state.”

View videos of 2019 Compassionate Champion Award winners.

The Compassionate Champion Award recognizes individuals or teams in government, non-profit and private organizations, first responder professions, education, and other agencies that have taken steps toward providing services in a manner consistent with trauma-informed care criteria in the Delaware Developmental Framework for Trauma Informed Care, a document that outlines best practices for trauma-informed care. The Framework was adapted from the Missouri Model of trauma-informed care, and was produced in collaboration by the Family Services Cabinet Council ACEs Subcommittee and the Compassionate Connections Partnership.

Since 2018, the Family Services Cabinet Council has worked to implement Executive Order #24, which launched efforts to make Delaware a trauma-informed state. The Family Services Cabinet Council released in November 2019 a Trauma-Informed Care Progress Report and Action Plan for State of Delaware agencies. The plan serves as a progress report of each agency’s work to implement Executive Order #24, which tasked the Family Services Cabinet Council to lead efforts to make Delaware a trauma-informed state. Other initiatives from the Family Service Cabinet Council include the Wilmington Group Violence Intervention Project, and the creation of the Dual Generation Center at Stubbs to improve the delivery of job-related services, and services for Wilmington children. The Family Services Cabinet Council – a cabinet-level group reestablished by Governor Carney in February 2017 to coordinate public and private services for Delaware families.


Delaware Receives $7.5 Million Grant to Expand Trauma Supports for Students and Families

Governor Carney’s Executive Order 24 directed state agencies to focus on impact of trauma

WILMINGTON, Del. – Delaware will expand its supports for children who have experienced academic, social, and behavioral health challenges as a result of exposure to trauma and toxic stress thanks to a new federal grant. Governor John Carney announced on Monday that Delaware will receive almost $7.5 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education’s Trauma Recovery Demonstration Project Grant Program.

Delaware’s project aims to strengthen collaborations among families, schools and mental health service providers.

“We know that many Delaware children arrive at school each day with their own unique challenges. In many cases, that includes exposure to trauma,” said Governor Carney. “It’s our job to help those children cope with the effects of trauma, so they can focus on learning in the classroom. This grant will help us connect families, school leaders, and health providers to make sure that Delaware children are receiving the best services possible.”

Through the grant, the Delaware Department of Education will:

  • Increase screening for a larger population of students to identify those experiencing trauma;
  • Augment immediately available support services for identified children;
  • Strengthen partnerships with agencies that can provide additional short- and long-term services for referred students; and
  • Enhance understanding by teachers, staff and providers about signs and symptoms of trauma and the broader adoption of trauma-informed approach.

This new grant will build upon work already underway in the First State to support trauma-informed practices in schools, state agencies and other providers across Delaware. “We must support parents and families in understanding mental health challenges and delivery systems so they can be informed consumers on behalf of their children,” said Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education.

“We believe that this grant will have a significant positive impact on the learning outcomes of our students and will add to the evidence base around the effective trauma sensitive strategies in schools,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “The mental health and social services assistance provided by this grant will help in developing resilient, engaged, and academically successful students while also providing safe, stable, and supportive school environments.”

In October 2018, Governor Carney signed Executive Order 24, directing the Family Services Cabinet Council to help mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences and build resilience in children, adults and communities.

The Family Services Cabinet Council is working to identify gaps in available services along the prevention and early intervention-treatment continuum for children and their caregivers statewide. Its members also are charged with developing a comprehensive plan focused on early intervention for children and their caregivers exposed to adverse childhood experiences in order to help prevent abuse and neglect.

Governor Carney also worked with the General Assembly to pass a three-year, $75 million Opportunity Funding program that will support students from low-income families, and English learners. The Opportunity Funding package sets aside $15 million for additional mental health and reading supports in Delaware schools.


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Delaware Receives UPenn Technical Assistance Grant to Develop Integrated Data System

Governor Carney, First Lady, Casey Family Programs Announce “First Chance Delaware”

In Partnership with Wilmington University, DHSS Begins Yearlong Initiative to Train 1,000 Staff Members in Trauma-Informed Approaches

Governor Carney Reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council

First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney Announces Statewide Partnership at Trauma Awareness Month Kickoff

First Lady also announces first Compassionate Champion Award winners  

DOVER, Del. – At a kickoff event for Trauma Awareness Month in Delaware, First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney today announced the launch of a new, growing statewide partnership for trauma-informed care to help elevate stories of the work of leaders in trauma-informed practices and approaches across the state called Trauma Informed Delaware. The goal of the statewide public-private-nonprofit coalition is to coordinate a sustainable system that advances resilience through community-based awareness, trauma prevention, and early intervention.

“Trauma-informed care is a pre-requisite to any effective strength-based strategy,” said First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney. “Progress starts when a critical mass of people learn and listen, when we recognize – down to our bone marrow – that these are our children, our veterans, our neighbors, and that we are all in this building-the-future business together. Thank you to the all of the people who have been leading trauma-informed work for many years, and to everyone who will be participating in Trauma Awareness Month events.”

“Trauma-informed care is real,” said Tony Allen, Executive Vice President and Provost at Delaware State University, which hosted Wednesday’s kickoff event. “When it is present, it goes to the very heart of practitioners knowing both their clients and themselves, and having a clear belief in the power of Ubuntu – I am because WE are. That is not a warm and fuzzy principle or an interesting catch phrase. It is a guiding principle for anyone of us – teachers, social workers, therapists, law enforcement officers, health care professionals — who work with fellow citizens who face unending challenges that place their mental, physical or spiritual health in peril. At Delaware State University, we are committed to building a cadre of healing professionals across any number of disciplines that understand Ubuntu and put it into practice in everything they do for their profession and their community.”

“Our educators know first-hand that factors outside of the classroom impact how their students learn inside of the classroom, we have been hearing this for years. The creation of this statewide partnership and Trauma Awareness Month are an important first step towards making Delaware trauma-informed,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “We are thankful to have the support of Governor Carney and Secretary Bunting in facing these challenges and helping our students find pathways to resilience.”

Trauma Informed Delaware at will support streamlined requests for trainings, host collaborative convening opportunities, promote partners and events from across the state, and offer those supports and other forms of assistance through promotion of and advocacy for:

  • Access to quality behavioral and integrated health care.
  • Strength-based services for youth and adults.
  • Education for providers and the community.

Wednesday’s kickoff event was coordinated by Governor Carney’s Family Services Cabinet Council, which was charged with promoting Trauma Awareness Month as part of the Governor’s Executive Order 24. The Council also created an online calendar to share information with state employees, community partners, and members of the public on educational and professional development opportunities related to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and building resilience.

“At the Children’s Department, we know that many of our clients come to us with a history of trauma,” said Josette Manning, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their Families. “We also know that our staff, tasked with helping the most vulnerable children, also suffer trauma. Today, we all came together as a community to learn how we can become more trauma informed to better serve our children and families and how to take care of each other as we do it. We are looking forward to a month of activities focused on building resilience both inside and outside of our Department.”

“During the past year, more than 1,000 Department of Health and Social Services employees with the greatest level of direct client contact have been trained in a trauma-informed approach,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, and a board-certified family physician. “We are building a workforce that understands what trauma is, how it affects people across their lifespans, and the most effective ways that we can assess and meet our clients’ needs. Having a trauma-informed workforce is a critical step in supporting and promoting recovery for our clients who have experienced trauma so they can build resilience and learn to thrive in their communities.”

“Toxic stress in childhood can have a profound and lasting impact on the lifelong health and well-being of a child, well into adulthood. Early intervention is key to reducing this risk,” said Lee Pachter, DO, Medical Director, General Pediatrics at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. “Nemours is pleased to be part of a state-wide initiative bringing together experts in the field to help give our kids the resources they need to mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).”

During the day-long symposium at Delaware State University, the First Lady also announced the Compassionate Champion Award winners and presented a proclamation from Governor Carney. The honorees are:

  • Stephanie Sklodowski from Christiana Care and Christiana School District’s Newark High School Wellness Center.

  • Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Psychology Department.

  • Renée Beaman, Director of the Division of State Service Centers in the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).

  • Division of State Services Centers in DHSS.

  • Georgetown Police Department.

  • Shue-Medill Middle School.

  • Smyrna School District.

  • Mount Pleasant Elementary School.

  • Wendy Turner from Brandywine School District.

  • Ryan Palmer from Caesar Rodney School District.

  • Collaborative Partnership to promote trauma-informed care approaches, including United Way of Delaware, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Education and the Wilmington Community Advisory Council.

The symposium featured an interactive panel moderated by DHSS Secretary Walker and breakout sessions on the neuroscience of stress, navigating trauma with boys of color, mindfulness and a screening of the film, “Broken Places.” Keynote speakers Heather Forbes, LCSW and author of “Help for Billy,” talked about understanding challenging and difficult behaviors, and Dr. Abdul-Malik Muhammad, Ed.D, a trauma-informed care leader in Delaware, addressed the collective power to heal.

The event was sponsored by the Delaware State Education Association, made possible through a grant from National Education Association, and co-sponsored by Trauma Matters Delaware, Nemours, Wilmington University and Delaware State University.


Delaware continues focus on trauma-informed practices

This story is featured in the Delaware Department of Education’s January Take Note eNewsletter. For more information on the great things happening in schools across Delaware, sign up to receive Take Note: Education in the First State at

School psychologist Ryan Palmer believes that shifting our mindsets to better serve students and communities who have experienced trauma is difficult.

“It is also invigorating and enlightening, and I cannot recommend it enough,” Palmer said.

Palmer, who works at Caesar Rodney School District’s Kent County Intensive Learning Center (ILC) and Simpson (W.B.) Elementary School, recently attended one of the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) training sessions on childhood trauma. He recognizes that mental health awareness is on the rise in Delaware – especially its effects on public education – and is encouraged by this new focus.

“Through understanding the underlying trauma that roots itself in our communities, we not only better understand how to intervene and support our students, but we can start learning how to recognize the systemic, cyclical impact of trauma on the families we work with and the communities we serve,” Palmer said.

Agencies and organizations throughout the country have been looking deeper at the effects of childhood trauma and toxic stress and how it continues to impact so many facets of our lives – from social relationships and problem-solving to mental health, education, community safety and more.

Over the past three years, more than 7,000 Delaware educators have participated in professional development opportunities around trauma, including book studies, workshops, strategic planning and the multi-district Compassionate Schools Teacher Test Lab. So far this year, more than 400 educators have engaged in free DDOE training to better understanding why adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are so threatening and how they rewire the brain.

“By recognizing ACEs and the effect of childhood trauma on behavior, we can help lessen the impact of trauma that exists for many of our students,” said Secretary of Education Susan Bunting. “Our focus is also on making sure that the systems in place in our classrooms and schools do not create additional trauma but instead help build resilience in children, families and communities.”

Researchers have concluded that ACEs can contribute to significant learning and health issues for children and adults. Examples of ACEs include experiencing or witnessing abuse, divorce, substance abuse, incarceration, violence, or the death of a loved one.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) links ACEs to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death. The CDC also states that as the number of ACEs increases, so do the risks for these damaging outcomes.

“All behavior is a form of communication,” said Dorrell Green, Director of Delaware’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. “By arming educators with a better understanding of how to support students as they exhibit negative behaviors, students have more opportunities to focus on succeeding in the classroom.”

The use of trauma-informed practices in Delaware classrooms is an idea repeatedly promoted by Delaware’s Compassionate Schools Learning Collaborative and subsequently the state’s Compassionate Connections Partnership (CCP), of which the department is a member. CCP is a multi-year project focused on addressing childhood trauma in Wilmington city schools.

Delaware’s Project LAUNCH and Delaware READ, formerly the Moving the Needle Project, are also providing training on trauma-informed practices to early learning professionals in high-risk and disadvantaged communities, starting in Wilmington. These collaborative projects have brought trainings to community centers, out-of-school networks, and other youth-serving agencies and leaders.

In October, Governor John Carney signed Executive Order No. 24 to make Delaware a trauma-informed state. This order provides direction for the Family Services Cabinet Council to help mitigate the impact of ACEs and build resilience in children, adults and communities. It also directs state agencies that provide services for children and adults to integrate trauma-informed best practices.

DDOE’s most-recent trauma-informed training helps attendees understand, recognize and respond to the effects of all types of trauma. It teaches trauma-informed practices, which provide educators a set of strategies that help trauma survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

Because educators often experience secondary stress when dealing with students impacted by trauma, Delaware’s trauma-informed practices training additionally includes a focus on self-care strategies. Educators also receive coaching and support on how to implement trauma-sensitive strategies throughout their schools.

“Since trauma and toxic stress tend to occur in relationships, they must be healed in relationships. Many of our strategies to build resilience focus on creating safe and supportive school environments where there are strong relationships, high levels of selfregulation, and opportunities to practice responsibility through rigorous problem-solving and restorative practices,” said Teri Lawler, former school psychologist and DDOE’s education associate for trauma-informed practices and social and emotional learning.

DDOE is the first state agency to invest in a position focused on building robust systems, policies, and practices to mitigate trauma. Lawler works in the department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement.

DDOE’s December and January trainings were highly rated by those in attendance. Based on the book “Fostering Resilient Learners” by Pete Hall and Kristin Souers, the training allowed attendees to deepen their understanding of key vocabulary and research around childhood trauma and the effect of toxic stress on brain development.

“We believe quite strongly that every teacher, every educator – indeed, everyone who works or is around kids in any capacity – has a strong foundation in trauma-invested practices,” Hall said. “This isn’t magic, though it’s magical. We advocate bringing the art of being HUMAN back to education.”

District and school personnel are invited to register for another opportunity to benefit from a free one-day training session on childhood trauma on Friday, Feb. 22 or Saturday, Feb. 23 at Wilmington University’s Doberstein Admissions Center. Register for PDMS course #27808, section #50254 (Feb. 22) or section #50255 (Feb. 23).

Media Contact:  Alison May,, 302-735-4006


Governor Carney Signs Executive Order Making Delaware a Trauma-Informed State

Order will mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences, build resilience

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor Carney on Wednesday signed Executive Order #24 making Delaware a trauma-informed state. This Order provides direction for the Family Services Cabinet Council to help mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and build resilience in children, adults and communities.

ACEs can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; household dysfunction, including substance abuse, untreated mental illness, or incarceration of a household member; domestic violence; and separation/divorce involving household members.

“We have children and families in Delaware who are affected by trauma in their lives, and we need to do everything we can to support them,” said Governor John Carney. “Addressing these issues as a community will help Delaware become a stronger and healthier state. The Family Services Cabinet Council will remain vigilant about this issue and work with many partners across the state to create trauma-responsive communities.”

The Executive Order was motivated by the work of the Family Services Cabinet Council – a cabinet-level group reestablished by Governor Carney in February 2017 that coordinates public and private services for Delaware families. This Executive Order will direct the Family Services Cabinet Council to develop tools for training state employees and community partners on the impact of exposure to ACEs, to promote ACE awareness, and to improve services and interventions for children and families exposed to trauma.

The Family Services Cabinet Council will work to identify gaps in available services, or service capacity, along the prevention and early intervention-treatment continuum for children and their caregivers statewide. The members also are charged with developing a comprehensive plan focused on early intervention for children and their caregivers exposed to adverse childhood experiences in order to help prevent abuse and neglect, and remedy the impact of it.

First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney is also committed to creating an environment that gives Delaware children a chance to succeed, and was present for the signing.

“You know, the word ‘trauma’ sounds like bad news, but what we’ve learned about brain science, about the impacts of childhood experiences, is actually very good news – because now, we can do something about it,” said First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney. “We can act on what we know – to prevent and mitigate the effects of trauma, and to build on the strengths of every child, every family, and every community. Trauma-informed care is a pre-requisite, to any effective strength-based strategy.”

The Executive Order also will direct state agencies that provide services for children and adults to integrate trauma-informed best practices, including trauma-specific language in requests for proposals and in service contracts with the state, when appropriate.

“The executive order signed today by Governor Carney demonstrates his commitment to making Delaware a trauma informed state,” said Josette Manning, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families. “I, along with my fellow agency heads who serve on the Family Services Cabinet Council, welcome this opportunity to improve the quality of services we provide to all Delawareans. We know that many of the children and families in Delaware have experienced trauma and toxic stress in their lives. We also know, based on years of research, that exposure to toxic stress can actually impact a child’s brain development and has been linked to higher rates of physical, social and emotional issues in adulthood. By focusing, as a state, on minimizing trauma and by helping people who have experienced trauma build resilience, we will improve the physical, social and emotional health of our children and families.”