The Circle Preschool Program

Preparing children for long-term educational and social success

The ChallengeDSCN02122

Preschool-age children who demonstrate significant social and emotional difficulties in the classroom setting often have these symptoms as results of traumatic experiences. More often than not, this trauma is related to abuse, neglect, or exposure to domestic violence. Preschool expulsion rates have been on the rise—nationally and locally—because of an increase in the numbers of children who are having difficulty expressing their emotions and engaging with their peers.

Research has shown that children who have social and emotional difficulties early in life are more likely to experience expulsion from school, drop out of school, be arrested, develop substance abuse problems and die at a younger age. The Circle Preschool Program helps young children who have experienced trauma more fully benefit from their education by preventing short-term reactions to trauma from becoming long-term challenges in the classroom and in life. We know from our other programs that by engaging the caregivers, we can truly set children up for future success.By incorporating caregivers, SCAN also significantly improves family functioning.

Research shows that 10 to 20 percent of all children exhibit challenging behaviors in preschool settings; however, this number doubles for children living in poverty or who are considered at-risk.

The Program

The primary goal of the program is to provide high quality early childhood education and intensive trauma focused treatment to children. In addition, SCAN works with caregivers to empower them to help reduce the long-term effects of traumatic abuse and neglect for children. We work to integrate children into mainstream classroom settings so that they are able to be successful in school.

A secondary goal of the program is to inform early childhood education professionals and mental health service professionals who specifically work with preschool-age children. SCAN will publish research on best practices and outcomes at the Circle Preschool Program and document the community need through continued referrals. SCAN will use this information to influence the practice of early childhood education and mental health services, and to determine implications for expansion.

After improving methods for intervention, treatment and education, SCAN will replicate its classroom model throughout the area based on need.

The Program Model

SCAN professionals engage children in high quality early childhood education and appropriate mental health support from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If needed, children can stay until 5 p.m. While the Circle Preschool Program helps children who are at-risk or have already been expelled from preschool, the program also serves children who may not have had the opportunity to attend preschool. SCAN offers these preschoolers their first experience, but in a specialized setting that best meets their needs.

SCAN involves the caregivers in all treatment. Caregivers participate in weekly support groups and individual therapy. SCAN anticipates children being involved in the Circle Preschool Program for at least a year, ensuring that SCAN can make the most significant impact. Children will return to preschool or enter kindergarten better able to adjust, learn, and grow.

The Circle Preschool Program is based on internationally recognized best practices in early childhood education. The preschool staff at the Circle Preschool Program bases much of their work on the Reggio Emilia Approach, which places importance on children acquiring the skills of critical thinking and collaboration. Educators develop curriculums based on each child’s specific interests, emphasizing both the environment in which a child learns, and the social environment created by caregivers, staff, and peers.

The Circle Preschool Program applies these best practices to improve social and emotional functioning for children so they are better prepared for success within their families, in school, and in other important relationships.

The History

The Circle Preschool Program opened in February 2011 in classroom space at St. James’s Children’s Center.  In collaboration with Leadership Metro Richmond and the SCAN Therapeutic Preschool Task Group, SCAN identified a need for family-focused, therapeutic early childhood education in the Richmond community, and developed a plan to help Richmond’s preschool-aged children in need. SCAN collaborated with St. James’s Children’s Center to pilot a therapeutic preschool classroom, which is the first of its kind in the Richmond area.

The Circle Preschool Program is an expansion of SCAN’s current mental health program. Many children in the preschool may have already been involved in other SCAN programs such as the Child Advocacy Center, Richmond CASA or the Family Support Program. However, the Circle Preschool Program is open to all children in the community who need our services.

 

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