Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $250,000)
To help girls at-risk of violence and victimization in Florida’s Polk County, Pace Center for Girls proposes helping them heal from trauma, reduce unhealthy/unsafe behaviors and build pro-social and protective factors. Over three years, Pace will provide gender-responsive, strength-based counseling, case management and therapy programs for 120 girls at Bartow Middle School. An additional 30 girls in the county’s Juvenile Center will be served during the grant. Trauma-informed training for teachers will help improve support for female students, indirectly benefiting an additional 450 girls ages 11-17. Girls in Polk County are more likely than their peers statewide to encounter violence. The county’s rate of domestic violence ranks as one of Florida’s worst. This population faces higher-than-average rates of household criminality, self-harm and suicide ideation. In addition, girls in Polk County are disproportionately likely to be perpetrators of simple and aggravated assault. Of Bartow Middle School students, 95.9% are economically disadvantaged, and a majority are below proficient in English, Math and Science. More than one-third of female students are chronically absent. All these indicators are risk factors for youth violence. All targeted girls exhibit Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and multiple risk factors, which can greatly impact future violence victimization and perpetration. To increase girls’ protective factors and contribute to sustained reductions in youth violence, Pace will implement its Reach Therapy Program for 120 girls, which incorporates trauma-informed strategies to address ACEs, violence and victimization to help girls build healthy relationships. Pace will serve 30 girls in the Polk County Sheriff’s Juvenile Center through the research-based Girls Circle, which is proven effective in reducing delinquency. As children with ACEs are likelier to exhibit negative behaviors at school, Pace will also provide training on trauma-informed care for Bartow Middle School teachers to increase students’ feelings of safety and positive connections with others. Expected outcomes include decreased law enforcement involvement; improved peer/family relationships; improved behavioral health; and increased social skills. Pace will evaluate improvement against baseline data, such as behavioral issues related to delinquency, juvenile justice system involvement, school attendance and recidivism.