Practice Groups

Practice Group Overview

A Practice Group (PG) is a smaller unit within the DC CoP. A Work Group (WG) is a time limited learning space that is created in response to emerging issues. The PG/WG members describe the elements of a safe and supportive school environment, and promote implementation of specific interdisciplinary practices that improve mental health and wellbeing in several key areas:

  • Crisis Response and Intervention/Suicide Prevention
  • Family and Youth Engagement
  • Positive School Climate and Social and Emotional Learning Implementation
  • Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools
  • Teacher Wellness
  • Youth-Adults Partnership

To join Practice and Work Groups please contact:

The DC CoP keeps members focused on the ‘big picture’ of advancing school behavioral health by sharing strategies that members can use with their school teams to engage partners and collaborate to meet shared goals. The PG/WGs deepen understanding of what timely access to high-quality, reliable support looks like in specific areas of school behavioral health. They may also recommend ways to mobilize resources, ensure equitable access, align services and promote culturally responsive interventions within schools and across DC. The PG/WGs may change based on the needs of the DC CoP members and school-based teams. The current PG/WGs are described on the following two pages.

DC CoP Practice and Work Groups

The six DC CoP practice and work groups are described below, including the names of PG/WG leaders, the definition and purpose, and some potential activities members will pursue as they describe elements of a safe and supportive school environment, and promote implementation of specific interdisciplinary practices that improve and expand mental health and wellbeing.

Crisis Response and Intervention/Suicide Prevention 

Leaders: Claudia Price, LICSW, Kimberly Harrington, LICSW and Alexandra Vann, MA

Definition: Crisis response and intervention is a proactive approach to preparing the entire school community to cope with the possible impact of a destabilizing occurrence - and promote the school system’s goal of a safe and orderly learning environment - by reducing the impact of trauma, grief, and loss that interferes with normal school functioning and the learning process.

Purpose: Establish response protocols and procedures as part of an overall plan to address school crises and tailor resources and interventions to each school community (e.g., prevent, reduce, address crises).

Activities: Proposed activities may include collecting existing school crisis plans, developing plans around crisis scenarios, understanding short term and direct effects of crisis situations, creating and sharing restoration strategies to return the learning and teaching environment to normal.

Family and Youth Engagement

Leaders: Ronald J. La Fleur, MSW, LICSW, Elizabeth Reddick and Simone Sawyer, MSPH

Definition: Family and youth engagement is the organizational, communication, and operational practices implemented in schools that facilitate partnerships with families and youth for the establishment and achievement of common goals.

Purpose: Increase family engagement in school behavioral health through sharing best practices in family engagement, breaking barriers to family engagement through authentic partnerships, and learning about family engagement frameworks and strategies.

Activities: Proposed activities may include modeling best practices in family engagement by developing partnerships with caregivers; creating a repository of best practices; hosting a webinar on family engagement; creating a family advisory group; and developing an infographic on family engagement in schools.

Positive School Climate and Social-Emotional Learning Implementation 

Leaders: Lisa Shaw, MS, Megan Berkowitz, LICSW and Danielle Nelson, MSW, LICSW, LCSW-C, CCTP

Definition: Positive school climate and social and emotional learning implementation focus on the strategies and interventions that foster a positive, caring, and supportive school environment in which programs and practices help students develop skills in understanding and managing their emotions, set and fulfill goals, learn to empathize, and develop positive relationships.

Purpose: Identify and overcome common barriers to implementing frameworks, strategies, and best practices that foster support for student learning, development, and well-being.

Activities: Develop and share best practices and resources on positive school climate and social-emotional learning (Tier 1) implementation strategies

Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools 

Leaders: Monique Leopold MEd., Ed.S. and Danielle Palmer Ph.D.

Definition: Trauma-informed practices in schools are part of a school-wide approach in which all members of the school community recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress on everyone in the school by integrating and sustaining trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into the school’s culture, practices, and policies.

Purpose: Learn about the evidence-based practices and interventions around trauma in schools, exploring and addressing challenges around these practices; Deepen our understanding of trauma and its impact on student learning and school climate.

Activities: Engage in new learning on how to support school leaders, teachers, clinicians, and staff to acknowledge and recognize the impact of stress and trauma on student learning and well-being, provide consultation around implementing trauma-informed practices in schools, and develop a toolbox of resources.

Teacher Wellness

Leader: Alex Vann, MA and Johanna Ulseth, MA

Definition: The TW Working Group adopted the OSSE’s Whole School Approach to Educators Wellness, which defines educator wellness as the impact of a school’s organizational and individual systems. Educator wellness is influenced by the comprehensive approaches used by a school’s organizational and individual system to promote educator social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Stressors that can impact educator wellness include school environment and structure, job demands, work resources, and social, emotional, and learning competencies.

Purpose: To share best practices and resources around educator wellness. Members discuss their challenges and successes in an open and supportive environment, while connecting with others to build authentic relationships.

Activities: Develop a database of best practices and resources around teacher wellness that is accessible to all members of the DC CoP, and that can be used to introduce and advance wellness programs in schools. A variety of topics are discussed, such as how to use strategies to promote wellness during distance learning, mitigating teacher demoralization and burnout, designing virtual wellness rooms, utilizing personal coping skills, building a teacher wellness team, and securing administrative support.

Youth-Adult Partnership 

Leader: Simone Sawyer, MSPH

Definition: The youth-adults partnership (YAP) work group is a multisector, multigenerational group that works collaboratively to meaningfully engage youth leadership, voice, and expertise in all of the work that they do. This work group is innovative in that it incorporates student voice, leadership and input into a typically top-down approach to designing school-based/district-level initiatives of youth mental health services.

Purpose: The YAP work group is a consistent space within the DC CoP for youth and adults to come together to listen, learn, grow, work, and share information across schools, organizations, and agencies. Members of the work group not only learn content but also learn best practices and processes for partnering with youth, with the hope that they will continue these practices in all of the spaces they are in.

Activities: The YAP work group is currently working on Virtual Wellness Centers with the Young Women’s Project, as well as youth-friendly Suicide Prevention materials with the Crisis Response and Intervention/Suicide Prevention practice group. Upcoming activities are community-based systems dynamics modeling, the DC Health Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Youth Mental Health Summit, the annual School Strengthening Survey and more. Youth and adults work together to decide which activities they would like to work on each month.