Early Childhood Initiative

Policy Briefs

Children Exposed to Violence – A Presentation to the Oakland Public Safety Act Oversight Committee, August 24, 2015

There are over 26,000 young children ages birth-5 in Oakland; the majority residing in high crime areas and being exposed to violence on a daily basis. The presentation outlines the irreversible damages to the brain development of young children exposed to this type of trauma and makes policy recommendations to the city to develop a citywide protocol for service delivery for children living in these communities.

Early Childhood Presentation 


  1. Violence & Early Childhood: Research Base
  2. Empathy, not Expulsion, for Preschoolers at Risk – The New York Times


Outcome/Evaluation Summary

Safe Passages Outcome/Evaluation Report 2005 – Early Childhood

Under the Early Childhood Initiative, public childcare teachers in Alameda County are trained to implement a violence prevention curriculum. Police officers are also trained on how to interact and help young children at scenes of violent crimes. As a result through June 2008:

  • Over 2,800 children were being taught the curriculum at 59 public childcare sites across Oakland;
  • A total of 51 parent education workshops (in multiple languages) at approximately 18 sites (OUSD Child Development Centers and Head Start) have been conducted with a total of 544 attendees;
  • Nearly 2,000 children and families had received mental health services;
  • Over 600 officers had been trained in the cities of Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward and in the Sheriff’s department.

ELOA: Early Learning Opportunities Act

In the Fall of 2004, Safe Passages and the Alameda County Child Care Planning Council were awarded an Early Learning Opportunities Act (ELOA) grant by the Child Care Bureau of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The objective was to build the capacity of public and private early care and education (ECE) settings to support social emotional development and promote early literacy. The University of California-San Francisco, School of Nursing, Department of Family Health Care Nursing, working closely with the evaluation staff at Safe Passages, conducted the program evaluation under the leadership of principal investigator Dr. Jane Bernzweig. This final report outlines research questions and key findings of the ELOA interventions.

Second Step Violence Prevention Curriculum
and Mental Health Services:

In a study undertaken by Safe Passages and the University of California San Francisco, researchers found that children in Alameda County who had received mental health services in their schools and had teachers who delivered a social skills curriculum (Second Step) were less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior and were more likely to get along with others and listen attentively.

Teachers rated children as showing reduced anger and aggression, and reduced anxious and withdrawn behavior.

Teachers also stated that children’s pro-social behavior had improved significantly compared to before the program.

The Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) reports the level of support for children’s language and literacy development. All of these areas showed statistically significant gains.




Police Training:

In 2007, over 600 police officers in Alameda County had received trainings on how to respond to young children at the scenes of violent crimes. The trainings focus on the role of officers as first responders, early childhood developmental concepts, the impact of exposure to violence on physical and behavioral development, including future involvement with violence and crime, and guidelines for how to interact with young children who have witnessed violence in order to minimize their trauma and improve community perceptions of officers. Trainings include:

  • A series of 15-minute trainings targeted at patrol officers during line-up
  • A series of one-hour Advanced Officers School trainings targeted at patrol, investigative, school and desk officers
  • A half day (four hour) series of Specialized Trainings tailored to patrol officers
  • A series of one-hour Academy trainings for new recruits testing and training to become officers
  • A series of one and a half hour Dispatcher trainings (October 2007-February 2008)

Officers also carry with them pocket cards that serve as reminders of key lessons for interacting with young children at scenes of crime. They also distribute resource cards to families of young children. The cards, which have been translated into various languages, list: 1) a phone number for parents to call for counseling and mental health support, and 2) a phone number to call for legal support. Over 4,000 referral cards are distributed annually to families with young children.

Here is what police officers are saying about the Early Childhood Policy Training:

“The video of the baby was a revelation. Definitely made me pay more attention.”

“Thank you! I learned a lot about DV and dealing with young children. I also learned that some advice I had been giving away was not the best…Now, I know what to say. Thank you!”