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Carver HEARTS

Carver HEARTS

Carver HEARTS Program: Fall 2008 Official Opening

We are pleased to announce the official opening of the Carver Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (“HEARTS”) Project. This project was announced in November 2007, and through the hard work of our Steering Committee Members, pro bono attorneys, architects, contractors, and partners at UCSF, the Carver HEARTS Project placed a therapist, Aliya Sheriff, Psy.D., at Carver Elementary at the start of the 2008-2009 school year! We couldn’t have done this without the generous support of all the donors and members of the community who have contributed their time, effort, and money to bring this project to fruition.

Summary Description

Carver HEARTS is a partnership between interested community members, George Washington Carver Elementary School, and UCSF’s Department of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to provide a therapist skilled in treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on-site at Carver Elementary School. Carver HEARTS will help students and their families address and process the effects of violence exposure on children in the area, allowing for healthier outcomes for the students and the community.

The problem of violence exposure is not a small issue in a school like Carver. In San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley Middle School, where (like Carver) students come from comparable neighborhoods in the Bayview, Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley, nearly 33% of sixth-graders reported in Fall 2006 that they had seen or known someone killed with a gun. See J. Tucker, “Children who survive urban warfare suffer from PTSD, too,” San Francisco Chronicle (Aug. 26, 2007). The effect of such experiences can be devastating, particularly if untreated.

In fact, child experts nationally report that as many as one-third of children living in our country’s violent urban neighborhoods have PTSD – or nearly twice the rate reported for troops returning from war zones in Iraq. Id. Nevertheless, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, PTSD in children is generally “undiagnosed, untreated and almost completely off the radar for policymakers and education officials.” Id. The consequences of ignoring this problem are obvious and devastating. Without this project, however, it is safe to say that virtually none of the children who need this assistance at Carver will receive it. And this is a shame because Carver children are so worth caring about.

Carver is a kindergarten-to-5th grade public elementary school just a few blocks off the T-third line in the Bayview/Hunter’s Point neighborhood, and about 2.5 miles from AT&T Park. Principal Emily Wade-Thompson has been at the school for almost 34 years. She puts her whole heart and soul into the place, and the environment is respectful, warm, and positive. About half of the roughly 265 students come from public housing projects;1 85% of them are African American; a substantial number are in foster care. The average annual household income is very low. Carver parents generally do not have the resources to fund a project like this.

But this is where we come in. It only takes approximately $60,000 annually to fund the salary and benefits for our Carver HEARTS therapist. Through our fiscal sponsor, UCSF Foundation, all donations to Carver HEARTS are 100% tax deductible. Once funded, the therapist will be hired and supervised by Dr. Miriam Martinez, head of UCSF’s Department of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And everyone involved is committed to making this a multi-year commitment to ensure the project’s long-term success.

The expected deliverables are quite straightforward. For many children, it will simply allow them for the first time to attend school in the peaceful state of mind necessary for them to experience the opportunities that a public education can provide. Over the long-term, the consequences may be more profound. These include fewer behavioral problems, higher high school graduation rates, lower teen pregnancy, fewer repeated grades, fewer referrals to special education, and fewer disciplinary problems. See L. Karoly, et al., Investing in our Children: What We Know and Don’t Know About the Costs and Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions, RAND (1998). The cost-benefit analysis leads to obvious conclusions. Only there has been no one to fund this benefit. Until now.

If you have not already made a tax deductible donation to Carver HEARTS, there are two ways to donate:

1. Checks made payable to “UCSF Foundation” (re “Carver HEARTS”) and sent to:

Kelly M. Dermody
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 30th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111

Or

UCSF Foundation
Re: Carver HEARTS
220 Montgomery Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

2. Online donations by credit card at: https://makeagift.ucsf.edu/

Please note: The website has two drop down bars to make sure the gift goes to the correct place:

  • On the “Designate your gift to one of the following areas” drop down menu, please select Neurology and Psychiatric Programs.
  • On the “Select a fund within that area” drop down menu, select Carver HEARTS Program.

If you have questions, please contact Kelly Dermody at (415) 956-1000 ext. 3333.

Carver Hearts Background

I. What is the Carver HEARTS Project?

Carver Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (“Carver HEARTS”) Project is a partnership between interested community members, George Washington Carver Elementary School, and UCSF Medical School to provide a therapist skilled in treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on-site at Carver Elementary. The project was announced in October 2007, and work commenced in early 2008. Carver HEARTS helps students and their families address and process the effects of violence exposure on children in the area, allowing for healthier outcomes for the students and the community. All funding for Carver HEARTS is being provided by the private community.

The Carver therapist is hired and supervised by Dr. Miriam Martinez (one of the area’s leading experts on childhood trauma issues) and her staff at USCF’s Department of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The therapist works in cooperation with Carver Principal Emily Wade-Thompson, a chief proponent of the project. Ms. Wade-Thompson has been affiliated with Carver Elementary for approximately 34 years.

II. What is the population to be served?

This project primarily serves students and their families at George Washington Carver Elementary in the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. Carver is a kindergarten through fifth grade school. Approximately one-half of the 265 students live in public housing1; roughly 85 percent are African American. The school has one of the highest rates of children in foster care in the District, and Carver parents do not independently have the financial resources to fund this type of project. Likewise, the school lacks the expertise and resources to provide this type of specialized treatment, and there are few providers in the neighborhood addressing trauma treatment for children.

The problem of violence exposure is not a small issue in a school like Carver. In San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley Middle School, where (like Carver) students come from comparable neighborhoods in the Bayview, Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley, nearly 33% of sixth-graders reported in Fall 2006 that they had seen or known someone killed with a gun. See J. Tucker, “Children who survive urban warfare suffer from PTSD, too,” San Francisco Chronicle (Aug. 26, 2007). The effect of such experiences can be devastating, particularly if untreated. In fact, child experts nationally report that as many as one-third of children living in our country’s violent urban neighborhoods have PTSD – or nearly twice the rate reported for troops returning from war zones in Iraq. Id. Nevertheless, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, PTSD in children is generally “undiagnosed, untreated and almost completely off the radar for policymakers and education officials.” Id. Moreover, experts on childhood trauma recognize, “PTSD basically feeds on avoidance. The more you avoid it, the worse it gets.” Id. Thus, the consequences of ignoring this problem are obvious and devastating.

Carver HEARTS is an attempt to break the cycle of negative consequences from childhood violence exposure. Without this project, it is safe to say that virtually none of the children who need this assistance at Carver will receive it.

III. Project Funding

Carver HEARTS funds the salary and benefits of the therapist at Carver Elementary. A professional with the skill set necessary to succeed in this project requires an annual salary and benefits package of at least $60,000, plus $3,000 in materials and overhead. UCSF has agreed to serve as our fiscal sponsor and all donations are tax deductible. Since the project was announced to the public in late October 2007, the organizers of Carver HEARTS have raised all of the first year (2008-2009) salary, and about 65% of year two (2009-2010), and continue to pursue individual donations and private funding. The organizers are committed to private fundraising for this project for at least the next 2-3 years, if not longer, with the intention to encourage substantial public funding by years 4 or 5.

IV. Expected Service and Outcomes

The Carver HEARTS psychologist has clinical experience treating children who are survivors of severe trauma, as well as domestic violence, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The psychologist’s services include individual, family and group therapy. The psychologist has expertise and knowledge of San Francisco County services and resources for children, youth and families, experience providing case management services, and knowledge of coordinated care to the population served through UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Services (“CAS”). The psychologist works closely with related child service agencies, including Human Services Agency, SFUSD, and Primary Care Providers. The psychologist is available on site at Carver Elementary Monday through Friday, with hours that will accommodate individual, family and group work (e.g., during and after school hours).

The objective of this position is to decrease the traumatic impact of domestic and community violence on school aged children and their families. The end results would include:

  • increasing the child’s ability to function in social and academic settings,
  • achieving developmental milestones appropriate to age and culture,
  • decreasing stress caused by ongoing family violence and conflict, and
  • improving family functioning.

We estimate that the HEARTS Psychologist will deliver direct mental health services to approximately 70 students ( more than one-third of the Carver population) annually. This will include 25 hours a week of individual, group and or family therapy. The HEARTS clinician will provide 3 groups (serving 12-18 children) on site at Carver Elementary over the course of the school year. Each group will consist of 4-6 children who have been identified by the teachers and the psychologist as needing help with reducing anxious and disruptive behaviors in order to focus in the classroom setting. In addition, the psychologist will assess the need for and provide referrals to psychiatry or psychological testing, and advocate for greater levels of services if indicated. In addition, the HEARTS clinician will deliver on site school intervention in the event of a school crisis. The HEARTS psychologist will deliver at least four talks to the Carver staff and faculty annually and provide on going consultation to the school staff and faculty.

As part of the clinical evaluation of clients served, the following measures will be administered at the beginning of treatment, at four month intervals, and at the end of treatment: Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist or Youth Self Report (measures general behavioral problems and strengths); Briere Traumatic Symptoms Checklist for Children (measures post trauma symptoms); and the UCLA PTSD Index for DSM-IV (measures symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). In addition, questionnaires will be completed at the beginning of treatment which include information such as the following: demographic information, psychosocial/environmental stressors, trauma history, psychological and psychiatric symptoms, impact of problems on functioning (indicators of severity of problems), previous use of psychosocial services and interventions, and medical history.

Follow-up questionnaires will also be completed at four month intervals after initial assessment and at termination of treatment which will capture the following domains: psychological and psychiatric symptoms; impact of problems on functioning (indicators of severity of problems); use of other psychosocial services and interventions; and type and quantity of services provided. These measures and questionnaires will be used in treatment planning and in tracking client progress toward treatment goals. They will also enable us to better understand the demographic and psychosocial characteristics of clients served, as well as better understand the nature of the presenting problem (e.g., chief complaint) and/or the types of services that appear to be related to the psychosocial outcome of patients receiving psychotherapy.

We showed the following results in Year One:

  1. Increase in the number of traumatized children served;
  2. Increase in treatment retention over normal outpatient therapy in a clinic, with retention of at least 75% of children in therapy for at least two months;
  3. Increase in consistency of treatment, with at least 75% of clients coming to 75% of their scheduled sessions per month;
  4. Improvement in symptoms over the course of treatment, as measured by the standardized measures and questionnaires (although depending upon ongoing or new psychosocial/environmental stressors or traumas, symptoms can sometime worsen even when treatment is productive).

V. How to donate | more information

Tax deductible donations may be made as follows:

A. Checks made payable to “UCSF Foundation” (re “Carver HEARTS”) and sent to:

Kelly M. Dermody
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 30th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111

Or

UCSF Foundation
Re: Carver HEARTS
220 Montgomery Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

B. Online donations by credit card at: https://makeagift.ucsf.edu/

Please note: The website has two drop down bars to make sure the gift goes to the correct place:

  • On the “Designate your gift to one of the following areas” drop down menu, please select Neurology and Psychiatric Programs.
  • On the “Select a fund within that area” drop down menu, select Carver HEARTS Program.

For more information, please contact Kelly Dermody at (415) 956-1000, ext. 3333.


1. The public housing facilities where Carver students live are notoriously bad, and among the worst in the Bay Area. See, e.g., H. Knight, “Ceiling break at public housing unit draws Third World comparison,” San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 16, 2007) (describing sewage leak onto 6-year old Carver student).