History and Current Work


Co-founded by Joyce Dorado, Ph.D., and Miriam Martinez, Ph.D., the HEARTS Program began in December, 2008. We have worked closely and collaboratively with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) personnel throughout the development, implementation, and evaluation of the program to tailor the program to the needs of SFUSD schools and the children served. Prior to the inception of HEARTS, through our experiences working in schools, we learned that providing onsite, trauma-specific treatment was not enough to truly address the needs of trauma-impacted students. While providing evidence-based interventions for the students at the school was effective in building their coping skills in the therapy room, too often students were returning to their classrooms only to be inadvertently triggered into survival mode by stressors in the school environment such as a sudden change in classroom routine, a challenging interaction with another student, or a disciplinary practice that the student perceived as a threat. We also bore witness to the extremely high level of chronic stress experienced by school staff.

The anecdotal evidence began to mount for a different kind of approach.  Our mission began to shift just as our home clinic was invited by the SFUSD Superintendent to help the district address trauma in their schools. The Superintendent ultimately decided that addressing trauma in schools needed to be a priority in SFUSD’s strategic plan that among other goals explicitly worked to address the achievement gap between students of color and other students. In our search for whole-school, systemic interventions to address trauma, we came upon the flexible framework put forth by Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) (Cole, et a., 2005).  The TLPI draws from complex trauma theory and research as well as resilience research, and provides a framework for creating more trauma-sensitive school environments that foster not only individual change and healing, but school-wide change and healing. Inspired by this framework, we began to build upon our experiences in schools, and reworked our approach to addressing trauma in schools through a multi-level, whole-school approach. Through the generous support of various foundations including The Metta Fund, UCSF HEARTS was created.

We have implemented our full, multi-tiered, site-based program in four SFUSD schools in the southeast sector of San Francisco, serving some of the most under-resourced, trauma-impacted communities in the city. The full site-based program is a multi-tiered system of supports that includes universal supports for all students and staff (tier 1), supplemental targeted supports (tier 2), and intensive supports (tier 3).

Through Project Prevent funding from the US Department of Education awarded to SFUSD, HEARTS partnered with SFUSD to provide trauma-informed training and consultation in seven schools in Bayview Hunters Point and Visitation Valley for five years. Through Mission Neighborhood funding from the US Department of Education to the Mission Economic Development Agency, HEARTS provided training and education to four schools in the Mission District. Through US Department of Education Project Prevent Funding awarded to Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), UCSF HEARTS also worked in collaboration with OUSD on implementing Trauma-Informed Restorative Practices in their six comprehensive high schools for five years. We have also worked with other school districts in the region, including districts in San Mateo County, Marin County, and Sacramento County. In addition, we partnered with the CLEAR (Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resiliency) Trauma Center at Washington State University, to integrate the best practices of CLEAR and HEARTS to pilot and evaluate a sustainable, scalable model for creating trauma-informed schools. 

Additionally, HEARTS Flex has served schools in Elk Grove, Humboldt and Sacramento.

Current Work:

In partnership with ETR Associates, we have launched a virtual HEARTS Professional Learning Institute that is aimed to support schools across the country, building their capacity to implement the HEARTS framework at their school sites. While a current Institute cohort has been filled, see our Call for Applications for a description of this work.

HEARTS is a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). In 2020, HEARTS was awarded a five-year grant from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to become an NCTSN Community Treatment and Services Center. This project, entitled HEARTS-Extended (HEARTS-E) builds the capacity of key SFUSD Student, Family, and Community Support Services Department (SFUSD) personnel to implement HEARTS in three elementary and two middle schools, as well as builds SFCSD's capacity to deliver district-wide training and consultation. These activities will deepen SFCSD's expertise and ability to independently lead and sustain district-level and school site efforts to promote adoption of trauma-informed, equity promoting practices.

We are also currently providing the HEARTS full site-based program in an SFUSD TK through 8th grade school serving children from underesourced, severely trauma-impacted communities of color, many of whom are new immigrants and/or are experiencing homelessness.