The Evidence Portal

Roots of Resilience

About the program

Roots of Resilience impacts on three protective factors, namely:

  • Emotionally supportive teacher-child interactions
  • Children’s engagement
  • Children’s school readiness skills

It focuses on four key actions:

  • Seeks to strengthen resilience through responsive interactions during everyday moments, encouraging teachers to notice and utilise small moments with children, as well as with parents or other caregivers, to strengthen resilience
  • Supports early childhood teachers as “gardeners” who tend to children’s roots of resilience. It focuses on teachers’ strengths, and on their own self-regulation, self-care and wellbeing, and in turn their responsivity to young children
  • Builds directly upon teachers’ prior knowledge by overlaying a trauma-informed perspective on best practices in ECE established by the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning and the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning
  • Provides online, relationship-based personal development to support providers who often work in isolation and/or cannot attend traditional professional learning opportunities

Who does it work for?

Roots of Resilience coaching was designed specifically for early childhood teachers working with preschool aged children. Teachers do not need to know children’s trauma histories to nurture resilience. Rather, the program guides teachers to consider trauma as a potential source of children’s behaviours, to be responsive to all children in their care while also honing in on challenges that might be due to trauma, and to develop their own self-regulation and care to nurture resilience with children. It focuses on self-regulation during serve and return interactions, and explicitly discusses trauma and resilience within six sessions. The roots of resilience coaching sessions emphasise self-regulation by isolating interactions in which:

  • Children’s “serves” show self-regulation (less-regulation or more-regulation)
  • Teachers exhibit self-regulation when responding to children’s challenging behaviours or emotions (“returning children’s serves”)
  • Teachers “return children’s serves” in specific ways that support children’s growing self-regulation

A small RCT with 17 classrooms/groups, 23 teachers, and 61 children was conducted in the USA (Lipscomb et al. 2021). On average, the children were 4.16 years of age, ranging from 2.96 to 5.18 years. Teachers reported their highest level of education as: high school graduate (8.7%), some college (17.4%), Associates Degree (21.7%), Bachelor’s Degree (30.4%), and graduate degree (17.4%); 4.3% missing. One teacher (4.3%) identified as male; 95.7% identified as female; none identified as non-binary or transgender. Teachers reported their race/ethnicity as 8.7% Latino or Hispanic and 95.7% White (91.3% White only). All children’s parents identified their primary language as English. Their race/ethnicity (identifying all that applied) was as follows: 1.2% Native American, 4.9% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4.9% African American, 3.3% Latino, 91.8% White; 85% were White only. Parents reported that the majority (63.4%) of children in the study had experienced at least one adverse childhood experience; that is:

  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Parental incarceration
  • Mental illness of a household member
  • Domestic violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, substance abuse by someone within the home
  • Feelings of being unsupported/unloved
  • Being in foster care
  • Experiencing harassment or bullying at school
  • Living with a parent or guardian who died
  • Being separated from a primary caregiver through deportation or immigration
  • Having a serious medical procedure or life-threatening illness
  • Seeing or hearing violence in the neighbourhood or school neighbourhood
  • Often treated badly because of race, sexual orientation, place of birth, disability, or religion

The review did not identify any evidence that the program has been evaluated in Australia or with First Nations communities.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

Emotionally supportive teacher-child interactions: Participation in Roots of Resilience program had a positive impact on the emotional support domain of the Pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS PreK) relative to the waitlist control group. Children in emotionally supportive classrooms, as measured by the CLASS are more likely to show protective factors that can help mitigate effects of trauma. Children in classrooms with more consistently warm, responsive interactions are more likely to demonstrate a predictable decline of cortisol while at preschool (Hatfield & Williford 2017) and higher literacy and social skills. The Roots of Resilience professional development program aims to nurture these protective interactions. The program guides teachers to practice noticing children’s cues and interpreting them with a trauma lens to enhance responsiveness to children’s needs. The course and coaching offered through the program supports teachers to improve their responses in “serve and return” interactions.

Child engagement, Pre-numeracy skills: Participation in Roots of Resilience was associated with moderate increases in emotionally supportive teacher child interactions, modest reductions in children’s negative engagement and increases in math scores.

No effect:

Pre-literacy skills, Self-regulation: No effects on early literacy or self-regulation were detected.

Negative outcomes:


Is the program effective?

Overall, the program had a mixed effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Mixed research evidence (with no adverse effects):

  • At least one high-quality RCT/QED study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • An equal number or more RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects

How is it implemented?

The program consists of an online course and complementary online video-based coaching which can be completed independently. The online course includes six modules with a total of 27 learning outcomes. These range from identifying sources of trauma and resilience, to planning and practicing self-care,  partnering with families and specialists, and using a trauma-informed perspective to observe behaviour and promote children’s self-regulation. The course is facilitated by a masters-level instructor, and uses an interactive, self-paced format. There is a workbook for practice and reflection between modules, and discussion boards to create community and encourage peer-shared reflection about trauma-responsive practice.

How much does it cost?

Information not provided

What else should I consider?

This is the first study to examine the impacts of the Roots of Resilience professional development program for early childhood teachers. Further research is required, due to the following limitations:

  • Teachers reported increased knowledge and application of trauma-responsive practices after participating in the program. However, the impact on teachers and children  needs to be systematically assessed.
  • The study had a small sample with limited racial and linguistic diversity. The small sample size limits the statistical power of the study, which makes detection of statistically significant effects more difficult for some of the outcomes (e.g., self-regulation and emotional support)
  • The study did not have a long term follow up. A much longer timeframe is needed to assess whether gains in emotionally supportive interactions and children’s outcomes are maintained in kindergarten. The study utilises the CLASS Pre-K. The Emotional Support domain of the CLASS Pre-K is used as a measure of the  more supportive interactions. However, it is not designed to measure trauma-responsive practice or to align with the specific needs of an individual child. Additionally, CLASS Pre-K is designed to focus more on the child than the teacher

Where does the evidence come from?

One RCT conducted in the USA with a sample of 23 teachers and 61 children (Lipscomb et al. 2021).

Further resources

Lipscomb, S.T., Hatfield, B., Goka-Dubose, E., Lewis, H., and Fisher, P.A. 2021. Impacts of Roots of Resilience professional development for early childhood teachers on Young children’s protective factors. Early childhood research quarterly, 56, 1-14.

Last updated:

17 Feb 2023

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