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Module 2: Trauma-Informed Child-Serving Systems

Please click on the Issue Brief to learn more about trauma-informed care in child-serving systems. Then watch the Video Interviews to hear from individuals who provide background and share lessons learned. For a comprehensive list of links to additional resources and materials, click on Resources on the bottom of the page.

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Introductory Video to Module 2.

Trauma-Informed Care in Child-Serving Systems. Many children entering child-serving systems have experienced traumatic events or have “trauma histories”. These systems must be trauma informed at all levels to effectively help children and families. This includes identifying trauma and understanding its effects, providing trauma-specific treatments, and looking at all practices and policies through a trauma lens. It also requires collaboration among systems to prevent re-traumatization and magnify positive effects. In this video, members of trauma-informed child-serving systems present their experiences with creating trauma-informed child-serving systems.

Child Welfare and Behavioral/Mental Health. Trauma has major implications in child welfare and mental health systems. Children may bounce between these systems, and collaboration between the two is integral to ensure children do not fall through the cracks. Understanding children’s trauma history helps providers make sense of difficult behaviors and avoid incorrect diagnoses. For these systems, being trauma-informed enhances placement stability and mental health outcomes. In this video, system representatives share their perspectives on how to create trauma-informed child welfare and mental health systems. Topics include collaboration and statewide implementation efforts, actions taken, and considerations for becoming trauma informed.

Foster Care Families. Many of the children coming into foster care have experienced trauma. In addition, being taken out of their home and having to adjust to living with foster care parents can lead to further traumatic experiences. To mitigate the impact of trauma and avoid retraumatization, foster parents need to be educated about the impact of trauma and provided with the tools to create a safe and supportive environment for the children they are caring for.

Education. Experiencing trauma often causes a child to shift into survival mode, which can affect the child’s ability to pay attention in school and learn. School personnel, educators, and administrators need to be trauma informed so that they can provide a safe and supportive learning environment. This video contains educator and provider expertise on how to create trauma-informed schools by training staff, partnering with mental health services, and creating a safe environment. 

Juvenile Justice. The majority of young people who have contact with the juvenile justice system have experienced trauma, and entering this system can be traumatic in itself. Juvenile justice professionals, judges, and attorneys need to be aware of how their actions can re-traumatize youth. Alternatives to practices such as intimidation, seclusion, and restraint are needed to help youth feel safe and supported and reduce recidivism. In this video, representatives from the juvenile justice system discuss how they have implemented trauma-informed practices and the effects these practices are having.

Intellectual/Development Disabilities and Trauma. Children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those with co-occurring emotional disorders, are more likely than their nondisabled peers to be victims of acute and chronic trauma. Systems and organizations touching the lives of this population need to provide training to ensure signs and symptoms of trauma are recognized rather than attributed to the person's disability and to implement practices to help the children heal and develop positive identities. In this video, experts, family members, and a young adult with autism provide insights into how systems and organizations can support this vulnerable population.

Safety Without Seclusion and Restraint. For several decades, policymakers, clinicians, teachers, school principals, and direct care providers in child-serving systems have been challenged to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint, especially in residential and school settings. This video highlights the importance of avoiding restrictive procedures whenever possible. The video also illustrates how some providers have changed their practices; implemented creative methods to keep staff and youth safe without re-traumatizing them; and, in the process, reduced staff turnover, staff and youth injuries, and costs.

Public Policies. In recent years, researchers have demonstrated the impact of trauma over the lifespan. Trauma-informed practices and trauma-specific evidence-based treatments are available to address trauma effectively. This growing body of knowledge must be used to develop comprehensive policies that change practices system-wide and ensure sustainability of those practices. This video explains the implications of public policy and the need for new policies that enhance collaboration, coordination, training, screening and assessment, and funding.

Resources IconResources