Trauma-Informed Care

1019703_72510631The Impacts of Childhood Trauma
“Child traumatic stress occurs when children and adolescents are exposed to traumatic events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope” (NCTSN). Traumatic events
 may include (Harris, Lieberman, & Marans, 2007):
• abuse and neglect
• witnessing household and community violence
• experiencing man made or natural disasters
• sudden bodily injury; and
• witnessing the traumatic death of parent. Developmental age and temperament contribute to the unique response of each child exposed to traumatic stress. A child or adolescent may experiencedifficulty forming healthy relationships; physical ailments; emotional dysregulation; behavioral problems; attention disorders; mistrust; and withdrawal (NCTSN). Many will develop a perception of the world as unsafe.

The impacts of trauma do not end with childhood or adolescence. The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES), begun in the mid-nineties, significantly added to our understanding of the effects of childhood trauma into adulthood. These effects include “social, emotional and cognitive impairment; adoption of health-risk behaviors; disease, disability, and social problems; and early death” (http://www.cdc.gov/ace/pyramid.htm).

Growing Awareness of the Need for Evidence-Based Trauma Treatment Many factors have contributed to the growth in awareness of the need for trauma-informed service delivery for children and adolescents including:

Findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) illustrated the long-term negative physical and psychological impacts of childhood trauma into adulthood and emphasized the urgency of treating trauma early on to improve quality of life.

It was discovered that a majority of persons coming into the public mental health system have experienced significant childhood traumas therefore increasing interest in trauma screening and treatment at community-based agencies.

The President’s New Freedom Commission Mental Health Report issues in 2003 emphasized the prevalence of childhood traumatic stress and  the importance of implementing evidence-based and emerging best practices

Since 9/11 professional and public awareness has grown about the psychological impacts of traumatic events on children and adults. Professionals also have recognized the need to develop trauma preparedness plans in the interest of aiding the public in the even of large scale manmade or natural disasters.

Barriers to Treatment As a Center devoted to social work trauma education, the preparation of social workers to serve low-income children and youth of color is a priority. Due to multiple barriers low-income children and youth of color too often don’t receive the medical or mental health services they need (Campbell & Schwarz, 1996; McKay et al, 2005). These children are unlikely to have their trauma disorders recognized and are more likely to remain undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and untreated (Ford et al., 1999, 2000).

“The majority of severely and chronically traumatized children and youth are not found in mental health clinics but in the child protective, law enforcement, substance abuse treatment, and criminal justice systems, where the root of their problems in exposure to violence and abuse is typically not identified or addressed. Before reaching these systems, traumatized children are often identified and/or mislabeled as ‘behavior and discipline problems’ in childcare and school settings, where their maltreatment is also routinely unrecognized” (Harris, Lieberman, & Marans, 2007, p. 392).

Evidence-Based Trauma Treatment Practices Numerous evidence-based approaches to treating traumatized children and adolescents have been developed in recent years. The effectiveness of these approaches has been proven through research studies. To learn about specific evidence-based trauma treatments for children and adolescents go to http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/treatments-that-work/promising-practices

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