Resources Specific to Child Welfare Agencies

What do we mean by trauma-informed services and why is such an approach important?

  • The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth (NCFY) has published a new online course designed for professionals working with children and youth exposed to traumatic events. Trauma-Informed Care (free registration required) introduces users to the causes and signs of traumatic stress, factors that make young people more or less resilient to traumatic experiences, and steps for providing care tailored to individual needs. Family and youth workers will also learn how they may be impacted hearing about the traumatic experiences of others.
  • SAMSHA has developed a resource entitled Promoting Recovery and Resilience for Children and Youth Involved in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems. This material focuses on SAMHSA's initiatives that support recovery from traumatic events and build resilience for children and youth involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare system and reviews some of the challenges in supporting these populations.
  • The Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published two resources: Trauma-Informed Care for Children Exposed to Violence Tips for Child Welfare Staff and Tips for Agencies and Staff Working with Youth.
  • Guidelines for Applying a Trauma Lens to a Child Welfare Practice Model discusses ways to address trauma at fifteen different stages of a child welfare case – during investigations, safety planning, in-home services, out of home placement, etc. It was created by staff of the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego in partnership with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
  • The Administration for Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau has created a guide to shifting to trauma-informed care for runaway and homeless youth, focusing on posing youth the question “What has happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” This introduction includes materials from program staff and youth consumer points of view.
  • Supporting Infants, Toddlers, And Families Impacted By Caregiver Mental Health Problems, Substance Abuse, And Trauma: A Community Action Guide is developed by SAMSHA. This is a case study that points out resources that service providers, advocates, and practitioners might use to better understand and respond to the signals that clients are sending. The guide presents information, resources, and tips useful for engaging the wider community. The aim is to build a responsive community – a community that has as its goal to respond as sensitively to the needs of a family as a committed caregiver does to his or her child.
  • The Science of Adolescent Risk-Taking by the National Academy of Sciences outlines how the science of adolescence continues to progress in identifying the determinants of adolescent behavior; in mapping the complex interactions among those determinants; and in clarifying the way these determinants function through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.

We’ve begun working on these issues, but are trying to decide what to tackle next. How can I figure out my next steps?

  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NTSCN) has published The Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit to teach basic knowledge, skills, and values about working with children who are in the child welfare system and who have experienced traumatic events. The toolkit teaches strategies for using trauma-informed child welfare practice to enhance the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families who are involved in the child welfare system. It includes a Trainer’s Guide, Appendices, Slidekit, Participant Manual, Supplemental Handouts, recommended reading and resources, Comprehensive Guide, and an accompanying CD-Rom. Note the site requires registration and login to access the materials.
  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a federally funded information clearinghouse, has developed several materials related to trauma informed care. These include a piece on implementing trauma informed child welfare practices, a resource list on responding to trauma, and an issue brief on developing a trauma informed child welfare system.
  • Trauma-Informed Practice with Young People in Foster Care describes how important it is for people working in youth-serving systems to understand young people’s responses to trauma in order to promote healing and emotional security. Trauma-informed practice involves understanding the impact of trauma on young people’s current functioning and recognizing the ways systems are capable of adding to young people’s trauma. Trauma-informed practice provides supports and opportunities to promote healthy recovery and optimal brain development throughout adolescence and emerging adulthood. This resource was developed by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiatives.
  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway, funded by the Children’s Bureau, has listed numerous resources on Trauma-Informed Care for Caseworkers
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NTSCN) produced this guide for addressing secondary trauma experienced by staff who work with children and families who may have experienced multiple traumas over the course of years and generations. The guide specifically addresses secondary trauma experienced by child welfare staff, but is applicable to a range of human services practitioners, include early care and education providers and staff.
  • The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth (NCFY) has published a new online course designed for professionals working with children and youth exposed to traumatic events. Trauma-Informed Care (free registration required) introduces users to the causes and signs of traumatic stress, factors that make young people more or less resilient to traumatic experiences, and steps for providing care tailored to individual needs. Family and youth workers will also learn how they may be impacted hearing about the traumatic experiences of others.
  • Working with Trauma Impacted Families A Conceptual Framework for Clinical Practice is a Powerpoint presentation facilitated by the Family-Informed Trauma Treatment Center and The National Child Traumatic Stress Network to: increase awareness of the contextual conditions or accumulated traumatic circumstances that influence families, be familiar with adaptations that families make related to exposure to chronic stress and multiple traumas, determine the clinical implications of these complex traumas, and introduce adaptations for working with families.
  • Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach for Youth Across Service Sectors was a training delivered so that participants could integrate a trauma-informed approach throughout health, behavioral health and related systems in order to reduce the harmful effects of trauma and violence on individuals, families and communities, and to utilize innovative strategies to reduce the involvement of individuals with trauma and behavioral health issues in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The training was facilitated by SAMSHA, Center for Child Trauma Assessment and Service Planning, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
  • Using a Trauma-informed Approach to Create Safer Spaces for Young People was developed by Cardera and funded through the Office of Adolescent Health.
  • The National Center on Family Homelessness has produced a Trauma-Informed Organizational Toolkit. The toolkit includes an Agency Self-Assessment for Readiness for Trauma-Informed Approaches which may provide a good starting place to gauge an agency’s existing strengths for trauma-informed work, as well as identify additional training or plans agencies may need to get started.

How can I/my staff recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in the clients we work with?

  • Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child's Needs - A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents was written by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a handout for physicians to use with foster and adoptive parents. It describes some of the challenging behaviors children may present with because of the trauma they have faced and suggests how foster and adoptive parents might respond.
  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway has also developed a resource on parenting a child who has experienced trauma.
  • Is it ADHD or Trauma Symptoms? In this podcast prepared by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a physician explains how children exposed to traumatic events can exhibit symptoms that overlap with ADHD and suggests ways to talk about impulsive and disruptive behaviors with school staff and pediatricians to make sure that a child gets the services s/he needs.
  • Supporting Youth in Foster Care in Making Healthy Choices: A Guide on Trauma, Treatment & Psychotropic Medications This guide (available in both English and Spanish) is intended to help caseworkers, foster parents, or other caring adults learn about trauma experienced by youth in foster care and treatment options, including approaches other than psychotropic medication. The guide presents strategies for seeking help for youth, identifying appropriate treatment, and supporting youth in making decisions about their mental health. Additionally, this guide serves as a companion guide to the 2012 Making Healthy Choices: A Guide on Psychotropic Medications for Youth in Foster Care.
  • For programs with mental health clinicians on staff, this list of evidence-based screening instruments for trauma developed by SAMHSA and HRSA may be helpful in developing procedures to identify clinical trauma issues in clients.

My staff often burn out from dealing with clients’ trauma constantly.  How can I support them?

  • This factsheet from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network discusses secondary trauma in the child welfare workforce.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NTSCN) produced this guide for addressing secondary trauma experienced by staff who work with children and families who may have experienced multiple traumas over the course of years and generations. The guide specifically addresses secondary trauma experienced by child welfare staff, but is applicable to a range of human services practitioners, including early care and education providers and staff. This document provides links to a self-assessment tool that will help staff determine whether or not they are experiencing secondary traumatic stress. Professional development efforts that build resilience in staff are also highlighted.
  • This resource page from the Child Welfare information Gateway addresses secondary trauma in the child welfare workforce.
  • This 2012 issue of CW360, a practice journal published by the University of Minnesota, focuses on a range of issues associated with secondary trauma in the child welfare workforce. It contains both overview articles and profiles of good practice.
  • This annotated bibliography describes the academic literature on secondary trauma in the child welfare workforce published between 2000 and 2010.

Where can I learn more about evidence-based and promising interventions to address the effects of trauma?

Additional or specialized resources

  • The Children’s Bureau in 2012 issued an information memorandum to state child welfare directors on the importance of and ways to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and youth receiving child welfare services. Addressing trauma is an important focus of these efforts.

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