image Visit coronavirus.govVisit disclaimer page for the latest Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) updates.
View ACF COVID-19 Responses and Resources

Resources Specific to Programs Serving Youth

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

  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed resources on building partnerships between organizations and the families and youth served. They believe such partnerships are essential in order to maximize youths’ opportunities for choice and control, a key element of overcoming trauma.
  • The National Center for Families and Youth features a short slide show on five collaborations to ensure trauma-informed care for youth and families.
  • This 2013 journal article provides a case study of the development and implementation of trauma-informed service approach in youth residential treatment programs.
  • Trauma-Informed Care for Children Exposed to Violence: Tips for Domestic Violence and Homeless Shelters. Children are very resilient—but they are not unbreakable. No matter what their age, children are deeply hurt when they are physically, sexually, or emotionally abused or when they see or hear violence in their homes and communities. Each child and situation is different, but exposure to these traumatic stressors—including violence—can overwhelm children at any age and lead to problems in their daily lives. This resource is developed by Safe Start Center, a National Resource Center for Children’s Exposure to Violence which is funded by Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.

My agency has decided it wants to be more trauma-informed. Where do I start?

  • Programs that focus on teen pregnancy may wish to consult A Checklist for Integrating a Trauma-Informed Approach into Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs developed by HHS’s Office of Adolescent Health.
  • In the case of youth, a trauma-informed approach to victims’ services can benefit from resources developed to promote trauma-informed work with children. Trauma-informed Approaches: Federal Activities and Initiatives was developed with support from SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. This report outlines federal agencies’ commitment to implementing gender-responsive, trauma-informed approaches. The report also addresses the growing national interest in this issue, the work of the Federal Partners Committee, and the specific progress that participating agencies have made.
  • Because youth often receive services from a number of different agencies, effective collaboration between your staff and those at partner agencies can help provide the consistency essential for trauma-informed work. ACF’s slideshow on 5 Collaborations to Ensure Trauma-Informed Care for Youth and Families is a good resource to help build staff capacity for trauma-informed work in tandem with other agencies. When each organization of the partnership comes into contact with youth, that’s one more chance to assess the youth’s experience with trauma and to help them heal and build resilience
  • A good place for child welfare agencies interested in trauma issues is the topic page on Trauma-Informed Practice maintained by the Child Welfare Information Gateway. This page identifies a range of resources applicable to child welfare professionals.

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

  • OJJDP’s National Center for Youth in Custody Webinar produced this archived webinar, What Works: The Practitioner's Response to Theory and Evidence on Trauma-Informed Care. This Webinar provides a training and testimonial to the use and success of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) in Juvenile Detention Centers. Panelists explain what TIC is, how to go about implementing it in facilities, as well as what is currently being done in TIC facilities. They also share their observations and success rates.
  • The Science of Adolescent Risk-Taking by the National Academy of Sciences outlines 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.
  • Supporting Infants, Toddlers, And Families Impacted By Caregiver Mental Health Problems, Substance Abuse, And Trauma: A Community Action Guide is developed by SAMSHA. This resource 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 to come together. 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.

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

  • In adolescents, among the most common trauma symptoms are that they may: feel depressed or alone. develop eating disorders or self-harming behaviors, begin misusing alcohol or other drugs, and become involved in risky sexual behavior

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.

How do I develop the capacity of my staff to deliver trauma-informed services?

Becoming trauma-informed is a process for all members of the agency who interact with clients.

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

  • 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 youth-serving organizations and staff.

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

For Brain Development

  • Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development is an issue brief on the Child Welfare Information Gateway (funded through the Children’s Bureau). The issue brief highlights increasing research involving the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain, especially during infancy and early childhood. Much of this research is providing biological explanations for what practitioners have long been describing in psychological, emotional, and behavioral terms. There is now scientific evidence of altered brain functioning as a result of early abuse and neglect. An additional issue brief is entitled Supporting Brain Development in Traumatized Children and Youth, outlines concerns about the impact of maltreatment on a child’s growth and development.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a website section entitled, Early Brain and Child Development. This website provides resources related to brain development. The AAP highlights the promotion of optimal early brain and child development and childhood trauma.
  • The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard investigates the science of human learning and behavior to transform policy and practice in the field of early childhood. The Center has a number of resources that are helpful for understanding the impact of trauma and toxic stress on the developing brain.
  • The impact of early adversity on children’s development is a brief and overview video that describes how persistent stress in the early years changes brain architecture, and had long term health implications.

Youth Focused

  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides this 3 page guide to effective treatments for youth trauma as well as this review of trauma interventions specific to the juvenile justice system. A more academic take on interventions for youth in the juvenile justice system may be found in this 2016 article by Julian Ford and colleagues that appeared in the OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice entitled Psychosocial Interventions for Traumatized Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Research, Evidence Base, and Clinical/Legal Challenges.
  • The California Evidence Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare has rated a number of client and organization level interventions for addressing trauma in children and adolescents. See the results of their review.
  • In addition, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed a reading list on community and school violence that identifies the books and articles which provide the academic and research foundation for researchers’ understanding of the effects of violence on children and youth.

Additional or specialized resources

  • This archived webinar, Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach for Youth Across Service Sectors was hosted by the federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. The webinar features three content experts nationally known in their field, as well as two youth presenters who spoke about their own lived experience and the importance of trauma-informed care.
  • This infographic developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration includes information on the frequency with which children and youth experience trauma.
Back to Top