Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop titled, “A Team Approach to Trauma-Informed Care.” We covered topics like: What is childhood trauma? Are there different types of trauma? What are the effects? We talked about how children who have experienced trauma often have underdeveloped brains. This is because they spend so much time developing the “fight or flight” part of their brain, instead of the other parts.
As someone who has been in the child welfare space for over two years now, this training served mostly as a refresher about childhood trauma. I have heard most of the above before. However, I walked out of the workshop with a takeaway I wanted to share:
Without trauma-informed communities, kids in foster care do not stand a chance.
I’ll dive into this deeper.
Abuse or Neglect Leaves A Traumatic “Fingerprint”
“The experience of abuse or neglect leaves a particular traumatic fingerprint on the development of children that cannot be ignored if the child welfare system is to meaningfully improve the life trajectories of maltreated children.”
We talked about this quote in the workshop: What does it mean? One attendee responded the quote meant a child is scarred forever from their trauma. Although I 100% agree with that statement, I don’t want people to lose sight of the important fingerprint metaphor. Here’s why:
Like fingerprints, trauma is unique to the child.
As we learned in the workshop, something that may be traumatic for one child may not be traumatic for another. Their trauma is unique to them, along with their ability to cope.
Like fingerprints, trauma’s found in certain places.
Just as a child leaves a part of themselves behind through their fingerprints, their trauma is left in certain places. For example, a child can be triggered from their trauma. Certain places – even a grocery store – could provoke a child to relive their trauma.
Like fingerprints, trauma is a part of us.
We know now that trauma is unique to the child and can re-emerge through unique triggers. Each child holds trauma differently. Trauma becomes a part of them – like their DNA, like their fingerprints.
Implementing Trauma-Informed Care
Did you know nearly 675,000 children experienced abuse or neglect nationally last year? The number of youths requiring hospital treatments for physical assault-related injuries would fill every seat in 10 football stadiums. That’s how many kids in ONE YEAR now have a traumatic fingerprint on their development. And these are just the ones we know about.
What can we do to help?
We can educate others on creating trauma-informed communities. In creating a trauma-informed community, everyone must:
- Understand the impact of trauma
- Integrate that understanding into caring for children in need
- Understand their role in caring for the child in need
Put simply, the child and their needs must be at the center of everything we do. Here are a few examples:
- As a foster and adoption agency, we must over-communicate the child’s legal case to their foster parents, ensure the child feels safe in their home, and advocate for their needs.
- As foster parents, you must provide a safe and nurturing home. Learn your child’s trauma triggers, be adaptable, and advocate for them. When they have a problem at school, make sure the school knows the appropriate responses given the child’s trauma. When your child asks for help or to see a counselor to discuss their trauma, make it a priority.
- As a counselor, check on the child’s mental health and stability. Connect them to resources when needed. Update their foster parents, so they are in the loop. The only way they can advocate for the child is if they know their needs – mental, emotional, and physical.
A Child’s Network
Each child has a network of people – from their biological family to their CPS case worker to their foster parents to their school. This is the team in “A Team Approach to Trauma-Informed Care.” Each network should have a role assigned to them (like the examples above) and communication between networks must happen.
Lastly, a traumatized child typically feels alone. Their network is A LOT larger than they realize. Make sure the child knows there is a team of people there to support them. Inform them how they can reach them if needed. Children need to feel loved and cared for and like they have a voice to share what happened to them.
Arms Wide Adoption Services
Working alongside children removed from their biological homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and experienced trauma, Arms Wide Adoption Services recognizes the value of trauma-informed communities. Our staff is currently trained in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) model, which has the ability to help both caregivers and children learn healthy ways of interacting so both are able to play a role in the healing process.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can create a trauma-informed community or the TBRI model, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Author
As the Development and Marketing Coordinator, Melissa Daigneault Neeley tracks donations, creates communication pieces, and brings awareness to the mission of Arms Wide Adoption Services. She is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she discovered her passion for nonprofit work.
Learn more about Melissa here.