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Featured Image for Trauma-Informed Care Project

Written by Katie Reid
Image by Edel Rodriguez

On March 11, Oprah Winfrey released a story for CBS and 60 Minutes on how trauma plays a role in childhood development and describes an approach to working with children called “trauma-informed care” (TIC). Winfrey said that working on this story “changed her life” in that it had more impact on her than practically anything she has ever done. The report highlights a school in Wisconsin that trains teachers to be sensitive to the trauma experienced by their students by first asking what has happened to a student and then embracing a trauma-informed approach to heal the trauma. This approach recognizes that the brain development in children can be altered when they experience developmental trauma, which for some children cause behaviors such as acting out, lack of impulse control, aggression, and anger. Winfrey reports that if children are penalized for behaviors without first addressing the trauma, they can experience a range of negative effects including physical, mental, and social health problems that can last into adulthood. The story highlights the importance of teachers, social service providers, and others working with children and adults to receive training on trauma-sensitivity and to take steps to create trauma-informed organizations.

The topic of TIC is nothing new for advocates working in domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention. The practice of working with survivors to understand and address their individual experiences has always been part of our practice, even before the term “trauma-informed care.” Advocates, clinicians, and shelter workers often receive training on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and trauma sensitivity. However, TIC trainings fall short if they fail to help providers understand historic or community trauma and how it impacts an individual who is coping with and recovering from the trauma of sexual/domestic violence. Recent research is helping us better understand how experiences such as poverty, racism, housing insecurity, or lack of economic mobility can cause individual and community trauma. It is imperative that advocacy organizations and allied professions such as child welfare agencies, schools, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and legal service providers embrace a public health approach to address trauma.

In order to contribute to SCCADVASA’s efforts of building healthy, resilient communities across South Carolina, in 2017 and 2018 the Coalition is engaging in a system-wide evaluation to assess the current capacity of its 22 member agencies’ provision of quality care for trauma survivors and to enhance their capacity to address and mitigate the negative effects of trauma on their clients and to improve their outcomes to serve vulnerable, trauma-exposed clientele. SCCADVASA is partnering on this project with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving people’s lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

SCCADVASA’s goal is to work toward developing a universal approach to TIC, whereby South Carolina has an entire system of care for survivors of domestic and sexual violence have adopted policies and procedures that reflect trauma sensitivity and recovery. To find out more about our TIC project, contact us at 803-256-2900 or info@sccadvasa.org.

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