Trauma-Informed Care:  A New Mandate

Some statistics are quite difficult to know, espescially when they reach into the millions.

When statistics point to a desperate need in our society

The ACES Too High website has posted the following:

Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.

Even more concerning, nearly a third of U.S. youth ages 12-17 have experienced two or more types of childhood adversity that are likely to affect their physical and mental health as adults. Across the 50 U.S. states, the percentages range from 23 percent for New Jersey to 44.4 percent for Arizona.

Dire consequences are imminent

The data are clear, says Dr. Christina Bethell: If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness. Not only will their lives be difficult, but the nation’s already high health care costs will soar even higher, she believes. Bethell is director of the National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center, part of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration, sponsors the survey.

frightened boy hiding in boxObviously, we have a serious set of problems to resolve both in prevention of trauma in the lives of our children but also how to deal with the symptoms of trauma in their lives.  It is clear that trauma is both pervasive and devastating to millions of children.  These numbers are even greater when you add adult trauma.

Dealing with trauma is complex. 

There is no pill, no one approach or simple fix to childhood trauma.  Our therapeutic community is just beginning to address this prevalent issue in our society.  Still,  we have many untrained professionals all over our nation who need to be trauma-informed.

There is certainly a new emphasis in providing trauma-informed care.  Yet we have to ask what kind of training should we be providing to those who provide clinical care to our children.  Also what about early childhood professionals, school teachers and others who regularly interface with children who are traumatized?

It is so important that we help our professionals have an accurate perception and adequate knowledge of what it takes to deal with trauma in our children. Trauma-informed care depends on professionals who are clear about the impact of trauma on the brain. They need a sophisticated understanding of neurology. They need to understand hypervigilence and dissociative responses to trauma. They need to know the somatic-sensory nature of healing trauma and the way to create resilience. They need to recognize traumatic symptoms in children so as to not label them incorrectly as often happens. Dealing with trauma is also very impactful to those who are dealing with trauma-impacted children as they also experience vicarious trauma.

At Lakeside, we have spent a great deal of time and energy developing three courses in trauma and a significant amount of advanced trauma coursework for professionals who deal with traumatized children.  We have written coursework for undergraduates and graduates.  We have a specialized training for teachers, and we are developing more and more work in this vital area.

We cannot minimize the need for the level of training that should be a part of any professional development in trauma.  This is not a course or series of courses but a process where professionals should have relationships with each other and be able to process together how they are dealing with children and families who have been traumatized.

Soon, this training will be available online.

But not just as a series of lectures.  Our approach will be to broadcast live to groups of professionals who will work together to help each other deal with trauma-impacted children in a way that has sufficient knowledge, skill and competence to deal with this population of children in our society.  I will be discussing our training in greater length in some of my posts to come.

We consider this to be a very serious issue in our community of children in America and not to be taken lightly.  We hope all of our professionals who work with trauma-impacted children will have the opportunity to be trained and become competent in trauma-informed care.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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