“Children develop within an environment of relationships that begins in the family but also involves other adults who play important roles in their lives. This can include extended family members, providers of early care and education, nurses, social workers, coaches, and neighbors,” states the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University in From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts: A Science-Based Approach to Building a More Promising Future for Young Children and Families (2016). The seemingly benign statement is fraught with potentially negative results.
A recent publication on creating trauma informed programs for sexual assault programs (available for download on the Resources page), quoted the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, “Trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives.”
This is a key definition to our understanding of trauma informed care as it relates to service provision. For too long and with dire consequences, mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse intervention, hospitals, and schools—among others—simply saw challenging and unproductive behavior as a reflection of the person’s character or lack there of. By becoming trauma informed, we can understand the context of the behavior in order to see some of the historical and interactive but less visible aspects of the behavior.
Founded in 2009, the California Center of Excellence for Trauma Informed Care is an organization dedicated to helping publicly funded agencies understand the impact of trauma on their clients, both individually and as a group, and to then use that understanding to design programs (interventions, policies, training) to work more effectively with their clients. Using the Fallot and Harris (2001) framework from “Using Trauma Theory to Design Service Systems” as the foundation from which to then build and strengthen the entire publicly funded social service system. Fallot identifies key values from which a trauma-informed program can develop: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.