Most people experience some form of trauma throughout their lives, some more than others. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away.
Many of our services are focused on helping children and families who have either recently or are currently experiencing challenging life events, like children who have been forced to leave their home country to seek refuge in the United states, often without their families, or children in the foster system who need new supports and family connection.
For us, and other social service providers, it’s a no–brainer that staff and clinicians must understand and be mindful of the effects of trauma. More specifically, Trauma-Informed Care practices enable us to do our best work and truly help children and families thrive.
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
In essence, Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is a care practice based on understanding and considers the way that trauma can affect a person’s life—and TIC aims to create environments of healing and recovery. Trauma-Informed Care is not a method for treating any particular kind of abuse or trauma, but rather to provide support services in a way that’s accessible and appropriate for people who may have experienced trauma. There are five key principles for Trauma-Informed Care:
- Safety – Ensuring physical and emotional safety.
- Choice – The individual receiving care or services has choice and control.
- Collaboration – The service provider and the individual make decisions together and share power.
- Trustworthiness – Tasks and services are defined clearly, and interpersonal boundaries are respected.
- Empowerment – The caregiver prioritizes growth in skills and personal empowerment while providing services.
You might look at that list and wonder where trauma fits in, but that’s the point. These principles are all about mitigating the effect that trauma has on an individual while that person receives care. These are the keys to setting up a boundary so that trauma can’t sneak in and erode the trust between the caregiver and the individual.
Why does TIC matter to us?
Many of the youth and families we serve have experienced trauma in their past, whether it’s relevant to the care we’re giving them or not. We know that triggering a traumatic experience is extremely detrimental to their growth as individuals, so taking the necessary precautions and setting up programs for informed care is vital to everyone’s success.
We seek to infuse and sustain trauma awareness, knowledge and skills into our organization’s culture, practices and policies. It’s all about meeting our clients (and each other) where they are.
Proper care and safety for all the youth and families that we server is always our top priority. We even have an internal TIC trainer who has been trained by The Centralized Training Infrastructure for Evidence Based Practices (CTI-EBP) at UT Health San Antonio.
“Trauma-Informed Care is essential to our programs. It’s important to recognize the effect that trauma has on the individual—and how we can adapt our care to meet those individuals in a safe, open environment.”
–Gladys J. Sanchez, National Director of Clinical Services — Youth Justice
How we use Trauma-Informed Care
We use Trauma-Informed Care to promote safety, earn trust, embrace diversity, and strengthen resilience. This year, we even worked to integrate more trauma-informed practices across our programs, with nearly 800 employees completing an immersive seminar on evidence-based de-escalation strategies.
In our unaccompanied minor shelters and youth/family programs, we use Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores to better understand the needs of incoming youth and unaccompanied minors. We also prioritize safe, trauma-informed de-escalation techniques that anticipate problems before they can escalate further. Some of these techniques include:
- Reframing the conversation to focus on relationships, not events.
- De-personalizing the interventions.
- Referring the youth to clinicians who can help youth process emotions and outbursts.
- Conveying messages of compassion, empathy, and care.
- Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) techniques to help youth and families recognize maladapted behaviors and consciously avoid them.
Trauma-Informed Care has been at the core of our philosophy of care, even before we formally adopted it as a practice. We continuously train our staff on these concepts and seek our partner organizations who help us continue bring this philosophy to life. It’s a valuable tool and enables the kind of healing that we want to see in children, youth, families and communities.
Interested in implementing Trauma-Informed Care in your organization? We suggest starting here.