When Child Welfare Systems Embrace Trauma-Informed Care

Posted April 20, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog whenchildwelfaresystemsembrace 2017

When child wel­fare sys­tems infuse trau­ma-informed care into every­thing they do, kids expe­ri­ence few­er place­ments and fare bet­ter in fos­ter care, accord­ing to new Casey-fund­ed research.

In a five-year study con­duct­ed by Child Trends, researchers focused on kids served by KVC Kansas, a non­prof­it offer­ing child wel­fare and behav­ioral health sup­port through a public/​private part­ner­ship with the Kansas Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies. As part of the study, admin­is­tra­tors, staff and fos­ter par­ents received train­ing on an evi­dence-based treat­ment mod­el called Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py. Researchers then assessed the training’s impact on near­ly 1,500 chil­dren in the KVC sys­tem who had been exposed to death or a seri­ous injury, includ­ing phys­i­cal, sex­u­al and men­tal abuse.

Learn more about how sys­tems can sup­port fos­ter par­ents to ben­e­fit kids

Many chil­dren in the child wel­fare sys­tem have expe­ri­enced trau­ma, which is often expressed in behav­ior that can lead sys­tems to move chil­dren from home to home,” says Cyn­thia Weaver, a senior asso­ciate with Casey’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group. The Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py mod­el can help ther­a­pists, case man­agers and fos­ter par­ents adjust their respons­es in ways that take into account the under­ly­ing trau­ma and help de-esca­late behav­ioral problems.”

Chil­dren who received Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py showed improved func­tion­ing and a greater abil­i­ty to con­trol their behav­iors and emo­tions, accord­ing to the study. These same chil­dren also expe­ri­enced greater place­ment sta­bil­i­ty and few­er moves while in care.

To achieve these results, KVC trained more than 90% of its child wel­fare staff and near­ly 70% of its fos­ter par­ents. The orga­ni­za­tion uti­lized a wide range of teach­ing modal­i­ties — includ­ing large-scale train­ing ses­sions, extend­ed learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and online mod­ules — to help incor­po­rate trau­ma-informed care into its work over a peri­od of years.

Now, with Foun­da­tion sup­port, KVC has helped to devel­op a Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py cur­ricu­lum for child wel­fare agen­cies to use with kin and fos­ter care­givers. The cur­ricu­lum will be avail­able for free on the Foundation’s web­site this sum­mer and pro­motes an under­stand­ing of how trau­ma affects child behav­ior. It also shares tools that care­givers can use to pre­vent place­ment dis­rup­tions and encour­age attachment.

About Trau­ma Sys­tems Therapy

Pio­neered by child and ado­les­cent psy­chi­a­trist Glenn Saxe of NYU Lan­gone Med­ical Cen­ter, Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py aims to address children’s emo­tion­al respons­es to their envi­ron­ment while bring­ing togeth­er ser­vice providers — includ­ing teach­ers, spir­i­tu­al lead­ers and local advo­cates — to coor­di­nate inter­ven­tions across settings.

Read KVC’s Bridg­ing the Way Home: An Inno­v­a­tive Approach to the Appli­ca­tion of Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py in Child Welfare

Check out Trau­ma-Informed Child Wel­fare Sys­tems and Children’s Well-being: A Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Eval­u­a­tion of KVC’s Bridg­ing the Way Home Initiative

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