Wow. Oprah’s leading the discussion!
This is such an unforgettable moment for all of us committed to addressing the issues of adversity, trauma and developmental insults. With Oprah’s 60 Minutes segment on childhood trauma, we have more attention on the issue, and with it, a call to keep moving forward.
It is from that context that I want to reflect on ideas for next steps. Here are my top five thoughts on what we can do to move things forward:
- Make training a priority. A great start in implementing trauma-informed care (TIC) is quality training. It creates a common language, it establishes a working frame to organize future activity, it inspires action and more. There are lots of great curriculum options out there to learn about TIC – it is worth the extra time to make sure whatever curriculum you choose is the right fit.
- Recognize what training can’t do. We have yet to find an organization that has transformed its culture from training alone. While our field is still developing and evaluating the “technology” to operationalize trauma-informed practice, there are some important themes to prioritize.
First, a mechanism that compels staff to be curious about the relevance of adversity and trauma for their participants is essential. For some, this may be a trauma screen or assessment process. For others, it may be more informal. Either way, it is important to ensure it is consistently done with respect, empathy and a basic understanding of trauma (see “make training a priority”).
Second, there needs to be a concrete outcome that is created from the conversation about the relevance of trauma – a collaborative plan to create safety, a commitment to regulation strategies, a commitment to support the participant’s engagement in a form of clinical treatment, etc.
Finally, there needs to be an evaluation mechanism that gives feedback on how consistently staff are adhering to trauma-informed practice.
- Caregiver capacity has to be co-prioritized. That begins by recognizing that we have under-prioritized and under-funded the programs, agencies and services that nobly serve our collective interest in shaping the future.
If you hold the belief that it doesn’t matter if there are 32 or 22 kids in a classroom, then you haven’t been paying attention. This conversation ends by acknowledging that there are many capacity diminishers (secondary trauma, personal trauma history, primary trauma of the job, burnout, etc.); and many capacity enhancers (gratitude, peer support, purposeful work, wellness, stress resilience, etc.). The more we can do to ensure the enhancers outweigh the diminishers, the brighter our future will be.
- You can’t talk about trauma without talking about Historical Trauma. If we accept the scientific truth about the effects of unsupported exposure to overwhelming violence on children, and we couple that with the new science of epigenetics, then we have to consider what happened to the community the child is connected to.
Put more simply, we have to ask how we respectfully absorb the effects of hundreds of years of oppression for children who are connected to communities that have been disenfranchised in a myriad of ways? At SaintA, we started this conversation four years ago with the creation of a Historical Trauma Workgroup, and our workgroup continues to influence our agency priorities today.
- It will take a village. The scope of the problem requires collaboration. The underpinnings of the problem make collaboration natural.
- Can we find ways to break down silos?
- Can we collaborate as much as we compete?
- Do we understand the continuum from prevention to treatment?
- Do we appreciate the different ways to address TIC?
We struggled with those and other questions for years and developed the visual below to help organize our thoughts and create a collaborative space at the proverbial table:
We have a chance, maybe one of those rare chances, to do something remarkable. Our country needs it, our communities need it, our kids need it.
Let’s commit to leveraging this Oprah moment and be ambassadors of hope.
Receive notifications when we have new posts. Required fields are marked *