From its home on the edge of downtown Durham, the Center for Child & Family Health is a hub of activity. Families come in to the Urbaniak Clinic for the best, evidence-based mental health care for childhood trauma. Nurses and family support workers go out to help parents build safe, nurturing homes for their children.
But this is also the place where child-serving professionals come to learn how to provide those evidence-based trauma treatments in their own communities. This is the place from which CCFH’s nationally-recognized childhood trauma experts go out to teach others how – and why – to practice trauma-informed care.
As we share our expertise from the mountains to the coast, we work collectively to transform North Carolina into a trauma-informed state. Below we spotlight a small selection of our training efforts. Counties, mental health care providers, school systems, social services departments, and many more are invested in addressing childhood trauma, and CCFH is privileged to be a partner in that work.
Durham Public Schools: Trauma-Informed Practices
Beatrice Laney first came to Durham Public Schools to launch a pilot program integrating mental health care into the school setting at C.C. Spaulding Elementary. Since then, the district’s Mental Health Specialist has overseen multiple mental health initiatives, including the implementation of trauma-informed practices with training and close staff support from CCFH.
With more than 33,000 students, DPS teachers and staff regularly encounter students with traumatic experiences and toxic stress. “Our young people are absorbing too much way too soon, and they just can’t process it well,” Laney says. So, she works with CCFH’s team to equip schools with the trauma-informed tools they need to support students.
Five elementary schools have Trauma-Informed Leadership Training (TILT) teams cultivating safe, supportive environments. School support staff are learning Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE), a trauma-informed way for adults to engage with students. High schools are offering Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) to give teens strategies for coping and communicating.
Laney notes how these efforts help teachers and staff understand how trauma impacts students’ ability to learn.
“Staff can be calmer in how they react in stressful situations and better able to respond in ways that are helpful to the students, as opposed to triggering more of the trauma that they may be experiencing.”
A Caring Alternative: Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is the most widely recognized evidence-based treatment for child traumatic stress, and it has been a valuable clinical asset to the team at A Caring Alternative. With multiple offices throughout western North Carolina, A Caring Alternative is a comprehensive care agency working to meet behavioral health needs in the community.
Dr. Penny Lane Hamblin serves as the clinical director of A Caring Alternative, and was in the first cohort of clinicians at her agency to receive TF-CBT training from CCFH’s NC Child Treatment Program. “TF-CBT is an effective treatment because of the family involvement and the psycho-educational component,” says Dr. Hamblin, who was trained in 2015. “I have only ever had positive feedback from families who received the treatment.”
TF-CBT training through the NC Child Treatment Program at CCFH is a rigorous, year-long process in which therapists not only learn the model, but also treat two clients. While treating clients, therapists participate in bi-weekly, one-on-one consultation calls with a training faculty member. This consistent guidance and support from trainers equips Dr. Hamblin and her colleagues at A Caring Alternative – five who are trained in TF-CBT, and seven who are currently enrolled in the training – to help families move forward from trauma.
Rowan County Department of Social Services: Resource Parent Curriculum (RPC)
As the Social Work Program Manager for Rowan County’s Department of Social Services, Micah Ennis understands the need for trauma-informed training for her staff and for the foster parents they license. When she heard about the Resource Parent Curriculum (RPC), she knew it was something their community needed. Developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, RPC provides support and tools for parents raising children who are in, or have been in, the child welfare system. Recognizing that these children have often experienced trauma, the curriculum aims to help parents understand a child’s behavior and then provide them with the right support.
Ennis was trained to facilitate RPC by the CCFH team in 2016. “It was quite an undertaking but I felt supported, and I felt like I was getting a quality [of instruction] that I really – as an adult learner – can’t recall having since graduate school.” Rowan County now has three DSS staff trained to facilitate RPC, which is required for Rowan County foster parents once a child is placed in their home.
For Ennis, RPC has had a tremendous impact. She’s seen how it empowers foster parents with not only an understanding of their children’s challenging behavior, but also the knowledge and confidence to care for them.
“Honestly, I think it’s changed the culture of our foster families. People are talking about trauma and trauma reminders and responses. I’m amazed by it.”
New Hanover County: Trauma-Informed Communities Initiative
Since early 2018, the Resiliency Task Force has sought to improve health and wellness outcomes for all New Hanover County residents. It aims to align community sectors to address the impact and prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, all with an emphasis on resilience – the ability to recover and adapt after a traumatic experience.
In the months that followed the launch of New Hanover’s task force, CCFH announced a new training project in collaboration with the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services: the Trauma-Informed Communities Initiative.
The goal of the initiative is to bring a community’s service systems – education, child welfare, medical, mental health, juvenile justice, courts, and more – together to provide integrated, trauma-informed care. New Hanover County applied and, thanks in part to the Resiliency Task Force’s efforts, was selected as one of three counties to participate in the initiative’s 2018-2019 cohort.
After an assessment of the county’s needs, CCFH helped New Hanover County identify areas of concern and select trainings that aligned with its priorities. Equipped now with an understanding of psychological safety, secondary traumatic stress, and historical trauma, New Hanover County is building the necessary infrastructure to support health and well-being for everyone.