The Center for Child & Family Health (CCFH) is excited to launch the second year of the Trauma-Informed Communities Project, a collaboration between CCFH’s Training Services and the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services. Pitt, Chatham, and Cabarrus counties were selected to participate in the project following a competitive application process in November. With federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the project brings diverse systems together to create an integrated, trauma-informed system of care for children with serious mental health needs, an effort which can also improve the overall quality and accessibility of mental health care in those communities over time.
Families often engage with a wide range of service systems in their communities – education, child welfare, medical, mental health, juvenile justice, courts, faith, local government, and more. When children experience abuse, neglect, violence, or life-threatening events, these systems can best serve families with a collaborative, trauma-informed approach. CCFH Co-Director of Training Tripp Ake, Ph.D., notes that specific approaches are needed at each level to support both families and those working with them.
“Children and families are exposed to traumatic events at alarming rates,” says Ake. “For families at risk for maltreatment and abuse, we need to engage the best prevention services. For children and families who have been exposed to traumatic events, we need to have the best assessment and treatment services in place. For those who work with and care for these families, we need to go beyond a single continuing education course or curriculum to help sustain trauma-informed practices and increase worker retention.”
The Trauma-Informed Communities Project supports individual North Carolina counties working toward these goals over the course of nine months. The process begins with an Introduction to Trauma-Informed Practices training for representatives from multiple service systems. The CCFH team then administers a needs assessment to help communities identify areas of strength and growth within each system. With key needs identified, communities are able to determine which additional trainings they will receive next. Katelyn Donisch, Ph.D., a clinical associate at CCFH, works closely with counties during their needs assessment.
“The needs assessment is an unparalleled opportunity to hear directly from community service providers regarding their understanding of specific trauma-informed practices, psychological safety in children and families, and ways to address secondary traumatic stress,” she says. “The results of the assessment allow us to identify barriers to trauma-informed practices within each community, such as insurance or transportation concerns, communication difficulties between systems of care, or high levels of burnout among providers.”
Among applicants for the 2019-2020 Trauma-Informed Communities Project, Pitt, Chatham, and Cabarrus counties demonstrated strong representation and engagement from a variety of service systems. New Hanover, Caldwell, Edgecombe, and Wilson counties were selected to take part in the first year of the project. By working to coordinate and integrate their service systems, these North Carolina communities are building trauma-informed frameworks to better care for children facing trauma.