As so eloquently stated by the co-chairs of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, not only are we ready to begin to prevent, reduce and treat children’s exposure to violence, but we must do it now.
The 2012 report entitled: “Defending Childhood, Protect, Heal, Thrive” along with numerous research studies showing that most of the youths in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to violence and/or are living with trauma and traumatic stress was a wake-up call for action. The sixth section of the Task Force report Rethinking Juvenile Justice provided specific recommendations for the field and many dedicated leaders and professionals across the country have taken the recommendations to heart. They have developed resources, spread solutions and changed practices to address children’s exposure to violence.
Performance-based Standards (PbS) also has taken the first step to measure and monitor the implementation and impact of this work. As experience makes clear, effective and sustainable reform requires data, continuously used to evaluate how we treat youths, staff and families in contact with the juvenile justice system.
Thanks to a collaboration with trauma experts and youth correction professionals in Maine, funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), PbS expanded its survey of youths to include questions that collect descriptive data on youths’ experiences related to trauma-informed care, services and treatment. The same experts, joined by more from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, National Center on Institutions and Alternatives and other national child-serving organizations are helping PbS integrate additional ways to collect and analyze information to show if the trauma-informed care training, screening, assessment, services, developmentally-appropriate practices and staff-youth relationships are working. It is as important to know the impact of the work as it is to do the work. The last thing anyone wants is to make a difficult or painful situation worse.
PbS shares the results of the youths’ responses in the issue brief: “First Step to Integrate Trauma-Informed Care: Ask Youths.” PbS facilities survey youths, staff and families and report the results twice a year. We hope the first responses provide a starting point from which many, many more resources, solutions and best practices emerge.
- Written by Kim Godfrey
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