Q&A: Trauma-focused Training for Supervisors Connects Goals to Daily Practice

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National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

The Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit is a free resource offered by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, or NCTSN, a group of more than 70 grantees funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Lisa Conradi of NCTSN grantee The Chadwick Center for Children and Families in San Diego recently helped revise the toolkit. We talked to her about its usefulness to youth workers in different settings and a recent study that looked at a statewide effort to train Arkansas child welfare staff using NCTSN's training.

NCFY: According to the study, many participants pledged to take action steps to maximize their clients’ sense of safety. What does that process look like on the ground?

Conradi: What we’ve seen is workers going, 'What can I do in this moment to help this person in front of me feel safe?’ That might mean asking them, ‘What do you need to feel safe right now?’ or giving them a tour of the facility so they’re more familiar with where they are and what the expectations are. Or it might mean connecting them with people, somebody from extended family or whoever that can support them. Those are the kinds of things that help us feel safe and that we can translate into the work that we do.

NCFY: How can the NCTSN training, which is specifically designed for the child welfare system, apply to the runaway and homeless youth community?

Conradi: When we talk about what it means to have a child-informed system, it doesn’t matter if you’re in child welfare, if you’re working with runaway and homeless youth, whether you’re working with the courts, these are the kinds of issues that we come across. We want to make sure we address psychological safety. We want to make sure we’re enhancing the child’s strengths and resilience. We want to make sure we’re actively partnering with families.

One of the ways this training may apply to a youth worker is by helping them understand what trauma looks like in the older kids and that a lot of the behaviors are also a result of them having control taken away, leaving really scary circumstances, being on the street, whatever it might be. So number one is having a framework to understand their behavior.

NCFY: Why was the first phase of the Arkansas training delivery targeted at supervisors?

Conradi:  Everywhere we go and with everyone we work, there is buy-in from the top level. But if you are in the same county or same state and you ask a caseworker, they don’t even know it’s happening—so there’s a real disconnect between upper level management and day-to-day caseworkers.

I think that’s why supervisors are so critical. Because if we can train them, they are the link between the upper management’s priorities and goals and translating it into practice for the caseworker. I actually think supervisors are the puzzle piece that we need to focus on.

Learn More

You can download the Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit for free on the NCTSN Learning Center for Child and Adolescent Trauma website. The Think Trauma Curriculum, also available on the site, includes information about creating a trauma-informed residential setting.

Read the abstract of “A Statewide Introduction of Trauma-informed Care in a Child Welfare System,” which appeared in the January 2013 issue of Children and Youth Services Review.

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