Elevating Trauma-Informed Care in Juvenile Rehabilitation

April 20, 2022
Three smiling youth hanging out on a bench.

Trauma-informed care aims to realize the impact of trauma, understand paths to recovery, recognize signs and symptoms, integrate knowledge about trauma into policies and practices, and actively avoid re-traumatization. As part of the agency’s Strategic and Racial Equity Plan, building a trauma-informed system and weaving a healing-centered approach through all our work is essential to the health and well-being of the children, youth, and families we serve, as well as our staff.

In Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR), staff are actively trained on effective ways to provide support and trauma-informed care for youth in residence. The goal is to not only help young people heal and flourish, but also to prevent them from having repeated involvement with juvenile justice systems and protect them from re-traumatization.

“We center advancing racial equity across all of DCYF – the same can be said for trauma-informed care in JR,” said Behavioral Health Administrator Eric Nicholson. “Trauma-informed care is the lens we use for everything. It’s an opportunity to really engage young people and provide a better system of care. It helps us to build more trusting relationships with them and their families, and foster stronger relationships with us as a provider of services.”

Professional development in trauma-informed care is critical to building a better understanding of some of the traumatic experiences these young people have had – like gang violence, physical abuse, and neglect.

“The traumas our young people experience can be extremely detrimental to their lives, very similar to war vets. We’ve seen the light on this, and that’s why we’re focused on taking trauma-informed care to the next level at DCYF,” said Nicholson.

Targeted training also helps us understand how staff experience secondary trauma and helps to increase workforce well-being and retention — an important component of providing consistent, uninterrupted, and high-quality care to youth.

Some examples of trauma-informed approaches and initiatives include:

  • Incorporating “Think Trauma” in new employee, Community Safety, and Crisis Management and Intervention Strategies training.
  • Deeper-dive training for clinical staff (e.g., Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Affect Regulation, and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention in Schools).
  • Partnering with programs like Yoga Behind Bars and Trauma Stewardship Institute.
  • Staff and youth Peer Support Program:
    • JR established a Staff Peer Support Specialist and will be recruiting a second.
    • JR established a Youth Peer Support Specialist whose focus is growing services that center lived experience and support young people's healing and leadership.

At DCYF, we believe it is critical to place the voices and experiences of youth and families firmly at the center of our thinking. Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “It’s not your fault.”

“Just because these youth have committed a crime, they are still people,” said Nicholson. “They are just like our kids. They need to be treated in the same kind, caring, and loving way. Trauma-informed care helps us to understand and meet them where they are, and empowers young people to be the healing.”