Attorney General Eric Holder affirms that children’s exposure to violence is nothing less than a national crisis. With this public health issue comes serious ramifications for the future of our country and the young men and women who will soon be called upon to build that future.
In response to these troubling statistics and others, Holder launched the Defending Childhood Initiative in 2010, which has since resulted in a report on prevalence of childhood exposure to violence and recommendations to address it. Throughout the month of July we’ll take a closer look at some of the recommendations, what is being done and what you can do to help.
“The first crucial step in protecting our children is to identify and provide timely and effective help to those who already are being victimized by violence.”
One of the recommendations of the Task Force is to “ensure that children exposed to violence are identified, screened and assessed.”
To reach this goal, it is crucial that staff serving children and families have the knowledge and skills needed to understand, recognize and address the impact of victimization and traumatic experiences on children.
The Safe Start Center has developed a series of downloadable Trauma-Informed Care Tip Sheets for professionals, paraprofessionals and parents who come into contact with children and families who have been exposed or are at risk for exposure to violence. These resources equip different systems (for example, schools, early care and education, home visiting, child welfare, domestic violence and courts) with the knowledge necessary to address the needs of a range of populations and to screen and provide appropriate help to children exposed to violence.
Trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma plays in their lives. When a human service program takes the step to become trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma affects the life of an individual who is seeking services.
The Trauma-Informed Care Tip Sheets are developed with a developmental perspective which assumes that:
- Problematic behavior evolves over time as a result of successive experiences.
- A prior negative experience may increase the difficulty a person has in successfully accomplishing a subsequent developmental task.
- A return to positive functioning is always possible.
The prevalence of children’s exposure to violence is extraordinarily high. Often these families have experienced multiple types of victimization and the trauma of poverty. Ongoing exposure to adverse experiences can impact all areas of children’s lives, including biological, cognitive, and emotional functioning; social interactions/relationships; and identity formation. Becoming trauma-informed can have a significant impact on preventing the occurrence and reducing the impact of exposure to violence.