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  • Writer's pictureAnn Wrixon

Trauma Screening for Foster Youth Essential

Ann Wrixon blog on trauma screening for foster youth

In July 2018, The Journal of Public Child Welfare, published “Exploring trauma-informed practice in public child welfare through qualitative data-mining of case records,” by Sarah Taylor, Claire Battis, Sarah Carnochan, Colleen Henry, Margaret Balk, and Michael J. Austin.The study used qualitative data-mining to determine how trauma-informed practice manifested in the child welfare system.

In response to a lawsuit, in 2011, the Courts mandated better coordination between the child welfare system (CWS) and behavioral health services, as well as the development and implementation of a Core Practice Model (CPM). “In recognition that most youth in the CWS have experienced trauma, as well as the impact of adverse experiences on multiple domains of development, trauma-informed practice is identified as being “foundational to the implementation of the CPM” (CA DSS et al., 2013, p. 16). The CPM specifically recommends that child welfare and mental health practitioners utilize the essential elements of trauma-informed practice as defined by National Child Trauma Stress Network (NCTSN)(Ko & Sprague, 2007). These essential elements include: 1) maximizing the child’s sense of safety; 2) helping them to reduce overwhelming emotions; 3) helping children make meaning of their trauma history; 4) addressing the impact of trauma on the child’s behavior, development, and relationships; 5) supporting positive and stable relationships in the child’s life; and 6) providing guidance to the child’s caregivers . (Ko & Sprague, 2007).”(p. 2)

The research by Taylor, et. al. determined that only a minority of children had a trauma-related mental health diagnosis, although most had signs and symptoms of complex trauma. Therefore, a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) should not be the primary marker of whether a child has trauma-related mental health needs. Since CWS children often display signs and symptoms of complex trauma without a PTSD diagnosis, the researchers recommend that the CWS screen all children in their care for trauma.

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