Preparing for Trauma-Informed Assessment and Practice

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) is adding trauma and post-trauma well-being domains to the NCFAS assessment tools. These new domains may be the first assessment measure of family functioning for trauma and post-trauma well-being.

One of the most frequent comments we hear is that agencies are not prepared to help families after trauma has been identified. NFPN addressed this issue in the March edition of NFPN News Notes and we will now address it in greater depth. There are also new resources available on trauma-informed practice.

A good source of background information is a federal RFP that sought proposals for promoting well-being and adoption after trauma (grants awarded in October): Children who come to the attention of the child welfare system have disproportionally high rates of social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Recent studies using different samples and measurement approaches show prevalence rates among this population between 42 percent and 60 percent:

  • Analyses of data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) reveal that approximately half of the children between the ages of 2 and 14 with completed child welfare investigations have a need for mental health services.
  • Children in in-home care (with or without services) and those in out-of-home care show little difference in the degree of mental and behavioral health problems.

This is what the federal government wants to see when funding agencies that address trauma and well-being:

  • Have universal screening for the early identification of children and youth with behavioral and mental health needs;
  • Use functional assessment to determine individual strengths and needs, refer to services that address those trauma, mental and behavioral health needs and monitor progress over time;
  • Develop ongoing progress monitoring and data-driven tracking of well-being outcomes at the client and system level;
  • Ensure access to effective treatments and services by creating an overall service array that is consistent with and meets the aggregate needs of the child welfare population; and
  • Eliminate barriers to cross-system, multi-agency cooperation.

That’s a lot to bite off at one time! So, what are some smaller steps that any agency can take?

  • Help workers understand the nature and effects of trauma. Basic training on trauma is available through a resource developed by the New Jersey Child Welfare Training Academy and is available on the NFPN website:
  • Your agency may already have an effective service for trauma. The first IFPS model, HOMEBUILDERS®, was developed to prevent the psychiatric hospitalization of severely behaviorally disturbed children. For over three decades, IFPS has been successfully serving families in the child welfare system in which up to half of the children need mental health services. For more information on the effectiveness of IFPS in addressing mental health issues, view the IFPS blog post this week:

NFPN will be revisiting the issue of trauma/well-being in the months to come and providing additional information and resources. In the meantime, please let us know how your agency is addressing trauma/well-being and share your thoughts on this issue.

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