It is gratifying to watch awareness increasing about the importance of incorporating neuroscience-based and resiliency-oriented information into statewide policies, practices, and programs that are oriented to addressing trauma. I recently had a very enlivening experience during two days of presentations & consultation focused on child trauma for the State of Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate and the Massachusetts Department of Health. Whenever I am asked to consult on issues of trauma I always start by emphasizing resilience and the vital necessity of looking at all people, children as well as adults, through the lens of strengths rather than deficits and trauma. Incorporating core concepts from brain science gives providers new and generative ways of thinking about and working with traumatized children, their families and their communities.
The advent of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) that flowed from Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control’s published study (1998) on the powerful role adverse childhood experiences play in the physical and emotional health of adults was groundbreaking. It sensitized a wide range of service providers and policy-makers to the relationship between traumatic events that occur early in childhood and later behaviors that previously had often been labeled as reflections of character deficits (e.g., sociopath, juvenile delinquent, wayward child, etc.). More recently, there has been the recognition that looking at children’s lives through a trauma lens has limitations (see, for example, my article on this website (Leitch, 2017). Every human being has strengths. We all are wired with the potential to be resilient. Building this knowledge into policies and programs enhances healing, amplifies, resilience, and supports healthy family and community relationships. We call it the Social Resilience Model for a good reason.
Working at the state level is an important way to develop a “collaborative intelligence” about working with trauma and resilience. Too often high-level policy-makers are left out of the loop where emerging information is concerned. This means that policies that are developed at the top may not fit the programs and services being utilized at the provider-level. When a more ecological, systems-level approach is taken a coherent and unified strategy can be initiated that will be on the leading edge of current knowledge and research and more likely to have sustainability.
In New York City, TGW has trained more than 30 service providers across the city’s community-based organizations as SRM Trainers. The photo at the left shows a few of our SRM Trainers from the Osborne Association receiving their certification as SRM Trainers. SRM Trainers intimately know the communities they serve. They often are “credible messengers” who at one time lived lives similar to those they now serve. Currently, TGW is training a new group of trainers in a 3-year project that equips service providers in three primary care facilities and in three community-based organizations with SRM core concepts and practical skills. The overall focus is to improve the ability of these agencies to serve individuals with involvement in the criminal-legal system. SRM Train the Trainer is a central component of the project, called the Health Justice Network. We are training 24 trainers. It is an honor to be able to work with such a dedicated cadre of providers!