What resources are available to support trauma-informed, healing-centered approaches in child welfare?

There is growing interest in how child welfare systems can prevent and mitigate the adverse effects of trauma. Trauma-informed systems recognize the impact of traumatic stress on all involved, including children, their caregivers, and the professionals who serve them. Trauma-informed systems use the best available science to increase safety, facilitate recovery, and help children and families thrive.

But being trauma-informed is not enough — there is growing interest in creating a system that is also healing-centered.1 Healing-centered approaches acknowledge that children and families have hopes and dreams, and are more than the trauma that has happened to them in the past. This approach also is built on an understanding that trauma is not just an individual experience but also a collective one, shaped by social and political factors such as systemic bias, lack of community supports, and individual or family poverty.

For more information on the general topic of trauma-informed, healing-centered approaches to inform child protection agency policy and practice,2 see these resource pages:

Also see the following Casey Family Program companion briefs:

Resources about the impact of trauma on specific populations

These resources explore the ways that social inequities, cultural conditions, and personal experiences of bias and racism compound other traumas affecting LGBTQ+ youth, and children and families of color.

Aspen Institute. (2023). Adolescent Mental Health Crisis Dialogue Series: Go Deep on Strategies for Distinctive Communities

  • In this webinar series, the Aspen Health Innovators Fellowship explores strategies in response to the adolescent mental health crisis. Panelists share the latest research and strategies to engage young people with solutions tailored to their unique experiences and identities. Individual webinars spotlight the needs of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, LGBTQ+, and Latino youth.

Mathematica Policy Research. (2016). Addressing Trauma in American Indian and Alaska Native Youth        

  • Research has shown that American Indian/Alaska Native youth experience higher rates of trauma than their non-Native peers. This environmental scan shares practices and programs for addressing trauma in American Indian/Alaska Native youth. Interventions are described and the evidence-base for each is summarized. Several additional interventions that are being used but have not yet been systematically evaluated also are shared.

Mental Health America. (n.d.) Racial Trauma                

  • Racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS), refers to the mental and emotional injury caused by painful encounters with racial bias and ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes. In the U.S., Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are most vulnerable to RBTS. This webpage includes information, examples, and resources about the detrimental impacts of RBTS, which may include symptoms like those experienced with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Trevor Project. (2022). Trauma and Suicide Risk Among LGBTQ Youth

  • This brief uses data from The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health to examine disparities in trauma symptoms and suicide attempts, disaggregated by race/ethnicity, age, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). LGBTQ Youth

  • LGBTQ+ youth experience trauma at higher rates than their straight peers. Common traumas experienced by these youth include bullying, harassment, traumatic loss, intimate partner violence, physical and sexual abuse, and traumatic forms of societal stigma, bias, and rejection. This webpage includes an extensive collection of resources on the topic from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and other organizations.

National Native Children’s Trauma Center

  • The National Native Children’s Trauma Center of the University of Montana aims to increase service providers’ ability to respond to the trauma-related needs of American Indian/Alaska Native children in culturally appropriate ways. It provides training in evidence-based and promising practices, as well as technical assistance in trauma-informed systems change across all tribal child-serving systems, including child welfare agencies. They also assist in the cultural adaptation of evidence-based and promising practices, and develop products and practices intended for use in Native communities.

Resources to support healing-centered approaches

The following materials offer perspectives, frameworks, and examples of responses to trauma that are healing-centered.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Trauma-Informed Care.

  • This report shares data on the prevalence of trauma among children under age 18, stresses the importance of trauma-informed care in pediatric medical settings, and summarizes recommendations for offering trauma-informed care across various medical settings.

California Children’s Trust. (2021). Building a Mental Health Delivery System by the People, for the People

  • This Framework for Solutions is built on the belief that children are not broken or pathological, and the building blocks of healing are in the wisdom and intelligence of marginalized communities.

Casey Family Programs. (2022). Ending the Need for Group Placements: Developing Trauma-Informed, Healing-Centered Mental Health Services              

  • This action-oriented discussion guide includes short videos, discussion questions, and key resources for child welfare leaders and stakeholders to pursue concrete strategies that can make a difference in young people’s engagement in trauma-informed and healing-centered services and supports.

Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for Tribes. (2017). Arctic Winds Healing Winds: Leadership for Results Training

  • This short film describes a community-based healing approach piloted in 2015 with a group of Alaska Native leaders to help them strengthen their response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in their villages. The program brought together 15 key individuals from three villages as the first cohort with the overall goal to enhance and strengthen the leadership capacity around historical trauma and to increase the strength of community networks.

Youth Thrive, an Initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2021). Crosswalk: Youth Thrive & Healing Centered Engagement              

  • This resource describes the importance of healing-centered engagement as an approach to trauma, describes the key elements, and offers tools and resources for training staff

Resources to support training of staff and caregivers

One hallmark of a trauma-informed child welfare system is a commitment to providing information and training about trauma and its effects to all participants in the system, including staff at all levels, parents, resource caregivers and, when age appropriate, children. These resources offer training materials developed for both staff and caregivers.

Annie E. Casey Foundation (2017). Trauma Systems Therapy for Foster Care

  • This curriculum is for child welfare agencies to train foster parents in helping heal the children in their care. It includes an implementation guide, facilitator preparation guide, training materials, and additional resources.

Capacity Building Center for States. (2021). Congregate Care in the Age of Family First: Trauma-Informed Care           

  • This brief provides guidance on the trauma-informed care provisions within the Family First Prevention Services Act and how to implement a trauma-informed approach in residential treatment settings.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2011). Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: A Workshop for Resource Parents         

  • Also known as the Resource Parent Curriculum (RPC, this workshop was created to educate resource parents about the impact of trauma on the development and behavior of children in foster care. It provides them with knowledge and skills to respond appropriately to behavioral and emotional challenges and to help traumatized children develop healthy attachments and grow into healthy adults. The curriculum is presented in seven consecutive 2-hour sessions.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2020). The Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit

  • This toolkit supports caseworkers, supervisors, and all others in the child welfare workforce in implementing trauma-informed skills in their daily interactions, professional services, and organizational culture. This edition incorporates two foundational trainings, a specialized skills training for supervisors and caseworkers, and a supervisor consultation series to enhance transfer of learning into practice.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Recommendations for Trauma-Informed Care Under the Family First Prevention Services Act.

  • This report, developed by NCTSN in partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, explains the requirements for trauma-informed approaches in the Family First Prevention Services Act and offers recommendations for implementation.

 Resources to support trauma assessment and treatment

Assessing the trauma-related needs of the whole family, offering choice, and facilitating access to effective treatment are all important strategies of a trauma-informed child welfare agency. The following resources support assessment and intervention.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Screening and Assessment     

  • Information about screening children for the impact of traumatic experiences in the context of their overall development and a list of standardized instruments used to assess traumatic stress in young children.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Intervention Fact Sheets

  • These fact sheets offer descriptive summaries of some of the interventions developed or implemented by Network members. For many of the interventions, the fact sheet provides a culture-specific summary, outlining how the intervention has been adapted for and used with various cultural groups. Training guidelines are also provided.

National Black Women’s Justice Institute and The Children’s Partnership. (2022). Youth-Centered Strategies for Hope, Healing, and Health

  • This report offers youth-driven policy recommendations to build the capacity of youth-serving systems to provide effective, compassionate, and trauma-responsive care to marginalized youth and their communities. Developed by a youth-led policy council with support from adult allies within policy, research, direct service, and government, the work intentionally centers the experiences of Black and Latina girls, Indigenous youth, and LGBTQ+ youth of color.

Youth Law Center. (2019).  Closing the Extracurriculars Gap: Prioritizing Extracurricular Activities as a Key Intervention for Children and Youth in Foster Care and Juvenile Justice

  • Describes the benefits of extracurricular participation for system-involved youth, discusses the legal an policy supports for such participation, explores barriers created when child welfare and juvenile justice systems do not prioritize extracurricular participation and identifies programs working to address those barriers, and provides recommendations to increase access to extracurriculars for youth in foster care and juvenile justice systems.

Resources from local jurisdictions

Communities United. (2022). Changing the Beat of Mental Health: Amplifying Our Voice.

  • This participatory action research report was developed by Ujima, a group of young men of color in Chicago who come together to collectively make change in their communities on the issue of mental health and wellness justice. Their research addresses the question: “As young men of color, what are the challenges we face and what are the resources we need to support our mental health and well-being?”

Vermont Child Welfare Partnership. (2020). TIPS for Tuning In: Trauma Informed Parenting Skills.

  • This curriculum offers hands-on parenting skills for caregivers of children who have experienced complex developmental trauma and/or significant loss. In Vermont, TIPS is taught in conjunction with the NCTSN’s Resource Parent Curriculum (above). TIPS moves beyond the psycho-educational components of RPC by teaching and providing in-class practice of parenting skills.

1 The concept of healing-centered engagement was introduced by Dr. Shawn Ginwright in his 2018 article, The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement.
2 Content of this brief was developed through ongoing consultation with members of the Knowledge Management Lived Experience Advisory Team. This team includes youth, parents, kinship caregivers, and foster parents with lived experience in the child welfare system, and who serve as strategic partners with Family Voices United, a collaboration between FosterClub, Generations United, the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, and Casey Family Programs. Team members who contributed to this brief include Alisa Thornton, Marquetta King, Robert Brown, and Matt Pennon.