Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Trauma-Informed Collaborations among Juvenile Justice and Other Child-Serving Systems: An Update

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Trauma-Informed Collaborations among Juvenile Justice and Other Child-Serving Systems: An Update

Article excerpt

Introduction

The high rates of youth in the juvenile justice system who have experienced trauma have led to a call for earlier identification and treatment of these youth across child- and family-service systems, preferably before justice involvement is necessary (Stewart, 2013). Traumatic experiences have profound effects on children's adjustment and development that may be exacerbated by adverse encounters with the social, educational, and legal institutions responsible for their safety and care. One of the core concepts of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) for understanding traumatic stress responses in children and families is that "challenges to the social contract, including legal and ethical issues, affect trauma response and recovery" (NCTSN Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma Task Force, 2012, p. 5). When there is an actual or perceived failure of child-serving institutions to provide justice and safety, a breach in the child's trust in the social contract can occur. Such a breach "may exert a profound influence on the course of children's post-trauma adjustment, and on their evolving beliefs, attitudes, and values regarding family, work and civic life" (NCTSN Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma Task Force, 2012, p. 5). In order to uphold the social contract and prevent children from experiencing secondary posttraumatic complications, coordinated cross-system collaboration is needed to ensure safety and protection, address traumatic stress symptoms, and minimize re-traumatization (Stewart, 2013).

Common Themes

In exploring practices and interventions that encourage cross-system collaboration in systems of care for children, four common themes essential to fostering trauma-informed cross system collaboration emerged: effective leadership, stakeholder engagement, identification of shared outcomes, and evaluation. Effective leadership is essential throughout the project, from the initial vision and the identification and engagement of key stakeholders, to the creation of institutional structures to sustain trauma-informed practices once the initial team has done its work. Although one champion often emerges as the primary leader in such endeavors, having a group of leaders from all institutional levels is most effective in sustaining such efforts (Center for Technology in Government, 2003). Key stakeholders vary by system, but collaborating through Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) and Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) is essential so that the transition to trauma-informed care is experienced as a joint effort, rather than as a top-down, organizational change. Central to this planning phase is the collaborative identification by key stakeholders of shared goals and outcomes (e.g., improving attendance within school systems or increasing safety in juvenile justice facilities). These collaborative efforts also allow for multiple groups (including community members) to impact policy reform (Herz & Ryan, 2008). Evaluation of the impact of cross-system collaboration informs future planning and increases the possibility of sustaining such efforts. Organizational change cannot depend on individual champions who first implement a practice but must be assured by convening the community to support these changes through public education and by institutionalizing these practices so that they become part of the daily routine within the target organizations.

Child-serving systems that should be brought into this collaborative project as early as possible include juvenile justice (law enforcement, the judiciary, attorneys, juvenile probation, diversion, and residential facilities), child welfare (child protection, foster and adoptive families), mental health, schools (teachers, administrators, and school resource officers), and advocates. This paper describes how stakeholders from these key systems have worked together with community partners to develop an approach to identify, assess, and provide therapeutic services to children and families who are experiencing traumarelated behavioral and psychological impairments by describing a selection of promising practices in cross-system collaboration. …

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