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Developing the Blueprint

The SCTIC took on the challenge of developing a plan to transform the state into one that routinely and effectively provides trauma-informed care to children and families who experience the Texas child welfare system. Ultimately, the Blueprint’s purpose is twofold: to provide structure for implementation and to invite innovation and improvement in the approach to trauma-informed care in both the public and private sectors. To be most effective, the Blueprint must be viewed as the beginning of a long-term implementation effort with continued collaboration, cross-system partnership, and evaluation. The children, youth, young adults, and families involved with the child welfare system should interact with organizations and professionals that see beyond the trauma in their lives and in doing so find ways to promote healing and resilience.

Building a Statewide Collaborative

Beginning in 2016, the Children’s Commission partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) to canvas the availability and provision of trauma-informed care across various child and family-serving systems in Texas. MMHPI conducted an extensive literature review and key stakeholder interviews to assess current strengths and areas needing improvement in Texas.
The Children’s Commission formed the SCTIC to create an environment where interested stakeholders from across the state could engage in dialogue and debate about this vital issue. The SCTIC was led from its inception by the Honorable Darlene Byrne, a long-time judicial leader on child welfare. The SCTIC convened its first meeting on July 28, 2017 to review the MMHPI Final Report on the landscape of trauma-informed care in Texas.
Following the July 2017 meeting, the SCTIC adopted a charge to elevate trauma-informed policy and practice in and throughout the Texas child welfare system. To help achieve this charge, the SCTIC established four strategic workgroups:

  • Child Welfare System Reform, chaired by Andy Homer, Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA);
  • Organizational Leadership, chaired by Renee Encinias, Hope Rising Ministries;
  • Cross-System Collaboration, chaired by Christine Gendron, Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS); and
  • Funding, Data, and Evaluation, chaired by Katy Bourgeois, Mission Capital.

The workgroups met regularly for approximately a year to gather information on notable projects, distinguish best practices, and brainstorm solutions. A Steering Committee, comprised of each of the workgroup Chairs, as well as staff from the Children’s Commission and DFPS, was formed to oversee workgroup progress and take a comprehensive approach to developing the Blueprint.

Goals and Objectives for a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System

In crafting the Blueprint, the SCTIC members recognized that broad, visionary goals are essential to planning, motivating, and accomplishing change. The SCTIC also recognized that strong objectives are critical in planning how to reform organizations, inspire leaders, and establish appropriate performance measures.
Between February and October 2018, workgroup members met 27 times to develop and refine the goals, objectives, and related strategies. This work culminated in a full SCTIC meeting on October 23, 2018. The goals and objectives included below lay the groundwork for the Guiding Principles and strategies that are needed to create a trauma-informed child welfare system.

GOAL: All children, youth, and families engaged with DFPS and young adults exiting DFPS custody are served by a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive child welfare system. -System Reform Workgroup

To ensure that all children, youth, young adults, and families are served by a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive child welfare system, there must be common definitions of trauma and trauma-informed care to create a shared understanding in the context of child welfare policy and practice in Texas. Beyond that, the child welfare agency, courts, and service providers within the child welfare system must embrace a commitment to trauma-informed and trauma-responsive practices by adopting appropriately incentivized policies, practices, and training requirements for all individuals who work with children, youth, young adults, and families. Of course, effective trauma-informed and trauma-responsive practices must be created in partnership with youth, young adults, and families with lived child welfare experience and delivered by organizations and programs in a manner that avoids re-traumatization of those being served.
The SCTIC determined also that integral to achieving this goal is promoting the use of a validated, standardized trauma screening tool at regular and documented intervals from the onset of a child welfare case until closure. As appropriate, considering federal and state confidentiality laws, utilization of a validated, standardized screening tool will ensure children, youth, young adults, and families are appropriately screened and/or assessed for trauma exposure. Shared information about a child, youth, or young adult’s trauma should be used to educate, communicate, and advocate for the child, youth, or young adult’s needs across settings. This information must also be used by caseworkers, service providers, attorneys, judges, and child advocates to inform their own understanding of the child, youth, young adult, and family trauma and trauma-related needs so that safety plans, service plans, permanency plans, and court orders for the child and family are appropriately tailored.

GOAL: All children, youth, and families engaged with DFPS and young adults exiting DFPS custody are supported by a culture of trauma-informed care, practical training, and tools within the child welfare system. -Organizational Leadership Workgroup

Leaders of child welfare organizations must create a culture of trauma-informed care in policy, practice, training, and tools for all individuals who engage with children, youth, young adults, and families while they are involved in the child welfare system. This includes a recognition that all children, youth, young adults, and families entering the child welfare system have experienced trauma and may continue to experience trauma. Additionally, appropriate trauma training must be required of any person who directly serves or advocates for children, youth, young adults, and families involved in the child welfare system.
It is critical that organizations recognize that caregivers and professionals may experience secondary trauma. Equally critical is ensuring that caregivers and professionals understand how their own life experiences will affect how they respond to trauma-related behaviors. Training must include information on how trauma may disproportionately impact diverse populations. Organizations should also promote the values of youth and family voice, self-advocacy, and meaningful partnerships between youth and adults in all aspects of the organization’s mission and work.

GOAL: All children, youth, and families engaged with DFPS and young adults exiting DFPS custody are served by multiple systems that collaborate to create consistent trauma-informed care and/or practice in all parts of their lives. -Cross-System Collaboration Workgroup

The Blueprint is primarily intended to transform the child welfare system. However, children, youth, young adults, and their families often experience multiple systems while in foster care and it is critical that there is collaboration to improve service delivery across systems. Ideally, this collaboration will include regular contact and relationship-building within and across child and family-serving systems. Some of these systems include, but are not limited to, child welfare, juvenile and criminal justice, legal, law enforcement, medical and behavioral health (including substance use services and long-term care), education (including early childhood and special education), workforce, and housing.

Robust cross-system collaboration will provide consistency across child, youth, young adult, and family-serving systems to support effective information sharing, resource development, and tools to assist with systemic improvement on trauma-informed care and practice. Cross-system collaboration will also help identify opportunities to promote strategies to increase efficiencies and address gaps in trauma-informed policy, including training requirements, implementation, and practice in order to improve outcomes for children, youth, young adults, and families in a meaningful way.
An additional task the Cross-System Collaboration Workgroup undertook was to document trauma-informed care and a trauma-informed response as it currently exists in the various systems to better understand how the child welfare system and other key systems intersect. The workgroup devoted several months to creating an extensive crosswalk document. The crosswalk addresses questions for systems and settings that may be involved with children, youth, young adults, and families also engaged with the child welfare system. It was also noted that the crosswalk should document the services available to assist individuals with IDD, those who have experienced family violence, survivors of human trafficking, those who have experienced homelessness, military personnel and veterans, and others.
Many stakeholders invested significant time, energy, and resources to complete necessary research and analysis to populate the crosswalk and the crosswalk will be a valuable and useful tool to capture how trauma-informed care is interpreted and provided across Texas. However, it still requires considerable review and is also a living document that will need to be maintained for accuracy and updates. Although a draft crosswalk is not included in this Blueprint, refinement and finalization of the crosswalk will be a primary project that will flow from the Blueprint. Developing a plan to make the crosswalk publicly available will be a high priority of the Blueprint implementation stage.

GOAL: Trauma-informed and trauma-responsive interventions will be data-driven, effective, and sustainable. - Funding, Data, and Evaluation Workgroup

A data-driven approach must first clearly define and document the need for implementing trauma-informed care among individuals, organizations, and the child welfare system broadly. In order to continue reforming the child welfare system and sustain the reform effort, data gathered should measure the impact of adopting trauma-informed interventions and have the ability to be disaggregated based on many distinct measures. This includes disaggregation to examine disproportionality and disparities. Opportunities to sustain or scale trauma-informed interventions, as well as any need to adjust or discontinue ineffective interventions, must be recognized and acted upon to ensure the success and sustainability of the effort. Potential public and private funding strategies must be identified for communities and organizations that want to implement and sustain trauma-informed practices.