Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint
In Texas and nationwide, there is increased awareness, research, and intentional intervention to address the impact of trauma on children, youth, young adults, and families that interface with the child welfare system, recognizing that the child welfare system is not synonymous with the child welfare agency. The Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care (SCTIC) is a dedicated network of professionals and stakeholders invested in transforming the Texas child welfare system into a system that routinely views children and families as clients who have experienced traumatic events. The SCTIC also recognizes the deleterious impact of trauma on physical health, mental health, emotional well-being, child development, and interpersonal relationships. By shifting the paradigm from one that asks “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?,” children and their families will experience a child welfare system that can better meet their needs.
From July 2017 to December 2018, over 100 SCTIC members from throughout Texas and various disciplinary backgrounds convened on multiple occasions to develop a cohesive statewide roadmap to help realize a Texas child welfare system that is trauma-informed and trauma-responsive.
The SCTIC formed four workgroups and each workgroup adopted an overarching goal to guide its efforts. The following four goals were established at the inception of this process:
- All children, youth, and families engaged with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and young adults exiting DFPS custody are served by a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive child welfare system. (System Reform Workgroup)
- 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)
- 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)
- Trauma-informed and trauma-responsive interventions will be data-driven, effective, and sustainable. (Funding, Data, and Evaluation Workgroup)
Using these goals as a guide, workgroup members drafted objectives and strategies designed to support implementation and explain the vision for moving forward as a state. Workgroup members were given opportunities to vote on all proposed strategies developed by their respective workgroups. The strategies embodied in this Blueprint were vetted by a Steering Committee comprised of the Workgroup Chairs and staff from the Children’s Commission and DFPS.
The Steering Committee reviewed each of the strategies offered by the four workgroups, revised for overlap and consistency, and aligned them with one or more of the following Guiding Principles:
- CULTURE: Texas will create a culture of trauma-informed care for all individuals and organizations that touch the lives of children, youth, young adults, and families while they are involved in the child welfare system.
- COLLABORATION: A trauma-informed child welfare system requires collaboration within and across systems, organizations, and individuals.
- EQUITY: A trauma-informed child welfare system is culturally competent and equitable.
- YOUTH & FAMILY VOICE: A trauma-informed child welfare system includes and respects youth and family voice and cultivates resilience.
- SECONDARY TRAUMA: A trauma-informed child welfare system recognizes and addresses secondary trauma.
- TRAINING: A trauma-informed child welfare system recognizes that ongoing, quality training is fundamental.
- INFORMATION SHARING: A trauma-informed child welfare system has information sharing capabilities that are accessible, manageable, innovative, and user-friendly.
- DATA: A trauma-informed child welfare system is informed by data and committed to continuous quality improvement.
- FUNDING & SUSTAINABILITY: A trauma-informed child welfare system is adequately funded and sustainable.
The Blueprint is the result of extensive collaboration and a commitment to building a trauma-informed child welfare system in Texas, but it is just the beginning of a long-term implementation effort with continued dialogue, collaboration, and partnerships across systems. The strategies in the Blueprint range from short-term to long-term in duration and cover a wide breadth of topics and areas of focus. It can be used by a large statewide task force and by organizations and individuals working in the child welfare system. Texas will need to be flexible as laws, policies, and practices shift. While efforts were made to incorporate multiple and diverse perspectives, the Blueprint is not intended to be an exhaustive document. Rather, it is the foundation for the change that is needed to better serve Texas children and families involved with the child welfare system.