Voices’ Blog

Troubling Times Call for Advocates to Step Up: Focus on Childhood Trauma

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

For us as children’s advocates it’s been a rough year. We’ve encountered challenges to children’s policy at the federal level, such as threats to children’s health insurance coverage. Our heads have been spinning as plans for immigrant families change with the swift action of an Executive Order, or in the courts, with a bang of a gavel. Our hearts have been broken watching violence play out in our communities—neighborhood violence in Richmond, racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, and mass shootings. We can’t turn on the news without hearing more threats of hurricanes and wildfires. For us as children’s advocates, these events change how we do our jobs. But for the children we serve, and advocate for, these events can shape their experience and, potentially, their future health and development.

Voices has focused on how childhood trauma can shape a child’s long-term health and development and their experiences in the mental health system, foster care system, or juvenile justice system. Last year we helped to introduce the topic of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how communities are responding through Trauma-informed Community Networks (TICNs) to state policymakers. Momentum and interest have been building as the Commission on Youth hosted a Family Impact Seminar in May on Adverse Childhood Experiences for policy makers. Voices has developed talking points and questions for candidates on childhood trauma. We’ve also researched how other states approach trauma-informed policy for children.

While it’s heartbreaking to work with children who have experienced trauma, we know there are great examples of how we can advance better policy and practice. Over the next year, Voices will incorporate more trauma-informed policy into our work and will launch an advocacy campaign and strategy around trauma-informed state policy. If you are interested in learning more and being involved in this work there are a couple of ways to start….

  1. Learn more about trauma and building resilience through the excellent documentary Resilience or from the *just-launched* Sesame Workshop resources for working with young children who have experienced trauma.
  2. Show your support for recommendations to bring a state-level policy focus and local innovation to trauma-informed practice to Virginia. The legislative Commission on Youth will vote to consider several recommendations related to childhood trauma at their Nov. 8th meeting. You can show that you, or your organization, supports these recommendations by sending a letter to COY members. A sample letter and instructions are available here.
  3. Let us know if you are interested in staying up to speed on advocacy opportunities and legislative proposals on trauma-informed practice. Share your contact information, as well as any thoughts and questions with our Policy Director, Emily Griffey.

Once you get started you will probably want to know more about the policies and practices that can build resilient families and can help mitigate the impact of trauma. We are excited that many areas of children’s services, from Head Start directors to Juvenile Detention Center staff, are being trained in trauma-informed approached this year. Some other examples of policy and practice change and innovation that interests us includes:

These examples, as well as the many exciting things happening at the community level, give us hope when we encounter troubling times. We hope you will join us in advocating for children who have experienced trauma.

Read More Blog Posts