Oprah and Congress Agree: Trauma-Informed Care Deserves our Attention

By: Dana Asby, CEI Intern 

Oprah has been campaigning about the transformative nature of using TIC to better understand exactly what these children need to succeed after experiencing neglect, sexual or physical abuse, war, natural disasters, or other ACEs. Twenty-five percent of U.S. children have experienced at least one ACE while 22 percent have experienced two or more (Walker, 2018). If these negative life events occur early in life, they can change the way the brain develops, making children more vulnerable to toxic stress and setting them on a difficult life path before they’ve even reached school.

SaintA, a human services agency that provides families with mental health education and services, is an organization that inspired Oprah to investigate TIC’s benefits after reflecting on her own history with trauma and how her relationships with teachers had a buffering effect that propelled her to success. She recognized the importance of being able to see past the ‘bad behavior’ many traumatized children exhibit to discover the root cause of that behavior and heal any unresolved pain through emotional regulation strategies and the formation of healthy relationships. SaintA believes there are seven essential ingredients of TIC that come together to help trauma survivors take control of their lives:

  1. Prevalence: We must recognize how common childhood maltreatment is and how difficult it can be to adjust to these ACEs.

  2. Impact: We must also recognize how severely developing brains, especially under the age of five, are effected by ACEs. These changes in brain structure can result in deficits in physical and mental health, cognition, social competence, emotional and behavioral regulation.

  3. Regulation: Using mindfulness strategies such as yoga and breathing exercises teaches children how to rewire their brains to better regulate their emotions and behaviors.

  4. Relationships: Positive attachments with others provide security that is essential in assisting traumatized children on their journey to forming healthy relationships.

  5. Reason to Be: Connecting to family, community, and culture creates a sense of purpose.

  6. Caregiver Capacity: It’s important for caregivers of traumatized children to find balance between work and life and be aware of when they are being pushed beyond their limits (SaintA, 2018).

SaintA warns that the hard work done through TIC can be undone by a teacher, coach, or other adult that lacks understanding of how best to soothe the wounds of trauma and instead reinforces the idea that something is ‘wrong’ with a traumatized child. While training teachers and other adults who interact with these children in TIC practices can transform these children’s socio-emotional lives, training alone is not enough to transform an entire organization’s culture (Grove, 2018). To best support trauma survivors, we will have to shift the perspective of the entire country and eventually the world, so that ‘What happened to you?’ is the most common response to a negative interpersonal situation.

References

Danese, A. & McEwen, B.S. (2011). Adverse childhood experiences, allostatsis, allostatic load, and age-related disease. Physiology & Behavior, 106 (1), 29-39.

Grove, T. (2018). A call to care: Next steps. SaintA.

Kalmakis, K.A. & Chandler, G.E. (2014). Health consequences of adverse childhood experiences: Asystematic review. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 27 (8), 457-465.

SaintA. (2018). Seven essential ingredients. SaintA.

Winfrey, O. (2018). Treating childhood trauma. 60 Minutes.

Walker, T. (2018). We now know the importance of trauma-informed care, but there is more work to be done. The Hill.

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