Over two-thirds of American children will experience at least one traumatic event by the time they reach sixteen years of age. And yet, understanding of trauma, its effects on health, and tools to help victims begin to heal remains uncommon amongst adults who care for and serve children.
The American Psychological Association describes a traumatic event as one that “threatens injury, death, or the physical integrity of self or others and also causes horror, terror, or helplessness at the time it occurs.” Children may experience trauma as a result of sexual or physical abuse; domestic, school or community violence; serious accident, injury or illness; separation from family as a result of being taken into custody by child services, incarceration, immigration or refugee detainment, war, or death.
Trauma can cause profound, lasting harm on a child’s health and stability. As our collective understanding of this harm grows, the practice of “trauma-informed care” is picking up momentum in medical centers, schools, child welfare agencies, first-responder teams and the justice system.
Recently, Oprah Winfrey visited Milwaukee, Wisconsin to highlight local efforts and national research on trauma-informed care.