On Wednesday, July 26, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) sponsored a briefing on trauma and its impact on children.  The briefing was supported by Building Community Resilience, Redstone Center at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, and the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice.

The session included remarks by briefing sponsor Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL). Davis, with his long record of involvement in child welfare, reflected on some of his work in his Chicago-based district and his past work in assisting in providing mental health services to families.

Davis also discussed new legislation H.R.1757, the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act of 2017.  The bill establishes a multi-agency and department task force at the federal level to identify and evaluate evidence-based, evidence-informed, and promising best practices as far as identification of trauma in key populations, referral practices, and implementation of trauma-informed approaches and interventions that can be used for child and youth-serving schools, organizations, homes, and other settings to encourage stable, and nurturing environments and relationships that can prevent and mitigate the impact of trauma.

The focus of the discussion was on the impact of trauma on the developing brain and what can be done to increase awareness and how to address long term impact.  On the panel were Wendy Ellis, Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University (GWU), Kathryn Larin, Government Accountability Office (GAO), Whitney Gilliard, Former Foster Youth, Olga Price, National Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, GWU, Monica Battle, College Hill Fundamental Academy, Cincinnati Public Schools.

Trauma exposure such as witnessing violence, parental substance abuse, poverty, family violence influences brain development, with long-term health and societal outcomes, such as chronic disease development, mental health disorders, high school graduation, and poverty.  Children who have been exposed to four or more such traumas – also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – are twice as likely not to graduate high school, ten times more likely to inject drugs, and twelve times more likely to commit suicide than children who have not been exposed.

In the opening remarks, Wendy Ellis, Director, Building Community Resilience (BCR) at the Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, GWU School of Public Health pointed out that there has been a fivefold increase in the number of infants born addicted between 2003 and 2012. As noted in the publication there has been a dramatic increase in opioid deaths especially in the top states of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Rhode Island, New Hampshire.  The impact and how this trend will have an impact on childhood trauma.  She also indicated that in Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati) there has been a 50 percent increase in an adoption activity since 2012.

Some of the speakers discussed approaches and interventions that can prevent or address the impact of trauma, particularly through the development of individual, family and community resilience. Such community resilience must include a range of partners from schools, health care, social services, child welfare, first responders, juvenile and family courts, and other systems.

Monica Battle discussed her efforts as a principle in a Cincinnati school and how its critical to understand the impact it has on the student population.  Key points she emphasized was to have a system of student supports, address student needs through school policies and practices including disciplinary practices, include family collaboration within the system, have crisis intervention services and to not forget to recognize the secondary trauma that impacts on the teachers and school staff dealing with the trauma of the student body.