Macey Shambery

On February 28, the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth held a briefing centered on the future of trauma-informed care (TIC). Panelists included Amelia Franck, CEO and Founder of Alia; Chuck Price, Director of Waupaca County Department of Health and Human Services; and Christine Norbut Beyer, Commissioner Designate for New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

The panel provided a handout on a success story from Waupaca County, Wisconsin that defined TIC as “understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.” United in their message, the panelists discussed the ideal child welfare system and how leaders can use TIC in their offices and everyday lives.

Amelia Franck Meyer presented a new child welfare system, the “UnSystem,” that is centered on keeping families together and using the organic foundation of families to support child welfare services. Moving away from the current system, the UnSystem won’t be based on congregate care. The main idea is for children to stay with their families to maintain interpersonal connections and maintain physical and emotional stability.

Mr. Price spoke about the changes Waupaca County (population 52,000) DHHS made to encompass the Trauma Informed Care principles. The department’s staff was trained in TIC and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and the new culture shift focused on the TIC philosophy. Also, Mr. Price mentioned promoting staff health and well-being by addressing secondary trauma, burnout, and low job satisfaction. After changing unprofessional behaviors and using empathy when interacting with colleagues and clients, the job satisfaction increased and the workers provided better service.

Ms. Norbut Beyer provided insight on trauma in government. She discussed the individuality of trauma and cited “the majority of the population has at least one ACE.” Also, she mentioned two guiding principles of trauma: starting each interaction with curiosity and ensuring safety for everyone. Safety includes physical, relation, and emotional safety. Most of the examples she provided were for the workplace like having fire drills to ensure physical safety of workers.

Much of the discussion and material provided described the office culture change when addressing trauma informed care but didn’t provide detail on how staff applied that change when working with children, and the process used to keep children with their families.