Findings Show Need for Trauma-Informed Services
LEWISTON – To celebrate Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, THRIVE System of Care Initiative today released its first-round evaluation results for trauma-informed services in Maine.
In partnership with Maine’s Children’s Behavioral Health Services and Hornby-Zeller Associates, THRIVE developed, administered and validated a Trauma-Informed Agency Assessment (TIAA) of how well mental health agencies are meeting principles of: physical and emotional safety; youth and family empowerment, choice and control, trauma competence, trustworthiness and cultural competence.
“The results show the positive effects of trauma-informed services on children and why they are needed by their caretakers, as well as by youth who may be on their own,” says THRIVE director, Arabella Perez.
Future objectives include Continuous Quality Improvement plans for agencies that have completed TIAAs, and continued development and/or support of youth and family organizations’ peer partner programs. THRIVE plans to expand its trauma-informed training and technical assistance to 150 child-serving mental health agencies and the juvenile justice system in Maine.
In 2009, researchers found that nationally more than 60 percent of youth age 17 and younger have been exposed to crime, violence, and abuse either directly or indirectly including witnessing a violent act, assault with a weapon, sexual victimization, child maltreatment, and dating violence. Nearly 10 percent were injured during the exposure to violence, 10 percent were exposed to maltreatment by caretaker, and 6 percent were a victim of sexual assault.1
The above are common examples of a traumatic experience, but by no means the full list. The death of a loved one, a natural disaster, living with terminal illness or alcoholism are other examples of situations that can cause children and youth to manifest symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, post traumatic stress, dissociation and sexual concerns. These and other behaviors related to traumatic stress can manifest in school, community agencies, foster homes, homeless shelters, youth correctional facilities — anywhere and everywhere youth and families are found.
Five years ago, because of its high rate of reported domestic violence coupled with low income levels, the tri-county area received a federal System of Care grant to provide trauma-informed training and technical assistance aimed at improving services for affected families and their communities.
THRIVE’s first round of evaluation data shows that many youth reported trauma experiences, such as physical abuse and violence in the home, each affecting nearly 40 percent of them. Those who had experienced trauma, either acute or prolonged, displayed significantly more symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger and post-traumatic stress at the beginning of services. After six months of treatment, symptoms of anger, depression and anxiety were reduced.
Of note was that the majority of children who had trauma experiences had a family member with a mental illness. Moreover, over 40 percent of caregivers reported that they themselves experienced some form of trauma as a child, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse and being separated from their own families. This brings the aspect of intergenerational trauma to the fore. Almost twice as many caregivers who had numerous trauma experiences as children, also had chronic physical health problems, which can certainly impact the public cost of healthcare.