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Creating Trauma-Responsive Care for Children

By Caitlin Feldman, Ohio Infant-Toddler Court Team and Policy Coordinator

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Caitlin Feldman, Groundwork Ohio’s Statewide Coordinator of the Ohio Infant-Toddler Court Team, recently attended the 11th annual Trauma Informed Care Summit: A Time to Reflect, Adapt, and Innovate. Hosted by the Ohio Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Developmental Disabilities, Health, and Youth Services, the Summit’s purpose is to move our systems beyond being trauma-informed to providing trauma-responsive and competent care.

Caitlin attended to learn more about the Ohio state agencies’ trauma-informed care priorities and to hear from experts around the state who are leading the implementation of trauma-informed policies and practices. During the two-day summit, there were 30 presentations from experts representing a variety of industries, from state agencies to direct client services organizations around the state. From trauma competent leadership to the impact of trauma on classrooms and developmental outcomes, this summit offered an opportunity to deepen skills and understanding of how to prevent and respond to trauma in young children.

Trauma is defined as exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening. While only 6.8 percent of U.S. adults meet criteria for a post-traumatic stress diagnosis (PTSD), 75 percent of Americans have experienced trauma that can impact their well-being in a myriad of ways.


The word “trauma” can deflate the interest of general audiences who may believe these conversations are confined to the authority of trained mental health professionals; however it is important to consider the communities, clients, colleagues, and staff we serve are highly likely to be affected by trauma. Given its broad definition and pervasiveness in society, we all share a responsibility to be trauma competent as leaders, professionals, community members, and individuals.


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma-informed care is defined as:


A program, organization, or system that . . . realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.


Using these four assumptions, trauma competency can be systemic or granular, from organizational structures, policies, and procedures to hiring practices, individual and organizational goal-setting, and how we respond to those around us. In the words of Natalie Smith, Vice President of Clinical Services at Ravenwood Health, “trauma-informed care is no longer a buzzword—it is here to stay.”

As the host of the statewide coordination for the Safe Babies approach to infant-toddler court teams, Groundwork Ohio is committed to advocating for trauma responsive and competent systems that serve young children and families. Trauma-informed approaches are one pathway to support healthy development in early childhood and promote positive outcomes in health and well-being throughout a child's life. Safe Babies aims to bring a trauma-informed, holistic approach to child welfare practice that reinforces individual and family strengths and resiliency. Our vision to create a future where all families have the capacities, resources, and supports to care for and nurture their children would not be possible without a dedication to comprehensive, trauma-informed support.


As Ohio’s state departments diligently work to integrate trauma competency throughout their systems, Groundwork Ohio looks forward to further advocacy on this crucial matter. Trauma-informed care must become standard practice. Our aim is to broaden the availability of trauma-informed approaches to our systems of care across all sectors, particularly within those systems that serve our state’s most vulnerable young children and families.

More information about the Infant-Toddler Court Team is available online.


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