The Impact of Trauma on Young Children of Color and Their Families

By: Gloria Blevins, President of National Black Child Development Institute - Cleveland


As the Ohio affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), the Black Child Development Institute — Cleveland joins NBCDI’s mission to improve and advance the quality of life for Black children and families through education and advocacy. For more than 50 years, NBCDI and its Affiliate Network has remained at the forefront of engaging leaders, policymakers, professionals, and parents around critical and timely issues that directly impact Black children and their families.


BCDI Cleveland continues to address the growing negative outcomes stemming from increased racial disparities, trauma, and adversity impacting children’s mental health. Yet, it is important to properly define trauma and its impact in Black homes as it mirrors very differently than within the homes of a Black child’s peers. Brandon Jones, M.A. simply defines trauma as a deep emotional wound. Black children and family trauma stems from historical trauma and is passed generationally.


Studies show that Black children are more likely to experience more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than their peers. In 2020, United Way conducted a community needs assessment and the results showed that 70 percent of Black non-Hispanic children in Ohio have experienced one or more ACEs. In addition, according to Groundwork Ohio’s Early Childhood Dashboard Preview, in 2019, young Black non-Hispanic children were 3.9 times more likely to be treated or judged unfairly due to their race or ethnicity compared to white children.

Since the inception of the pandemic in 2020, trauma among Black youth has been exacerbated. Black families have experienced race related stressors, microaggressions, family and intimate partner violence, and childhood abuse, which lends to the need of a more trauma-informed care approach.


How do we begin? What does that look like? Latonya N. Townsend et al describes trauma-informed care as “an approach to serving those who have been exposed to trauma by focusing on treating the ‘whole’ person rather than the individual systems or specific behaviors.” As individuals who are invested in empowering Black youth and families, we must not be quick to diagnose but instead understand a child’s environment, our own implicit biases, and the child experiences that have adversely impacted a child’s mental, behavioral, and physical health. Furthermore, SAMHSA (2014) describes six key principles of a trauma-informed approach that educators can implement:

  1. Safety – ensuring the physical and emotional safety of the population being served

  2. Trustworthiness and transparency – conduct with transparency with the goal of building and maintaining trust

  3. Peer support – utilizing individuals with lived experiences to build trust and promote healing

  4. Collaboration and mutuality – shared decision making

  5. Empowerment, voice, and choice – recognizing and building upon individual strengths

  6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues – incorporating policies, protocols, and processes that are responsive (Source: Trauma and Mental Health Social Work with Urban Populations)

As we move forward post-pandemic, now is the perfect time to create a child-centered environment that will address the mental needs of our youth. A supportive environment that is inclusive of strong relationships and collaboration with community resources, teacher training, and intentional family involvement will result in healthier children.

 

Gloria Blevins is the President and Founder of the Black Child Development Institute – Cleveland Affiliate, an affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute. She also serves as the current Chief Executive Officer of Early Childhood Options of University Circle of 26 years. She holds a Masters of Management from David N. Myers University and a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Cleveland State University. Her expertise consists of strategic planning, business practices, child development, diversity and equity, and organizational development with a lifelong commitment to child advocacy.

Learn more about the Black Child Development Institute – Cleveland by visiting https://www.nbcdi.org/affiliates/cleveland.