After explaining why children involved in the child welfare system are at increased risk for trauma resulting from exposure to violence, this paper outlines the warning signs of such trauma for various age groups, and recommends how child welfare staff can effectively address this issue.
Children involved in the child welfare system have experienced abuse, neglect, and/or domestic violence. Once in the child welfare system, they face other stressors, such as separation from their families and familiar surroundings. Mental health issues are common among these children, which increases the likelihood of school failure, substance abuse, and anti-social and criminal behavior. Since early and effective intervention is critical in addressing trauma, it is important for the staff of child welfare agencies to know the warning signs of trauma resulting from exposure to violence. This paper outlines these warning signs for children ages 5 and under, those 6-12 years old, and those 13-18 years old. Five recommendations are presented on what child welfare staff can do to identify children exposed to violence and intervene to begin the healing process. First, regularly screen children and their families for symptoms and mental health needs related to their exposure to violence. Second, children known or suspected of having been exposed to violence should be referred for individualized comprehensive mental health assessment. Third, individualized treatment should address traumatic experiences for both caregivers and children. Fourth, facilitate access to evidence-based interventions. Fifth, child welfare staff should develop their own plan for resolving personal issues and addressing job stressors, so they will be better prepared to be effective in addressing trauma among the children they serve. 4 listings of resources
Date Published: January 1, 2011