I’m Tamara Hamai, PhD, President of Hamai Consulting and President-Elect of the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence. I’ve dedicated my career to rebuilding our global systems to encourage children’s holistic growth and well-being, from prenatal through completion of higher education.
In the chapter Adverse Childhood Experiences: Past, Present, and Future, that I co-wrote with Dr. Vincent Felitti for the Handbook on Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan, we highlighted the lessons we learned when reviewing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research:
- Researchers know a lot about ACEs, but we need greater awareness and action from the general public, schools, service providers, judicial systems, legislation, etc.
- De-stigmatizing and normalizing talking about and screening for trauma is critical.
- Because of the difficulty in treating the consequences of ACEs after the fact, primary prevention is of profound importance.
A Systems Approach
These lessons are not problems solved by individuals or individual organizations. They require strengthening and building systems to address trauma at all levels. Conditions within communities, organizations, and systems sustain and worsen the consequences of trauma, re-traumatize, and lead to chronic exposure to trauma.
Building trauma- and resilience-informed systems is an emerging area of work, and the definition of what makes a system trauma-informed is still being molded. In our work with First 5 San Mateo County’s Trauma and Resilience Informed Systems Initiative (TRISI), our definition is that trauma- and resilience-informed systems “integrate policies, procedures, and practices into its programs, structures, and culture to actively resist re-traumatization, strengthen resilience, and heal the effects of trauma for individuals and organizations. TRIS adopt and follow these core principles:
- Understanding Stress and Trauma
- Reducing Structural Racism and Bias
- Strengthening Resilience
- Promoting Safety and Stability
- Cultivating Compassion and Trust
- Fostering Collaboration and Agency
We are leading cohorts of organizations through the process of becoming trauma-informed, supplemented by coaching delivered by Trauma Transformed. Progress in becoming trauma-informed follows the Center for Collective Wisdom’s developmental framework:
As with trauma-informed care, becoming a trauma-informed organization or system means embedding internal processes that promote deep self-reflection focused on uncovering and healing internal causes and consequences of trauma. Assessments can serve as tools to aid self-reflection and to measure growth in trauma-informed practices and policies (yes, you can evaluate these outcomes!).
We’re using an assessment tool adapted from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Becoming Trauma-informed: Guide for Child Serving Programs & Organizations with influences from SAMHSA, the Network of Infant/Toddler Researchers, The Office of Adolescent Health, The University of Southern Florida, and the work of Dr. Roger Fallot and Dr. Maxine Harris. Another assessment tool option is the Trauma-informed Agency Assessment (TIAA) by Maine THRIVE.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Trauma-Informed Schools for Children in K-12: A System Framework and Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools: A System Framework.
Center for Collective Wisdom’s Trauma and Resiliency: A Systems Change Approach
This week, AEA365 is hosting Trauma-informed Eval Week during which blog authors share lessons from and principles of trauma-informed evaluation. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to email@example.com. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.