July | August 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Encourages States To Adopt Trauma-Informed Practices

On July 11, 2013, administrative heads of three agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance encouraging state and tribal governments to integrate trauma-informed screening, assessments of child well-being and functioning, and evidence-based practices into their services to children and families. On the same day, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius posted a blog announcing the issuance of the guidance, calling it a critical step forward toward the implementation and financing of trauma-informed practices.

In a letter to state and tribal directors of child welfare agencies, the leaders of the Administration for Children and Families, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration urged them to join the Department “to address complex, interpersonal trauma and improve social-emotional health among children known to child welfare systems.”

The letter goes on to lay out the groundwork for a new model of delivering trauma-informed services to children and families and training for the field and identifies funding streams available to states to support trauma-informed services and treatment.

The guidance dovetails with a recommendation made by the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children’s Exposure to Violence, which called on professionals who work with children to educate themselves on the impact of trauma on children’s lives. The task force also challenged child-serving professionals to find the resources to implement programs that provide trauma-informed care.

In a letter to constituent audiences, OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee wrote: “The attached guidance that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Directors of the Administration for Children and Families, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued last week sets forth a clear pathway for those who work with children to integrate the use of trauma-focused screening, functional assessments, and evidence-based practices in child-serving settings to improve child well-being. It also outlines federal financial resources for addressing child trauma. I congratulate my colleagues at HHS for clearly showing us the way forward and commend the attached document to you.”

In October 2011, the Department of Justice convened the National Task Force on Children’s Exposure to Violence. The task force held four public hearings and three listening sessions around the country, at which they heard personal testimony from 65 people from 27 states and the District of Columbia. In December 2012, the task force released a final report with more than 50 recommendations for reducing children’s exposure to violence.

Resources:

Download the HHS guidance letter, learn more about the Attorney General's Defending Childhood Initiative, and access OJJDP’s National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence publication series.