Across the country, policy leaders are paying greater and greater attention to the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on lifelong physical, emotional, and social health. Over the past year, there has been a surge of state and federal legislative, regulatory, and contracting policies aimed at reducing trauma and toxic stress and promoting resiliency and trauma-informed practices. More recently, new developments at the state and federal level have brought further recognition to this important issue.
State Strategies for Promoting Trauma-Informed Approaches
ACEs Connection, a social network dedicated to raising awareness about trauma and resilience, recently released profiles of major statewide and local ACEs initiatives within the 50 states and the District of Columbia. These profiles, developed to inform elected officials, policymakers, and cross-sector stakeholders, highlight trauma-informed initiatives across the country. For example, Tennessee’s profile mentions Building Strong Brains Tennessee, a statewide initiative seeking to inform the public about ACEs and early childhood brain development through a series of public service announcements and educational materials.
In addition, the health and social justice-focused nonprofit organization, Futures Without Violence, published Changing Minds: Preventing and Healing Childhood Trauma State Policy Guide, a report detailing state-level approaches to promote trauma-informed practices. The report outlines strategies that agencies serving children and families across the health care, education, child welfare, and justice sectors can pursue to prevent and address childhood trauma. These include activities like workforce training and building state-level collaboration and accountability through adopting a shared vision and language.
H. Res. 443 Passes Encouraging Trauma-Informed Practices in Federal Agencies
Furthering the momentum at the federal level, in February 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved H. Res. 443, a resolution recognizing the importance of trauma-informed care within federal programs and agencies. The resolution supports the designation of a national trauma awareness month and trauma-informed awareness day to increase public knowledge of the impact of trauma and ACEs. It also cites trauma-informed efforts within nine states — California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin — in order to bring greater attention to successful statewide initiatives to address trauma. Among the highlighted efforts are new laws in Oregon and Massachusetts to promote trauma-informed approaches in schools, and cross-sector collaboration in Washington and Wisconsin to inform policies to reduce childhood trauma.
Tonette Walker, first lady of Wisconsin and a champion of trauma-informed practice, helped advance the resolution by promoting the issue at the state and federal levels. Further support was given by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who introduced a similar non-partisan companion resolution in the Senate.
Creating the Foundation for More Robust Trauma-Informed Approaches
These recent developments help position additional federal, state, and local agencies and programs to implement trauma-informed approaches. Federal and state policymakers can create more opportunities to support trauma-informed policy and propel broad, system-wide adoption. Foundations can provide additional catalysts for innovation. Major philanthropic investments, for example, are being made in organizations and initiatives such as the Center for Youth Wellness’ recently launched National Pediatric Practice Community as well as the national Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities and Advancing Trauma-Informed Care initiative, made possible through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These recent developments represent a welcome upswing of support for trauma-informed practices and policies and an opportunity to continue public and private investment in innovation in this field.