LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 3, 2014) — Experts from the University of Kentucky Center on Children and Trauma are transforming the way judges, social workers, attorneys and other officials around the state handle cases involving children exposed to trauma and violence.
The center will host 20 trauma-informed care training sessions for interdisciplinary groups of professionals, including judicial, legal, administrative and child advocacy workers. The trauma-informed care curriculum addresses how violence impacts a child's brain, opportunities for professional intervention, integration of the trauma-care framework in the judicial system and making recommendations based on a child's trauma history.
The center received a $230,000 grant from the Children's Justice Act to disseminate this valuable training to professionals who provide a variety of services to children and families exposed to trauma.
The Children’s Justice Act Taskforce, chaired by attorney Perry Arnold, oversees the project.
The statewide series kicks off with the first training on Sept. 3 at General Butler State Park in Carrollton, Kentucky. The training will instruct 80 professionals from Trimble, Shelby, Oldham and surrounding counties to apply the trauma-informed care principles to their roles working with children.
Trainings will be assigned to clusters of counties around the state for the next two years and are open to any professional working with maltreated children. Organizers said the program will reach more than 1,000 child service professionals in Kentucky by the end of 2015. Trainings will be led by UK child trauma specialists and include case analyses and a participant evaluation.
Based on a Centers for Disease Control study, an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), or instance of neglect, abuse or maltreatment, correlates with a multitude of psychology, behavioral and health problems later in life. Ginny Sprang, principal investigator on the grant and executive director of the Center on Trauma and Children, said many judicial, legislative and administrative professionals don't understand the impact of a traumatic experience on a child's life. Trauma-informed care is necessary because traditional service approaches can exacerbate the traumatic experience in a child's memory, causing further harm. Applying the trauma framework to cases will improve the level of care for children around the state.
"Children and adults who have dealt with abuse begin to frame their lives around avoiding memories of the event," Sprang said. "Their lives become consumed with managing the way they feel. Until you understand that, it's hard to make decisions if you are a judge or a child abuse professional."
Sprang said the training will show professionals how violence or maltreatment can alter the course of a child's life. In Kentucky, reports of child abuse have risen by more than 25,000 in the past five years. According to a report from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in fiscal year 2013, more than 17,800 children were victims of abuse or neglect. Many open cases of abuse affect children living below the poverty line and with an adult family member with a history of abuse or trauma.
"Right now, the way the system looks at kids who are involved in everything from child protection services to juvenile justice is, 'What is wrong with this kid?'" Sprang said. "We are trying to shift perspectives. Instead of people saying, 'What is wrong with you?' we want people to say, what has happened to you?"
The UK Center on Children and Trauma is dedicated to the enhancement of the health and well-being of children and their families through research, service and the dissemination of information.
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