Trauma Informed Care (TIC) is an overarching structure and treatment attitude that emphasizes understanding, compassion, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. Trauma Informed Care also looks at physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both clients and providers, and provides tools to empower folks on the pathway to stability.
Becoming “trauma-informed” means recognizing that people have many different traumatic experiences which often intersect in their lives. Well-meaning services providers can often re-traumatize clients who need understanding, support, and individually-conscious care.
- The SHIFT (Service and Housing for Families in Transition) study examined outcomes among families in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing programs. The study followed 292 families for 30 months in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, New York, interviewing mothers upon entering a housing program.
- 79% of mothers in the study were traumatized as children, most commonly traumatic events involved interpersonal violence, including physical assaults and sexual abuse.
- More than two-thirds had been physically assaulted in adulthood, and half had been sexually abused as children. Additionally, half met the criteria for PTSD. At 30 months, this rate decreased to 40%.
- Study findings indicate that trauma, depression, and substance abuse can co-occur for homeless mothers compromising their ability to form safe and trusting relationships, work consistently and parent effectively.
- The study found that maternal depression was predictive of child educational and emotional problems, illustrating the risk it poses to a child's well-being.
- TIC is a cost-effective strategy to provide an appropriate environment to support these mothers and families on the path toward residential stability. Additionally, a workforce trained in TIC is less likely to engage in harsh disciplinary practices, which can trigger trauma symptoms in families.
- While temporary housing may be a viable model for those in crisis or for those with defined special needs, the data from the SHIFT study suggests that this model does not help to ensure residential stability. To be effective, these programs will have to address the needs of trauma survivors in permanent supportive housing programs who have serious mental illness (SMI). Housing alone is insufficient to ensure long term housing stability.
- The study suggests that housing which stabilizes families quickly in long-term housing placements, ensures the affordability of the placement, and provides individually tailored supportive services (mental health and trauma) is best suited to secure long-term family stability.
- All children should be developmentally assessed and all family members should be assessed for health and mental health.
- Case management that addresses short-term individual needs including income, education, and employment, as well as long term needs relating to trauma history and health, mental health, and emotional challenges.
- Mental health services that address Major Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for mother's and therapy/supportive services to address children’s emotional and learning needs as identified in the assessment process.
- Parenting supports and skills training that directly addresses parental health and mental health is key to improving family and child outcomes/child-centered services, as well as programs to promote and support healthy development.
- All homelessness and housing programs should implement trauma informed care practices to provide an environment that supports stability and healing.
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