A new meta-analysis of 15 mental health studies provides more evidence that training caseworkers and parents in the principles of trauma-informed care can help children in the child welfare system. Trauma affects how children process and respond to their surroundings, and their reactions can mimic bad attitudes, stubbornness, or other character flaws. If adults who work with them don’t recognize the trauma, then our attempts to correct them either will be ineffective or, at worst, compound the trauma.

There are several types of trauma-informed care programs, but most of them simply train adults to recognize what they are seeing. Although all of the studies had small sample sizes, the results were encouraging. Collectively, the various programs had a measurable beneficial impact. The most commonly-measured effect was reducing behavior problems, which in turn can help children navigate their environment. Good behavior generally elicits positive feedback, and helps them begin to recover from their trauma.

If your organization deals with children who have suffered trauma, consider whether your staff and care providers can benefit from learning how to recognize and respond to symptoms of trauma. If nothing else, they can learn that children may be reacting to their past memories rather than simply being hard to get along with. A good resource for information is the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which provides a good clearinghouse for information and resources.