Blog: Trauma

2017 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, Gender Nonconforming and Transgender (LGBQ/GNCT) Youth Involved with Juvenile Justice

Since joining Reclaiming Futures, I have listened to the open meetings of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice (FACJJ). Supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), FACJJ (pronounced FAC Jay) members are individuals appointed to State Advisory Groups. Created in 2002, FACJJ members are responsible for having knowledge of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and to encourage state compliance with the four core protections:

Collaboration in Action: Reclaiming Futures Teams Up with Pathways Transition Training Partnership to Host a Joint Webinar

Collaboration. A word we use a lot at Reclaiming Futures. Why? Because based on our fifteen years of working in jurisdictions across the country, collaboration can be an impactful catalyst for change. While the National Office puts collaboration into action regularly it was recently visibly demonstrated.

As you may know, Reclaiming Futures is part of the Regional Research Institute (RRI) at Portland State University. We are affiliated with such efforts as the National Wraparound InitiativeThe Center to Advance Racial Equity, and Pathways Transition Training Partnership (PTTP). A few months ago, Evan Elkin, Christa Myers and I began conversations with Drs. Eileen Brennan and Pauline Jivanjee of PTTP to develop a joint webinar. Both groups understand the importance of collaboration between stakeholders in juvenile justice settings to improve the health and wellness of young people with substance use and/or mental health concerns. However, our focus for the webinar did not become immediately clear. We spent time examining our commonalities to decide the best topic for diverse fields and individuals (e.g., juvenile justice; behavioral health; community members). We decided to emphasize our respective work in the area of evidence-based practices.

Adolescent Girls in the Spotlight

In 2008 my colleagues and I wrote for and were awarded a recovery-oriented systems of care grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The primary goal of this grant was to develop and implement a trauma-informed and recovery-oriented system of care for adolescent girls. My colleagues and I were concerned about the increasing juvenile justice involvement and substance use rates among adolescent girls with little to no increases in their rates of enrollment in treatment. Our previous research highlighted the significant levels of trauma and other co-occurring mental health problems among girls. In addition, we found girls had higher PAGE3_NEWCOLORrates of “harder” drug use such as cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin/opiates as compared to boys. And on the positive side, we also found that girls who accessed treatment responded really well and made significant behavioral improvements over time.

Other juvenile justice and behavioral health policy makers and program developers have recognized the importance of responding to these increased rates of behavioral health and substance use problems among adolescent girls. We now have a better understanding that while males and females are equally vulnerable to addiction, that from a physiological standpoint, females can have lower tolerance and may progressive to physical dependence at different rates.  We also have a better understanding of the critical role played by trauma in substance use and addiction as well as a broader range of available approaches for providing gender-specific and trauma-informed treatment. The positive news is that we have seen the rates of illicit substance use significantly decrease for girls from 2008 to 2014 (26.5% versus 23.7%) and decreases in comparison to boys.

News from the National Executive Director, March 2016

-sad-tears-cry-depression-mourning-2A critical element of the juvenile justice reform narrative in the past decade has been our elevated understanding of the role that trauma plays in the experiences of young people - particularly those involved with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. With traumatic events and victimization affecting millions of youth each year, childhood trauma has genuinely become a pressing public health issue.

A New Resource for Developing Trauma-Informed Systems

Trauma - a six letter word that carries a lot of significance. Depending on your education and experiences the word brings different thoughts, feelings, and reactions. It is a topic that has received a lot of recognition in the past few decades and is comprehensively described in a publication recently released by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Strengthening Our Future(NCMHJJ). Strengthening Our Future: Key Elements to Developing a Trauma Informed Juvenile Justice Diversion Program for Youth with Behavioral Health Conditions provides necessary background and implementation practices for those working in the juvenile justice system.  One aspect I found very helpful was the concrete examples of how jurisdictions have operationalized implementation practices. For example, a case example from Indiana is provided on page 21. As a way to be trauma-informed - Indiana took a procedural approach. More specifically, Indiana started by reviewing and selecting an assessment, integrated it into the electronic information technology system, supplemented the assessment with a trauma specific assessment, and providing training for personnel working within juvenile justice. This publication is a useful resource that can assist in the development of policies and procedures, practices, and training.

Topics: Resources, Trauma

President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated (The White House)
On Monday President Obama announced steps the Administration will take to create "meaningful criminal justice reform," including reforming the reentry process of formerly-incarcerated individuals. Among the measures announced was the "Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program Awards to Support Public Housing Residents," a program to make fresh starts possible for youth with expungeable convictions. In an effort to promote second chances for youth, the Obama Administration will no longer use the term "juvenile delinquent,' and will now exclusively use the term  "justice-involved youth."

Leadership Institute Videos, Now Available

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 4.14.28 PMVideos from Reclaiming Futures’ annual Leadership Institute held this past June in La Jolla, California, are now available online!

The event, entitled “Public Health and Justice: A Partnership to Promote Equity and Well-being for Youth and Families,” brought together experts in juvenile justice and behavioral health to discuss equity and restorative justice in schools.

Possible Implications for Public Schools: Addressing Complex Trauma

The Washington Post,  LA Times and Aces Too High posted stories regarding the lawsuit filed against the Compton School district for allegedly not responding to students’ learning and mental health needs specifically related to complex trauma. The statutory framework for this lawsuit is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and American Disabilities Act. The Washington Post article provides the actual lawsuit and all three articles offer synopses of the trauma experienced by youth named in the lawsuit.  The lawsuit describes and alleges that these young people experienced numerous traumas both on and off school propfile0001681273132erty such as homelessness, physical and sexual abuse, violence, witnessing shootings, unsafe school conditions, and familial behavioral health issues.  Three Compton School district teachers are named for the prosecution alleging that their requests to provide youth with the appropriate behavioral health services were ignored by the district.  For those of us that work in the juvenile justice or behavioral health fields these stories seem all too common. Decades of research and practice have shown that trauma has profound negative effects on an individual’s overall health (e.g., neurological, biological, psychological, social).  One of the more well-known studies, which is being used to support this lawsuit, is the Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACEs) study. The major findings from the ACEs study show trauma can impair an individual’s social, emotional, and cognitive abilities and functioning.

But, what is complex trauma?

New Briefs on Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Approach Released Online

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services, has released six online briefs that discuss the key elements of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system. The NCTSN website explains:

This collection of Briefs written by experts invited to the NCTSN Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable, address topics essential to creating trauma-informed Juvenile Justice Systems. These Briefs are intended to elevate the discussion of key elements that intersect with trauma and are critical to raising the standard of care for children and families involved with the juvenile justice system.
In Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable: Current Issues and New Directions in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF), Carly B. Dierkhising, Susan Ko, and Jane Halladay Goldman, staff at the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, discuss the Juvenile Justice Roundtable event, describe the current issues and essential elements of a trauma-informed JJ system, and outline possible new directions for the future.
In Trauma-Informed Assessment and Intervention (2013) (PDF) , Patricia Kerig, Professor at the University of Utah, discusses how trauma-informed screening and assessment and evidence-based treatments play integral roles in supporting traumatized youth, explores the challenges of implementing and sustaining these practices, and highlights practice examples for integrating them into a justice setting.
In The Role of Family Engagement in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF) , Liane Rozzell, founder of Families and Allies of Virginia Youth, discusses the importance of partnering with families, explores strategies for doing so, and emphasizes ways that justice settings expand their outreach to supportive caregivers by broadening their definition of family.
In Cross-System Collaboration (2013) (PDF) , Macon Stewart, faculty at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), outlines practice examples for continuity of care and collaboration across systems, a vital activity for youth involved in multiple service systems, drawing from the CJJR’s Crossover Youth Practice Model.
In Trauma and the Environment of Care in Juvenile Institutions (2013) (PDF) , Sue Burrell, staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, outlines specific areas to target in order to effectively implement this essential element, including creating a safe environment, protecting against re-traumatization, and behavior management.
In Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System: A Legacy of Trauma (2013) (PDF) , Clinton Lacey, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, outlines the historical context of racial disparities and highlights how systems can move forward to reduce these racial disparities, including by framing the issue so that practical and pro-active discussion can move beyond assigning blame. 

Findings About Early Trauma: Rethinking How We Deliver Services

ace infographicMartha Davis, executive director of the Institute for Safe for Safe Families, and Kristin Schubert, team director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, write about the history and prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Neuroscientists have found that traumatic childhood events like abuse and neglect can create dangerous levels of stress and derail healthy brain development, putting young brains in permanent "fight or flight" mode. What scientists often refer to as "toxic stress" has damaging long-term effects on learning, behavior, and health. Very young children are especially vulnerable.
Last year, the Institute for Safe Families, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others, formed the Philadelphia Adverse Childhood Experiences Task Force to help local doctors and nurses, mental health counselors, and advocates recognize the symptoms of toxic stress and develop ways to protect children from its damaging effects. As a first step, the Task Force conducted a citywide survey of more than 1,700 residents to understand the prevalence of the problem.
The results are tragic.

Learn about the findings and the applications for social workers, police departments, educators, doctors, and nurses in the full article, Early Trauma, Lasting Damage, on

Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma

A new video series from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) explores the needs of children exposed to crime, abuse, and violence, and how we can support the efforts of those who work to help them.
Each video in the “Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma” series can be viewed on YouTube or downloaded, and is accompanied by a resource guide accessible on the OVC website.
In a message about the series, OVC director Joye Frost outlines the four key messages the videos are meant to reinforce:

  • Children’s exposure to violence and victimization is significant.
  • These experiences can leave lasting effects.
  • There are effective ways to protect children and alleviate the harm of exposure.
  • Everyone has a role.

The series includes an introduction and three topic-specific videos, with more forthcoming. The introductory video brings awareness to the physical, emotional, and behavioral effects of trauma on children. Victims speak up about their moving personal experiences to bring light to the issue, and experts give guidance on identifying and intervening for child victims.

Topics: No bio box, Trauma

Q&A: Trauma, Young Men of Color and Transformational Healing

2/26/13 Editor's Update: The webinar recording and slides are now available for download.

Ahead of the Reclaiming Futures webinar with the National Compadres Network (NCN), I had the pleasure of chatting with Jerry Tello and Juan Gomez about trauma, young men of color and transformational healing.
Jerry Tello is co-founder of the NCN and the present director of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI). He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of men and boys of color, fatherhood, family strengthening, community peace and mobilization, and culturally based violence prevention/intervention issues. For 30 years Mr. Tello has dedicated his efforts to “La Cultura Cura”, allowing people to overcome internalized oppression and improve life outcomes.
Juan Gomez is a senior consultant with the NCN and specializes in strategic planning and resource development. Previously he served as a fellow for The California Endowment (TCE) with a focus on statewide policy, grant, and change-making strategies for TCE’s Healthy Happens Here (HHH) campaign. Mr. Gomez was raised in Watsonville, California where he grew up with his grandma Amelia and grandpa Ampelio.
Read the interview below and join us on February 26 to learn more and connect with Jerry and Juan.
LIZ WU (LW): What are the overlooked factors that put Latino men and boys at risk for poor health outcomes, specifically gang violence, substance abuse, incarceration and school failure? How does this affect the Latino community?

Recognizing the Symptoms of Trauma in Justice-Involved Youth

Justice-involved youth have complex histories that not only contributed to their delinquency but present challenges for rehabilitation. They often experience poverty, violence, familial instability, exposure to drug use and gangs, and serial relocations. These compound factors exacerbate a lack of self-confidence, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and mental health issues.

In the field of public health, these experiences are identified as traumatic: including a loss of safety, powerlessness, fear, hopelessness, and a constant state of alertness. In the video above, Christa Collins notes that exposure to trauma severely diminishes decision-making skills and the ability to cope with stress.

[Video] The Importance of Trauma Informed Care in Juvenile Justice

"Over 75% of youth in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to some form of trauma," says Christa Collins of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). This can affect their ability to handle stress and to make decisions. 
In the video below, Christa explains what a trauma-informed approach to juvenile justice is and how it can decrease costs while improving safety.

Task Force Recommendations to End Children's Exposure to Violence

In December 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence released a report with recommendations to combat the growing epidemic of kids exposed to violence. Given recent events and the public discourse over violence, now is an especially poignant time to revisit this report and its recommendations.

"Exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of every three of our children," states the report. "Of the 76 million children currently residing in the United States, an estimated 46 million can expect to have their lives touched by violence, crime, abuse, and psychological trauma this year."

Top 5 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

And this is it, folks, the end of our countdown! We've already shared the top 25, top 20, top 15, and top 10. And now, here are the top 5 blog posts of 2012!
5. Scared Straight Programs Are All Talk
After "Scared Straight" became popular in the 1970s, a number of research reports evaluated children who went through the program compared to control groups and found that many of the youth who attended “scared straight” programs were actually worse off than the youth who had no intervention.
4. Punishment vs. Rehabilitation and the Effects of Trauma on High-Risk Youth
Studies show that 75 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events; 50 percent have endured post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Top 6-10 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

We've counted down the top 25, 20 and 15 juvenile justice blog posts from 2012. Here are 6-10:
10. Missouri’s Unique Approach To Rehabilitating Teens in Juvenile Justice System
Missouri is changing the way it approaches rehabilitating teens in its juvenile justice system, and it’s working. With a focus on therapy and education rather than punishment, the state closed its training schools and large facilities with minimal schooling in the early 1980s.
9. Stop the Trauma. Start the Healing: A Latino Health Context
Latino children are the fastest growing population in the United States and over half will end up incarcerated, jobless, or dead at a young age. Recognizing this, the National Compadres Network released a brown paper explaining how transformational based healing can disrupt this cycle and improve health outcomes for Latino children.

Top 16-20 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

Continuing our countdown of the top juvenile justice blog posts of 2012, here are numbers 16-20:
20. Lessons from Death Row Inmates: Reform the Juvenile Justice System
In looking for ways to reduce the number of death penalty cases, David R. Dow realized that a surprising number of death row inmates had similar biographies -- they started out as economically disadvantaged and otherwise troubled kids.
19. Youth Transfers to the Adult Corrections System More Likely to Reoffend
Juveniles transferred to adult corrections systems reoffend at a higher rate than those who stay in the juvenile justice system, according to a recent report from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC).
18. Beating the School-to-Prison Pipeline by Focusing on Truancy, Absenteeism
There is a strong correlation between missing school in the elementary years and winding up in jail, explains a Superior Court Judge.

Top 21-25 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

This has been quite a year for our juvenile justice blog. Not only has readership more than doubled (thank you!) but we've partnered with a number of great organizations and journalists to provide you with more frequent analysis, research and ideas for reform.
As last year, our articles explaining why "Scared Straight" tactics do more harm than good, continue to be some of our most-read and shared posts. But this year, we also took a look at the effects of trauma on kids, raise-the-age efforts and the Supreme Court decision to ban life without the option of parole for juveniles. 
This week, we're doing a countdown of the top 25 stories from 2012.
25. Mentoring: Best Practices for High Risk Youth
Mentoring has been shown to reduce drug and alcohol use and help justice-involved teens get back on track. Jessica Jones share five best practices for a successful mentoring program.
24. Inside the Juvenile Justice System: A Look at How the System Works
While readers may be familiar with the criminal system through tv shows, the juvenile system is less well-known and understood. The County of San Diego explains the juvenile system.

Tips for Talking to Kids about Violence

Children are naturally curious and may have questions about the violence they see on TV and hear about in the news. Research shows that kids want to talk with parents and caring adults about tough issues - including violence - and that those who have early conversations are more likely to continue to turn to adults as they grow older. But, it can be difficult to talk about violence with kids, so we have compiled a list of resources for parents and youth workers:

Topics: No bio box, Trauma