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Ohio Expands Efforts to Address Childhood Trauma

PHOTO: Efforts are expanding in Ohio to educate social services agencies on trauma-informed practices. Photo credit: grietgriet/morguefile.
PHOTO: Efforts are expanding in Ohio to educate social services agencies on trauma-informed practices. Photo credit: grietgriet/morguefile.
August 25, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Children who have been traumatized can face a lifetime of behavioral, mental and physical health problems, and there are efforts in Ohio to better help these children recover.

Traumatic experiences include physical abuse, exposure to addiction and parental separation.

Dr. Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, says exposure to trauma is widespread, and especially common among children in the child welfare system.

"They don't enter the child welfare system because things are going so particularly well at home,” he points out. “So by experiencing those things, not only are they having problems at the present time in their life, but they are likely to have subsequent problems unless that trauma is addressed."

The Ohio Trauma-Informed Care Initiative is expanding statewide to educate agencies and organizations on how to recognize trauma and interact with children in a way that takes into account the potential scars of their past experience.

A report from Child Trends found about one-in-seven Ohio children has been exposed to more than three traumatic experiences.

Hurst says trauma-informed practices create a welcoming, empathetic environment that considers whether trauma is the potential cause of a client's problems.

And he adds the approach can apply to child welfare agencies, juvenile justice facilities and hospitals.

"We have great capacity in the field of medicine to be healing toward individuals, but we also have capacity to make individuals worse,” he says. “And when individuals who have been traumatized are re-traumatized, that can actually create more problems."

Hurst adds there's already great work being done addressing trauma and the initiative is creating six regional collaboratives to share expertise and resources.

One example is the Child Welfare Opiate Engagement Project, which helps youth exposed to heroin or prescription painkiller addiction who Hurst says often are placed in foster care.

"Those individuals who are removed from the home as a result of addiction are more likely to remain in foster care for a longer period of time than those individuals who are being removed for other reasons," he explains.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH