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Principle 1: Safety

We all require safety to survive and thrive, but children who have experienced trauma have had their sense of safety disrupted. This is why it’s vital that Trauma-Informed and Responsive organizations ensure a child’s physical, social, and emotional safety, which are deeply intertwined.

Ensuring a child’s social and emotional safety can include:

Providing a nurturing environment that helps establish a sense of safety while avoiding the triggering of a possible traumatic response.

Supporting connections to loving, consistent caregivers.

Fostering predictability for children and their caregivers whenever possible.

Empowering children to be their authentic selves and allowing children to express their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, needs, identities, self-concepts and emotions without fear of ridicule, shame or dismissal.

Validating children’s feelings and responding to their expressed needs without judgment or criticism.

Taking a culturally affirming approach, which includes celebrating the child’s culture as a potential source of strength and support, and validating any experiences of overt and covert discrimination based on culture.

Modeling and encouraging children to build healthy relationships and be empathetic towards others.

Taking action to prevent bullying, coercion, gender policing, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and other abuses of power.

Examining the role that historical and racial trauma may play in the child’s life and their ability to feel safe in their environment.

Working to reduce trauma triggers/trauma reminders in the child’s environment.

For infants and very young children in particular, considering how physical contact may help establish a sense of safety or trigger a possible traumatic response.

Ensuring a child’s physical safety can include:

Creating an environment free from dangerous items (e.g. weapons, drugs), so that naturally curious children can explore without risk

Making sure spaces where children may be are designed to prevent physical injury and are properly maintained

Reducing the risk of abuse and neglect by ensuring a family has access to resources to meet their basic needs.

Ensuring children are protected from physical or sexual abuse from adults who are supposed to take care of them

Safety is also important for staff because staff deserve to be safe, and also because some may be living with their own unaddressed trauma, which may inhibit their ability to respond appropriately to the children in their care.

Staff who do not experience the setting as physically, socially, and emotionally safe are less likely to be able to follow the Guiding Principles of a TIR approach in their work with children and families.

Things to consider in ensuring staff safety can include:

Ensuring the staff work environment is designed to prevent physical injury and is properly maintained.

Developing appropriate safety protocols for staff whose work takes place in the community or in other people’s homes.

Maintaining safe staffing levels.

Teaching staff procedures/techniques designed to protect their physical, emotional, and social safety as appropriate for the work environment.

Demonstrating an awareness of how listening to the trauma experiences of others can have an impact on work satisfaction, relationships and performance by regularly checking in with staff and offering support, especially after a potentially traumatic event.

Creating a culture of encouraging self-care within the organization, providing opportunities for self-care for staff, and ensuring staff have sufficient training in recognizing and addressing trauma in their own lives.

Including staff from all levels of the organization and key stakeholders in the development of policies and procedures that impact them.

Providing supportive staff supervision, including providing staff the opportunity to openly discuss experiences, challenges and concerns.

Effectively addressing instances of workplace harassment or bullying.

Providing staff with livable wages that provide economic stability and security.

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