Scroll Top

Step 2: Create a Trauma-Informed and Responsive Workforce

Organizations can build a Trauma-Informed and Responsive (TIR) workforce through a sharp focus on training and development, including:

e-learning checklist

Determining which skills are necessary to provide TIR care in the context of that organization’s work, and prioritizing these skills in hiring and training practices.

Someone in wheelchair

Encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring and promotion practices to ensure staff at all levels are representative of the community being served.

Lightbulb over a book

Providing mandatory training on the impact of childhood trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and racism/equity to all employees and volunteers during orientation and as a part of ongoing professional development.

Task list

Developing policies and structures to address secondary traumatic stress in staff, with the understanding that failure to do so can lead to disengagement, staff burnout, and increased likelihood of staff perpetuating trauma within the workplace. One way of doing so is by providing training on trauma and offering concrete referrals for support.

Training to support a TIR approach should include background on trauma and its impacts, including:

The biological effects of trauma on brain development and the many ways traumatic stress can manifest—including how it can easily be misinterpreted or misdiagnosed for other issues such as ADHD or behavioral challenges.

Explanations of the different types of trauma, as well as the difference between trauma and traumatic stress.

The effects trauma can have on a child, including sense of safety, sense of self, ability to self-regulate, physical health, and various developmental areas (e.g., social, emotional, cognitive).

The impact trauma can have on a child’s behavior, including discussions on internalizing and externalizing behaviors as well as how these behaviors may vary by age.

Information about trauma in vulnerable populations of youth (e.g. LGBTQ+ youth, homeless youth, immigrant youth, commercially sexually exploited children, and children with disabilities).

Information about how traumatic responses are adaptations to circumstances an individual has experienced, and reflect survival and coping mechanisms.

Key protective factors and strengths/assets that can help individuals who have experienced trauma survive and thrive, as well as strategies for increasing those factors.

Information on how trauma can manifest in adults/parents/ caregivers.

Information on how to respond to trauma and its impacts, tailored to the role a staff member plays, such as:

Strategies for encouraging healing, including supporting caregivers to ensure the child has nurturing, healthy caregiver/child relationships, building on a child’s strengths, and developing protective factors and strategies.

Understanding how a staff member’s own experiences and vulnerabilities can impact their response to situations and behaviors as well as create unconscious bias or difficulty responding to a child’s needs objectively.

Connecting the child and their family with longer-term trauma interventions as appropriate. LINK-KID, run by the UMass Chan Medical School, can help you make those service connections.

Identifying potential triggers/activators for the youth/family and understanding the traumatic response those triggers may cause.

Teaching de-escalation and other communication techniques.

Knowing when to seek additional professional help.

The types of action that can traumatize or retraumatize a child or family include:

Decisions within that staff member’s or their organization’s control, such as restraining a child.

Actions that may have previously been taken by other organizations (e.g., schools, treatment providers, law enforcement) that were traumatizing, neglectful, or exploitative and may impact that child or family’s interactions with the staff member.

TIR organizations should also strive to create a healthy environment for staff by adopting the following practices:

Providing staff with information to identify secondary traumatic stress, practices for prevention, and strategies for coping.

Creating a supportive culture that is understanding and responsive to employees who may experience secondary traumatic stress.

Providing active support (e.g., time, resources, professional guidance, a physical space to go to) after a traumatic event occurs.

Creating opportunities for staff to receive reflective supervision and/or group supervision and peer support.

Providing support for all levels of the workforce, including teaching staff strategies for self-care and building personal resiliency.

Teaching and encouraging the use of mindfulness exercises and other self-directed attention practices/skills.

Striving for adequate staffing levels and manageable caseloads, including ensuring that duties that require particular expertise (e.g., clinical training) are assigned to staff with that expertise.

Providing staff with mental health benefits.

Students fixing a anti-racist poster in the wall
A group of people sit in a circle an laugh together during a group therapy session.