Systemic Approaches to Addressing Child and Family Trauma are Key to Fully Leveraging Family First

The Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) represents the most significant piece of federal child welfare legislation enacted in recent history. Chapin Hall is collaborating with jurisdictions and organizations across the country as they assess readiness and plan for Family First implementation and align their child welfare system with the transformational opportunities in the legislation. Chapin Hall and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network jointly produced this brief to recommend concrete strategies for trauma-informed practice when implementing Family First.

What We Did

Chapin Hall and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network reviewed the major provisions of Family First and identified new policy requirements for trauma-informed care. We analyzed the law for provisions that implicate trauma-informed approaches based on the literature. In the brief, we explain how trauma-informed practices support Family First implementation and recommend measures that are consistent with an established framework for a trauma-informed child-welfare system.

What We Found

Family First requires trauma-informed approaches in the delivery of evidence-based prevention services and certain residential-based treatment for children in foster care. In a trauma-informed child welfare system, all parties involved recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress on those who have contact with the system, including children, youth, caregivers, and service providers. To support children’s safety and well-being needs being met within families consistent with the intent of Family First suggests that agencies need to embed trauma-informed practices in their systems beyond the law’s requirements.

What It Means

To have a systemic approach to trauma-informed care, practitioners should consider:

  • Designing access to and delivery of prevention and kinship navigation services that take into account parental, caregiver, and child trauma.
  • Using functional assessments that examine child trauma and traumatic stress to inform placement decisions.
  • Incorporating trauma-informed approaches in treatment and organizational practices of residential facilities to best support youth and their families.
  • Ensuring family reunification planning is trauma informed.
  • Preparing the child welfare workforce and resource families to deal with secondary trauma and provide trauma-informed care.
Recommended Citation
National Child Traumatic Stress Network Child Welfare Committee and Chapin Hall. (2020). Recommendations for trauma-informed care under the Family First Prevention Services Act. Los Angeles, CA and Durham, NC and Chicago, IL: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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