Child Welfare Ideas from the Experts #10: Supporting Prevention, Assessing Childhood Trauma

Amber Lindamood, 24, a social work graduate student at the University of Washington. Photo by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 10 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.

The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the FYI participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C. Today we highlight the recommendation of Amber Lindamood, 24, a social work graduate student at the University of Washington.

The Proposal

Lindamood’s proposals target two different issues: Federal support for the prevention of abuse and neglect, and more federal attention to the assessment of trauma in the lives of children known to the child welfare system.

On the prevention side, she would increase federal funding to create more Family Resource Centers, which serve as drop-in locations where families in need or crisis can access help including legal assistance, respite care, or home visiting for new mothers.

On the trauma side, Lindamood would require the state child welfare plans filed with the federal government to include details on how states plan to use assessment tools to identify the needs of children. And she would also establish a national commission to make “necessary recommendations to revise” the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), referring to the late 1990s study that established a link between trauma incurred early in life and negative outcomes in adulthood.

The Argument

Lindamood notes that the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention program already supports primary prevention efforts, but writes that “funding levels for the program fall far short of the current levels of need.”

She identifies ACES as the “most widely used tool for assessing childhood trauma,” but argues that the scope of ACES should be broadened to cover “additional social and environmental factors.”

In Their Own Words

“In school, I study the impacts of trauma, and in practice, I see the reality. Week after week, youth tell me their stories, and week after week, I hear themes identical to the scenarios I experienced almost two decades ago. While policies have changed since my time in care, many of the implications are the same, including patterns of intergenerational trauma and limited opportunities for youth to reach their full potential.”

The Imprint’s Take

Tools for Transformation, the most recent set of policy proposals from the Foster Youth Internship Program

Lindamood’s push for primary prevention funding is in line with the priorities of child welfare officials in the current administration. Jerry Milner, the associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, has argued in our pages and in myriad speeches that the focus of the child welfare system must move more upstream to prevent the circumstances that too often lead to maltreatment (or allegations of it).

Lindamood’s notion of a national commission is a good one, though we might not limit it to just ACES and call it a National Childhood Trauma Commission. Her idea is that this would be spearheaded by leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Administration of Children, Youth and Families, both parts of the Department of Health and Human Services.

We would stress another entity that should be involved: the office of the Surgeon General (currently, Jerome Adams). The CDC is where the ACES study was born, but making child trauma a focal point of the Surgeon General could have big upside. For decades, the priority issue for the nation’s top doc has been smoking and the effects of tobacco use; it’s time to rejuvenate that office with a new mission.

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New York wants to use a fund for #FamilyFirst Act prep to prevent youth from aging out of #fostercare, but some counties say the money is already spent or earmarked #childwelfare