Latest Research on Trauma-Informed Care in Child Welfare

Screen Shot 2021 12 15 at 1.31.11 PMCheck out these short research summaries on trauma-informed care from other experts in the field and learn their implications for practice!

Implementation of Trauma Systems Therapy-Foster Care in Child Welfare (2018)
Bartlett, J. D., & Rushovich, B.

Despite the prevalence of trauma experiences among children in foster care, many caregivers and practitioners are unable to provide trauma-informed care and support to meet children’s needs. In this study, researchers evaluated the use of Trauma-systems Therapy-Foster Care (TST-FC), an organizational model for trauma-informed care designed to address the emotional needs of system-involved children who have experienced trauma. Over the course of a year, researchers examined how well TST-FC was implemented in two child welfare agencies and whether TST-FC increased staff and caregivers’ knowledge of and responses to the impact of trauma on children.  

Through surveys, focus groups, and observations and monitoring of trainings, evaluators collected data from a total of 118 child welfare staff, 21 mental health providers, and 111 caregivers. Participants reported that TST-FC was an effective training that increased their knowledge of traumatic childhood experiences and provided them with useful tools that enhanced their work with children. TST-FC was also associated with significant increases in trauma-informed parenting and significant decreases in closed or disrupted foster homes. These findings emphasize the need to invest in trauma-informed care to better support children and families.

Effectiveness of a Trauma-Informed Care Initiative in a State Child Welfare System: A Randomized Study (2019)
Jankowski, M. K., Schifferdecker, K. E., Butcher, R. L., Foster-Johnson, L., & Barnett, E. R.

This study sought to fill a gap in empirical evidence on the efficacy of trauma-informed care initiatives in state child welfare agencies. Researchers evaluated a statewide trauma-informed care intervention by matching and randomizing 10 child welfare offices involved in the intervention into cohorts, with one receiving the intervention immediately after a baseline survey and the second cohort receiving the intervention following a mid-point survey. Each cohort completed surveys at three separate time points covering six domains, including trauma screening, case planning, and mental health and family involvement.

Researchers found mixed results of the trauma-informed care intervention. Although Cohort 1 did not significantly increase trauma-informed care practices post-intervention, Cohort 2 improved significantly in trauma screening, initial case planning, and perceptions of system performance. Although researchers noted the high costs and capacity needs of trauma-informed care interventions, findings from this study indicate that specific components of these interventions may enhance child welfare practitioners’ work with children and families. 

Promoting Trauma-Informed Parenting of Children in Out-of-Home Care: An Effectiveness Study of the Resource Parent Curriculum (2019)
Murray, K. J., Sullivan, K. M., Lent, M. C., Chaplo, S. D., Tunno, A. M., Marsac, M. L., DeLeon, P. H., Cutuli, J. J., Alderfer, M. A.

When caregivers are unable to take a trauma-informed perspective, children in foster care are at risk of experiencing continued instability and unhealthy development. In this study, researchers examined the efficacy of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Resource Parent Curriculum (RPC), an in-service training designed to help caregivers manage parenting stress and increase their trauma-informed parenting knowledge. Researchers evaluated RPC’s effectiveness using a multisite sample of agencies participating in the RPC facilitator training, with a total of 314 caregiver participants across five sites. 

Participants completed voluntary self-report pre- and post-surveys. Results showed significant increases in trauma-informed parenting, tolerance for misbehavior, and self-efficacy to care for a child with a history of trauma, regardless of parent demographic characteristics or caregiver type. Ultimately, the RPC intervention shows promising evidence of how trauma-informed care trainings can help caregivers improve parenting practices with children who have experienced trauma.