VYFS Creating a Trauma Informed Vashon Program

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April 18, 2019
Creating a Trauma Informed Vashon

Trauma Informed Care is a philosophy that does not have a singularly accepted definition, but experts agree that the effects of trauma over time lead to stress, which leads to social, emotional and cognitive impairment, which leads to poor decision making (including substance abuse), and over time these stressors can lead to diabetes, heart disease, addiction, and a shortened lifespan. Trauma informed care in practice means developing an understanding of the prevalence of trauma, understanding the impacts of trauma, and understanding that current support systems may actively re-traumatize individuals who are experiencing the effects of trauma.

In a key study, researchers found a dose-response relationship with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and negative health incomes throughout life. ACEs include abuse, neglect, substance abuse or misuse, an incarcerated parent, and many other negative experiences. The good news is the impact of ACEs can be diminished through public engagement and educational (campaigns like this one), strengthening economic supports to family (family-friendly work places, increased financial security), and community training programs.

On Vashon we have a unique opportunity to increase awareness of the impacts of trauma and, as a community, change the way we respond to it on an organizational level and on an individual level. Through funding from King County Best Starts for Kids, VYFS is coordinating trauma informed care trainings (at no cost) to the Vashon Island School District, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, The Dove Project, VARSA, Hispanic and Latinx community members, Vashon Senior Center, Vashon Household, and other organizations and businesses.

An example of trauma informed care in practice may look like this: A person becomes abusive at the cost of groceries. A trauma informed approach would be something like, “What happened?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?” And that would be done under the safe assumption that there are underlying, trauma-related issues contributing to the outburst. The goal is to shift perception, community-wide, that out-of-pattern behavior may have a root cause. In this example, the person may not be angry at the cost of groceries, but is triggered to recollect a time in life where they may have been hungry, or deprived of food. How a person responds to others significantly impacts how individuals experience the effects of trauma.

Our end goal is to shift the culture of Vashon such that more persons are aware of their own trauma and the trauma of others. As recent studies suggest, this is a public health issue. We believe that by initiating an island-wide conversation about trauma, we can contribute to the health and resilience of the Vashon community in the short and long term.

Through this process, we ask that collaborating agencies add a page to their employee handbook outlining the core concepts of trauma informed care and include a synopsis on trauma recognition and response in the on-boarding process. There is a committee working on drafting a trauma informed policy that will be presented to collaborating agencies (already there are several) for adoption after a series of public events and private trainings over the next 14 months.

In May this program will kick into full swing with a screening of Paper Tigers,  a film described by its production company as follows: “Set within and around the campus of Lincoln Alternative High School in the rural community of Walla Walla, Washington, Paper Tigers asks the following questions: What does it mean to be a trauma-informed school? And how do you educate teens whose childhood experiences have left them with a brain and body ill-suited to learn?”

The screening will be followed by a discussion about trauma in the Vashon community.

Any businesses that would like to have their staff trained in Trama Response should contact Roderick McClain at Vashon Youth and Family Services.

Prevalence of ACEs on Vashon

Roderick McClain
(206) 463-5511