On November 15, 2013, OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee and senior staff joined advocates, academic experts, and practitioners to discuss the importance of trauma-informed approaches for girls at a conference organized by Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty, Inequality & Public Policy, The National Crittenton Foundation, and Rights4Girls.
Dr. Stephanie Covington, co-director of the Center for Gender and Justice offered the conference’s keynote address, in which she cited the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, one of the largest studies ever undertaken to examine the link between childhood maltreatment and health and well-being in later life. Women were 50 percent more likely than men to have a score of 5 or more (out of 10) adverse childhood experiences, a score that carries a significant risk for negative social and health consequences later in life.
In her address, Dr. Covington said that the entire culture of organizations and agencies that serve girls (whether in the context of the child welfare or the juvenile justice systems) must take the likelihood of previous exposure to trauma into account, including site selection, hiring of staff, and program development. A trauma-informed environment responds to girls’ need for a sense of physical and emotional safety, supports girls’ strengths and fosters an atmosphere of collaboration and empowerment, and eliminates unnecessary “triggers” of traumatic reactions based on past experience.
In a panel discussion following the keynote address, Administrator Listenbee, formerly co-chair of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, discussed the findings of the task force’s final report, which links childhood exposure to violence with later cognitive, emotional, and academic problems, all of which raise the risk of children entering the juvenile justice system. The report also points to evidence-based practices that can mitigate the effects of exposure to violence. Among its more than 50 policy recommendations, the report supports making trauma-informed identification, screening, assessment, and care the standard in juvenile justice services; providing care and services to address the special circumstances and needs of girls in the juvenile justice system; and helping, not punishing, child victims of sex trafficking.
Administrator Listenbee reported that OJJDP recently awarded $400,000 to support the National Girls Institute, a resource clearinghouse designed to reduce the number of girls in the juvenile justice system and improve the treatment of girls in detention. Through this award, the American Institutes for Research and The National Crittenton Foundation will work collaboratively with OJJDP to provide training, technical assistance, Webinars, communities of practice, blogs, and tools for professionals working with at-risk and delinquent girls and their families.
To watch a Webcast of the event, visit the Center on Poverty, Inequality & Public Policy Web site.
More information about OJJDP’s fiscal year 2013 grant to support the National Girls Institute is available online.
The Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma recently released Trauma-Informed Approaches: Federal Activities and Initiatives; for more information, visit the News in Brief section.