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February 2015Vol. 16, No. 1Massachusetts' Efforts to Address Children's Complex Trauma

Child abuse and neglect are traumatic experiences for children, and that trauma can be compounded if child protective services must remove the child from home and place the child in foster care. The child may suffer additional trauma if he or she experiences repeated separations and loss due to placement changes. The chronic and cumulative effects of abuse, neglect, and parental loss that children can experience in the child welfare system are called "complex trauma," and a lack of placement stability can negatively impact a child's long-term capacity to have healthy attachments and relationships.

In response to findings from the 2011 Child and Family Services Review indicating that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families ranked 43rd out of 51 States in composite measure of placement stability, the State launched the Massachusetts Child Trauma Project (MCTP). Funded by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau, the project aims to improve the placement stability and outcomes of children involved in the Massachusetts child welfare system suffering from complex trauma and augment the capacity of child welfare workers and child mental health providers to identify, respond to, and provide early intervention for children traumatized by chronic loss, abuse, neglect, and violence.

A recent article published in the Children and Youth Services Review provides an early look at the work of the initiative thus far. The article describes the major components of the MCTP, activities that informed implementation, the evaluation plan, and preliminary implementation findings in the initial year (October 2012–September 2013). It presents the findings to date regarding organizational readiness; implementation of child trauma trainings for child welfare staff and resource parents; implementation of child welfare-led Trauma-Informed Leadership Teams (TILTs) that include the participation of mental health providers, child welfare workers, and consumers; and utilization of evidence-based treatments.

The paper concludes with a description of next steps, including an evaluation of implementation across the intended audiences, an examination of satisfaction with trainings, and an analysis of the relationship between implementation success and factors related to child and family improvements. A cost study offering information to practitioners and policymakers on how best to allocate resources to address child trauma in their communities also is included.

"Implementation of a Workforce Initiative to Build Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice and Services: Findings From the Massachusetts Child Trauma Project," by Jenifer Goldman Fraser, Jessica L. Griffin, Beth L. Barto, Charmaine Lo, Melodie Wenz-Gross, Joseph Spinazzola, Ruth A. Bodian, Jan M. Nisenbaum, and Jessica Dym Bartlett, Children and Youth Services Review, 44, is available for purchase at