• Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  • Vol. 12, No. 9

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Using a Trauma-Informed Approach With Youth

Many homeless youth have histories of trauma and abuse, parental neglect, and exposure to family violence. Research shows that young people who suffer from traumatic stress can benefit from treatment that recognizes the central role of trauma in defining their experiences and behaviors. 

A recent issue of the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (NCFY) online newsletter, The Exchange, centers on trauma-informed practice with youth, noting that such an approach refocuses the intervention from exploring "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?" The newsletter features interviews with a frontline case manager, a director of youth programs, and a trauma survivor offering their personal perspectives on the positive impact of trauma-sensitive policies and procedures. 

Based on the guiding principles of acceptance, safety, and self-empowerment, the trauma-informed approach builds a client's trust in the use of supports and treatment services and minimizes the chances of retraumatization. As reflected in the three articles included in this special issue, fundamental to facilitating survivors' capacity for healing and recovery is the need to recognize individual trauma triggers and responses.

The first article, "The Case of Youth on Fire: A Trauma-Informed Transformation," explores how a project funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has prompted a complete review of procedures and staff training at Youth on Fire, a Cambridge, MA, drop-in center for homeless and street youth. The result is a more nurturing and safer environment where the staff feel more cognizant of the origins of trauma and young people are better able to exercise personal choice in seeking and engaging in services. 

The second article, "Trauma-Informed Care: Tips for Youth Workers," stresses the principle of collaboration and the sharing of power and decision-making between the provider and the client, prioritizing choice and control. "A Client’s Perspective on Trauma-informed Care" focuses on the experience of a survivor of abuse and neglect who moved from unsuccessful rehabilitation to a successful trauma-informed approach.

This issue of The Exchange is available for download on the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth website:


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