• September 2017
  • Vol. 18, No. 6

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Tips for Child Welfare Attorneys on Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Attorneys representing child welfare clients should understand the impact of trauma on children, youth, and families to improve outcomes for their clients. A joint article by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law informs attorneys about the impact of trauma and offers practice tips and resources for working with clients with trauma histories. These tips include the following:

  • Identifying known or suspected trauma clients may have experienced
  • Considering the role trauma exposure may play in clients' behaviors, especially if they refuse to engage in treatment; miss court appearances or appointments; or exhibit hostility, apathy, or defiance during court proceedings
  • Providing structure, predictability, and opportunities for clients to exert control over decisions pertaining to their cases
  • Talking to clients about their cases, including the role of the attorney, a basic understanding of the reason for the court proceedings, and realistic expectations regarding the outcome of court proceedings

The article also defines trauma-informed legal advocacy and looks at the impact of trauma on child development, parents, and the attorney-client relationship. It includes information on screening and assessment, secondary traumatic stress, and treatment as well as exploring the importance of collaboration with service providers.

Trauma: What Child Welfare Attorneys Should Know is available at http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/attorneyresourceguide_0.pdf (823 KB).

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