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The Need For Trauma-Informed Services And Policies In Early Care And Education: A Webinar Series

June 16, 2021

Recent changes in immigration policy are presenting new and intense challenges to infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families, and the teachers and programs that work with them. Families and programs are experiencing increased trauma due to the immigration climate. With funding from the Irving Harris Foundation, the BUILD Initiative is organizing a series of webinars and blogs in partnership with the Center for Law and Social Policy for providers, state policy leaders, and advocates. Please join the BUILD Initiative as we offer four webinars, from April through July 2019, that will provide important areas for consideration in the provision of trauma-informed care as it relates to immigration and US immigration policies. 

Many immigrant families make the difficult decision to flee their own countries based on unsuitable living conditions at home – from lack of food, water, and shelter to war, forced labor, and torture. They make the often perilous journey to the US only to experience immigration policies here that create fear and anxiety and have profound negative effects on their mental health. Furthermore, those offering services to them often suffer secondary traumatic stress. It is essential that all involved be provided the support they need to avert the short- and long-term impacts of trauma. Please join the BUILD Initiative as we offer four webinars, from April through July 2019, that will provide important areas for consideration in the provision of trauma-informed care as it relates to immigration and US immigration policies. Following are just some of the topics to be covered.

The Effect of Trauma on Children’s Development

Children are particularly vulnerable to trauma because of their rapidly developing brains. Childs Trends research has found that in the short-term, “Children exposed to trauma may display heightened aggression, poor social skills, impulsivity, and may struggle academically.” Long-term effects occur as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, “…early exposure to stress and trauma causes physical effects on neurodevelopment which may lead to changes in the individual’s long-term response to stress and vulnerability to psychiatric disorders. Exposure to trauma…may have a negative effect on the individual’s core identity…”

Mixed-Status Families Face Unique Threats

Adults can have a different immigration status than their children, particularly if the children were born in the US. These families often include older children who are deportable and younger children who cannot be legally deported. They face increased risk for family separation, economic hardship, psychological distress, and confusion regarding support systems and whom to trust.

Current Immigration Policies Have Increased the Need for Trauma-Informed Care

US immigration policy changes have made trauma-informed care more essential than ever. A recent CLASP study confirms the harm being inflicted on children and families by the current administration’s immigration policy priorities. “Heightened enforcement at the border and in the interior, the removal of protections for immigrants previously granted discretion, and the undercutting of immigrants’ access to public benefits are meant to inspire fear, paint immigrants as a threat to public safety and a drain on our public resources, and communicate that no one (lawfully present immigrants or otherwise) is safe. Even when they aren’t the targets of policy changes, children are adversely affected.”

A Trauma-Informed Approach is Needed for the Workforce as Well

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, “For therapists, child welfare workers, case managers, and other helping professionals involved in the care of traumatized children and their families, the essential act of listening to trauma stories may take an emotional toll that compromises professional functioning and diminishes quality of life.” Behavioral health program administrators should aim to strengthen their workforce; doing so requires creating environments that support the well-being not only of the children and families affected by trauma, but of those who work with them as well.

The Role of Policy and Legislation

A systemic approach to trauma-informed care is essential. Everyone involved in the care of this population, including educators, health care providers, and caregivers, must be able to recognize and respond to traumatic stress and know how to promote healing. Policy and legislation must facilitate the recovery of children and families and support their ability to thrive.

Promising Practices

There is some good news. Research suggests that trauma-informed care is associated with considerable benefits for children, families, and service providers. We hope you join us for this webinar series in which one of the most contentious and heart-wrenching issues of our time is explored and resources and strategies for educators and advocates are provided. We wish to thank our long-time philanthropic partner, the Irving Harris Foundation, for funding so much work on trauma-informed practices, including the Harris Professional Development Network, and for making this webinar and blog series possible.

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