What IS a trauma-informed community, anyway?

What is a trauma-informed community? One definition, from The Wilson Foundation, in Rochester, NY, is: “A strategic approach that links all community sectors together around the effects of trauma, while preventing gaps in services for clients.”

But I like this description from an article about Tarpon Springs, Florida, one of the first communities in the US to declare itself a trauma-informed community:

“Being a trauma-informed community means that Tarpon Spring has made a commitment to engage people from all sectors—education, juvenile justice, faith, housing, health care and business—in common goals. The first is to understand how personal adversity affects the community’s well being. The second is to institute resilience-building practices so that people, organizations and systems no longer traumatize already traumatized people and instead contribute to building a healthy community.”

As I visit trauma-informed communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and in Calgary, I’ll likely learn additional definitions. Most of the places I’ll be visiting have been focused on trauma-informed care for 6-8 years or longer. So there will be much we can learn from them.

A few weeks ago, I convened a meeting of 22 people from Community Action Partnership of Lancaster CountySchool District of LancasterCOBYS Family ServicesAssetsLancaster County Community FoundationBenchmark Construction Company, Inc.Advoz: formerly Center for Community PeacemakingLancaster Housing Opportunity PartnershipLancaster County Drug & Alcohol CommissionUnited Way of Lancaster County, PADanene SoraceNorman Bristol Colon for Mayor of Lancaster, and others to discuss how to move toward making Lancaster County a trauma-informed community. I asked for their ideas about what questions to ask and what information to gather from the trauma-informed communities I’ll be visiting. Here are a few of their recommended questions:

  • How have communities used their own local/regional demographics to guide their trauma-informed community initiatives?
  • How have they addressed needs for cultural competency to ensure the broadest possible inclusion of all persons and all stakeholder groups?
  • How did they go about getting buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders and potential funders?
  • What barriers, roadblocks and resistances have they encountered, from whom, and how have they attempted to address these (either successfully or not)?
  • What trauma education approaches, tools, curricula, and other resources have they used? What has worked? Not worked?
  • How are they integrating trauma knowledge into all different sectors of the community? (healthcare, education, human services, community development, housing, juvenile justice, criminal justice, business, faith community, etc).
  • What are the metrics and outcomes they are using to measure and track results of their efforts?

The group provided other input, ideas and insights – and I’ll share more in future blog posts. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me with YOUR ideas and suggestions.

I depart for this 3-week trip on Easter Sunday….stay tuned for more details in upcoming posts.

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Author: melaniegsnyder

Melanie G. Snyder serves as the Director of the RMO for Returning Citizens – a prisoner-reentry initiative that improves community safety by helping people transitioning out of prison get access to the services and treatment they need to lead whole, healthy and crime-free lives. She is a consultant to a number of newly forming prisoner reentry coalitions in other regions and states. Melanie is the author of Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity (http://www.brethrenpress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=1497) and has given a TEDx talk titled “Breaking Out of Prison Thinking” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ_B1g6o_Co) Melanie is a certified instructor for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Healing Communities model, a National Institute of Corrections certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist, and a SAMHSA-certified instructor for their trauma-informed criminal justice training. She is currently a Baldwin Fellow with the Lancaster County Community Foundation, focusing on trauma and trauma-informed care, and has conducted trainings on trauma, ACEs and related topics for numerous groups across Pennsylvania.

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