July 20, 2016

From Mandy Davis, LCSW, PhD, Co-Director, Trauma Informed Oregon

The Both . . . And

While collaborating with many of you around the state, I am having more and more conversations about the relationship between equity and inclusion work and trauma informed care. The tragedies in July validate, yet again, the importance of talking about racism and systemic oppression as we further explore the impact of trauma on families, organizations, and communities.

We decided to focus our summer newsletter on topics related to the cultural responsiveness of Trauma Informed Care prior to the tragic events of the past few months. This was inspired by an amazing panel of folks who shared their wisdom at our regional forum in Multnomah County in April. I was going to sit down and write a blog about the great work happening around connecting equity and trauma informed care because it is exciting, but after this past month it felt inadequate.

In my 20+ years as a social worker I find it common to report out extremes. Either we share all the problems or we speak only of our achievements. As students in my class hear me say often it is not either . . . or but both . . . and.

I was working with an organization this week and we were sharing stories of success in implementing trauma informed care. I was energized and excited listening to their accomplishments. After the meeting was adjourned a few staff members shared with me some challenging and stressful events that had recently occurred. I left those conversations feeling unfinished and incomplete. I was not surprised that there were significant stressors occurring, but I realized the space we were creating was not allowing this conversation to happen. I love focusing on the great work you all are doing because I know how hard the struggle is and I realize we are not doing Trauma Informed Care if we are not giving space to our shortcomings that can lead to hurt and harm.

Trauma Informed Care is grounded in the understanding that our systems activate and re-traumatize people accessing services. We know that our systems can be re-traumatizing to all people but communities of color experience this exponentially more so. I am excited both about the work that is happening across systems to acknowledge the impact of trauma and the need to find strategies to “keep it real” by acknowledging current hurt and harm. I will work on finding organizational practices that can inspire and motivate while simultaneously examining our shortcomings.

A Starting Point for Resources

As Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO) discussed what resources we could share in response to the tragedies of these past weeks we realized one of our shortcomings. Many of the resources on our website for responding to community tragedy do not address issues of race, power, or historical trauma and the impact these types of events have on our communities, especially those who have experienced systemic oppression. We are going to work on finding and, if needed, developing these resources. If you have recommendations for resources or practices for responding to tragedy that are culturally responsive or specific, please share them. Here are a few that we found to reference as we continue to have these conversations.

Mental Health Resources for Black Teens

Building a Culturally Responsive Workforce: The Texas Model for Undoing Disproportionality and Disparities in Child Welfare

Edutainment Violence Intervention/Prevention Model 

4 Self-Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible

The Recent Police Shootings Can Make it Tough to Work

This is What White People Can do to Support #BlackLivesMatter

The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi

4 Helpful Tools for When You’re Activated written in Spanish

These 4 PDFs help explain what is happening to the body when a person is activated and provide useful exercises: