May 30, 2019
From Robin Hausen, School Lead Outreach Officer, Juvenile Justice Prevention Department, Grants Pass, Oregon
What we know about trauma is when “bad behaviors” are present in children, they are actually impacts of traumatic experiences and attachment issues. As school outreach officers Robin Hausen and her colleagues, Michael Emanuel, Rosa Dominque, and Craig Owen, understand this and are working towards providing care in a way that challenges how these youth are viewed.
Day-to-day trauma can affect children and adults. We all handle the effects of a traumatic event in different ways. When meeting with students, most often they are open to sharing their stories. By being trauma informed to sensitive issues, we are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. While interviewing a student, I can recognize certain behaviors a student might show and adapt my conversation so they feel safe, listened to, and comfortable. As I work through the information a student is sharing, I can also use motivational interviewing skills when needed. Before we end the conversation, I ask the student for permission to talk again soon so they feel connected.
– Robin Hausen
Trust and Empowerment
Most of my meetings with students in the schools revolve around prevention education. Adolescents are pretty open and in ways, really like to talk about themselves. There are students that have met with countless officials and have been involved with the system way too many times, either in response to their actions or others. These youth do have a lot of strengths, but people generally don’t see them. In my meetings with youth, I like to build rapport in hopes of establishing a connection – not the same connection they may have with a family member, but a connection built on trust and empowerment. I try to keep my words around these qualities so students know that I’m not just there to fix things. I try to be very careful with my words, making sure they revolve around sensitivity and care, but at the same time encouraging them to have perseverance and strength. In the Intro to Trauma Informed Care Training Module videos, TIO talks about trauma informed care and how it can be seen in a conversation where trauma isn’t even mentioned. I like this because for me it means I can have trauma-informed conversations with all the youth I meet with, no matter what they have been through, but also respect their experiences without even knowing them.
– Michael Emanuel
As for trauma informed practices, my focus when meeting with youth is to ensure that they are comfortable. I let them choose where they want to place their chair or if they need to stand while talking, offer a stress ball or candy. If a youth is fidgety, I will ask them if they would like to take a walk and talk, this small adjustment can be extremely helpful when youth are feeling uneasy. As for conversation, I inform the youth in the beginning that they are not in trouble and open the dialogue for them to ask me questions. Oftentimes I will start the conversation with the youth’s interest or a general topic before moving on to asking questions. Giving informative details and thoroughly explaining my position and desired goals typically incites an air of relief from the youth—you can see it in their body posture. If an action plan is given to a youth to complete before our next visit, I will make sure they put it in their phone or write it down, so that if they were stressed during the conversation and had a hard time retaining information, they will have something to refresh their memory.
– Rosa Dominque
For myself, a good example of using trauma informed practices happened just last week. The student arrived and it was very apparent that the student was nervous being in the room by herself with me. I guessed it was because I was male. Instead of starting the session, I asked if she would like to walk around the school instead of being in a “stuffy room.” She said yes and as soon as we left she told me about being scared of men because of her uncle’s actions years earlier. Had I started that session in the classroom, she would have stayed closed and anxious. Getting out where she felt safe gave her an opportunity to talk and feel secure.
– Craig Owen