It is now December as I write this and I am feeling the pull to hibernate. Though I cannot physically crawl into a hole (my family would probably be annoyed) I do find in this season an opportunity to slow down a bit—a time to go inward, to reflect, and to assess before setting new year’s goals. I am definitely in need of this reflection time because my mind has been full force since the Trauma Informed Care in Oregon Conference in October. I am so grateful for all who came, helped, presented, shared, laughed, and cried with us. For those of you who could not join us we will share as much as we can starting with this newsletter focused on reflections and experiences from the conference (as well as links to resource shared).
I am not skilled enough to capture in words the energy of the conference but here are a few of my reflections.
Listening and Feeling
Voices of those with lived experience are necessary and critical to guide this work. In one of my many “Oh my, have we . . .” moments planning the conference I wondered if we had allowed space for emotion to be present. We wanted to focus on organizations and system change but not void of the felt impact of trauma. Alas, as I experienced, and heard from others, emotion was invited in as we listened to the young people from I Am M.O.R.E., the mothers and children from the Family Preservation Project, and the presentation about the plight of Orcas, to name a few. Working or living in toxic stress can cause us to shut down our emotions to cope or survive and it was helpful to have stories, art, and movement to reconnect.
Applying Trauma-Informed Principles Works
We couldn’t have a conference about trauma informed care (TIC) without striving to apply the principles themselves (a resource I consulted Decentering Whiteness and Creating Inclusive and Equitable Conferences: A Tip Sheet). A few things we implemented included a video keynote from people around Oregon, stocked and staffed wellness room, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) only spaces and workshop, drawing and art throughout, announcing that it is ok to join even if you are late, monitoring time dedicated to listening with moving and connecting, and a request for foundations and donors to offer funds to support a diverse population to attend. We also offered learning markets as a way for attendees to guide conversations that were important to them and offered “Thoughts on Making the Most of Your Time.” There are so many more great ideas to incorporate but even with just these—people shared in their feedback they felt heard for the first time, felt engaged, and felt seen. Putting the principles of TIC into practice took intention but did not take significant resources.
Connections are Necessary
It was an exciting gathering because we truly had representation from across sectors including housing, corrections, early childhood, behavioral health, peer support, quality improvement, policy, higher education, natural resource managers, healthcare . . . oh my! We had folks from rural, frontier, tribal, and urban areas. There were directors, providers, lawyers, physicians, peer support, youth, families, advocates, and legislators. When asked how I would know if this gathering was successful my answer was if folks left feeling a bit more connected and less isolated in this work. Shifting a culture and changing minds, practices, and polices requires support. I loved hearing, throughout the conference, folks tell me they didn’t know about other schools, hospitals, communities doing this work.
In addition to connecting people it is necessary to connect approaches and strategies, especially across systems. The work may be called trauma informed care, trauma-informed approach, trauma-informed practice, restorative justice, social emotional learning, procedural fairness, resilient communities, etc. Recognizing the shared core principles in these approaches is what allows us to make large-scale change. The content shared validated for many that their work to end racism, provide housing, design policies for safety net services, and care for natural spaces is the practice of TIC.
Policy is Important
I am thankful for the Oregon legislators who participated in this gathering through a panel, letters, and a video. The panel participants were asked to identify (1) a support person in their life, (2) previous and upcoming legislation related to preventing trauma and increasing resilience, and (3) how the audience could help. This shared time and space invited a bit of relational aspect to what otherwise may feel so transactional – policy change. The laughter between them was at times contagious. Policy, practice, funding, and organizations are all connected. It is important for legislators, community members, and providers to connect to shape helpful policies.