Abstract: Trauma Experiences of Urban American Indian Parents/Caregivers Involved with Child Welfare Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

251P Trauma Experiences of Urban American Indian Parents/Caregivers Involved with Child Welfare Systems

Friday, January 12, 2018
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Nancy M. Lucero, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Shauna Rienks, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background Although American Indian historical and intergenerational trauma are considered factors that can affect the psychosocial functioning of tribal people, the impact of contemporary traumatic events on urban American Indian parents/caregivers is a relatively un-studied phenomenon. Due to the possible impact of traumatic experiences on caregiving behaviors, this study sought to examine lifetime trauma exposure and perceived impacts of traumatic experiences among parents/caregivers who had become involved in a child welfare case concerning a child in their care, and who were receiving services from a community-based Indian Child Welfare agency. Method This study includes data from 29 urban American Indian adults residing in a major U.S. city (by summer 2017, sample size will be 67). The Trauma History Questionnaire-American Indian version (THQ-AI) was administered by agency social workers at intake to assess respondents' lifetime exposure to 28 traumatic experiences (e.g., being robbed or kidnapped, experiencing natural disaster or serious injury, witnessing a murder) and the event's impact (on a 0 to 5 scale), both at the time trauma occurred (retrospective account) and at time of survey completion (elapsed time from event to present varied). Results Preliminary findings indicate caregivers experienced an average of 8.9 (SD = 5.1) of the 28 traumas (range 0-20), with only one individual experiencing no traumas and most (55%) experiencing between 7 and 11 traumas. The most common traumas experienced by caregivers included: being injured in a serious accident (69%); being present when another person was shot, stabbed, or harmed (62.1%); being attacked by someone who had a weapon (58.6%); receiving news of injury, illness, or unexpected death of a loved one (58.6%); and having someone in their family beat them to cause injury (48.3%). The average impact of traumas at the time they occurred was 3.94 (SD = 1.17), while current impact was rated as 1.90 (SD = 1.37). Traumas reported as having the greatest impact at the time included: being kidnapped or held against their will (n = 5; M = 5.0, SD = 0.0); being forced to have sex against their will (n = 13; M = 5.0, SD = 0.0); and being present when someone else was raped (n = 3; M = 5.0, SD = 0.0). The traumas that continued to have the greatest impact on caregivers (> 3.0) included experiencing a man-made disaster, such as building collapse or fire (M = 4.5, SD =0.71); receiving news of injury, illness, or unexpected death of a loved one (M = 3.13, SD =1.46); and having a spouse or child die (M = 3.0, SD =2.0). Implications: This study explored lifetime trauma load carried by urban American Indian caregivers when they became involved in a child welfare case, and the perceived impact of those traumatic experiences over time. As a group, caregivers indicated extremely high levels of trauma exposure, recurring traumatic events, and high rates of impact. These findings highlight the importance of child welfare workers' screening American Indian caregivers for trauma, identifying trauma symptomatology and related behaviors, and utilizing a trauma-informed approach.