Session: Recognizing and Addressing Trauma in Diverse Child-Serving Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

140 Recognizing and Addressing Trauma in Diverse Child-Serving Systems

Friday, January 17, 2020: 3:45 PM-5:15 PM
Independence BR H, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Mental Health (MH)
Symposium Organizer:
Cassandra Simmel, PhD, Rutgers University
Sacha Klein, PhD, Michigan State University
Trauma can be described as a global public health issue, linked to child maltreatment, family chaos, disruption, and discord, community and interpersonal violence, and poverty. The immediate, long-term, and intergenerational effects have been examined in numerous studies, with ample evidence showing the sustained and far-reaching impact on emotional, behavioral, academic, and psychosocial functioning, across the lifespan. Without intervention and treatment, traumatic symptoms and other effects are likely to persist unabated. Trauma may result from a single event, or a series of sustained or intermittent events. While stress itself is somewhat normative and learning how to respond to it is essentially developmentally important, enduring uncontrollable threats or stress can engender toxic traumatic reactions.

This proposed symposium draws together three studies—each from a distinct research project and university institution-- that address different facets of recognizing and responding to trauma in vulnerable populations. Moreover, each study is based on a unique child-serving system: child welfare, education, and mental health. Consistent with the SSWR 2020 conference theme, across the studies, diverse racial and ethnic children, youth, and caregivers are represented. Further, a fourth panelist, from a university distinct from those represented by the three presentations, will serve as a Discussant who will summarize and interpret salient themes and findings across papers. While much of this symposium will be strengths-based and convey how vulnerable populations successfully navigate very complex circumstances, it will also include findings derived from candid feedback about how child-serving systems can improve their services to children, youth, and families.

Specifically, each paper will address the following: The first paper uses qualitative data collected from four stakeholder groups across four states involved in the child welfare system with lived experience in prescribing, being prescribed, or overseeing prescriptions for psychotropic medication (clinicians {n= 32}, foster caregivers {n = 20}, child welfare caseworkers {n = 24} and foster youth alumni {n= 10} focus groups). This study explores stakeholder perspectives about mental health treatment for youth in foster care and the extent to which trauma is acknowledged and understood in the context of psychotropic medication prescriptions and treatment planning. The second paper is a quantitative study examining the influence of maternal trauma experiences (i.e., community violence, family violence, child maltreatment) on parental functioning, parenting, and child outcomes. Participants were 275 caregivers and their preschool-aged children, who were a subsample of a larger preschool evaluation study. Some of the measures in this study included: Trauma History Questionnaire; Philadelphia Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Screener; and Parenting Stress Index. The third study is a qualitative exploration of parental fears among economically challenged minority parents as a function of involvement with CPS oversight as they relate to parenting decisions. It examines the perceptions of primarily Black and Latinx parents (N = 17) receiving child maltreatment preventive services in an effort to capture parental fears associated with this oversight.

How the participants in each of these studies respond to and navigate management of trauma in the context of child-serving systems will be an essential theme addressed across the papers.

* noted as presenting author
What Are We Treating? the Complexity of Addressing Trauma in Mental Health Treatment for Youth in Foster Care
Cadence Bowden, MSW, MPH, Rutgers University; Alicia Mendez, MSW, Rutgers University; Cassandra Simmel, PhD, Rutgers University; Sheree Neese Todd, MA, Rutgers University; Stephen Crystal, PhD, Rutgers University
Maternal Trauma and Children in Public Preschool Programs
Brenda Jones Harden, PhD, University of Maryland at College Park; Jacqueline Gross, PhD, University of Maryland at College Park; Rebecca Watkins, University of Maryland at College Park
Child Welfare Oversight, Parental Fears and Trauma Induced By Racial Disparities
Darcey Merritt, PhD, New York University; Rachel Ludeke, MSW, New York University
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