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Building a Statewide Model for Trauma-Informed Advocacy

As reported in an October Jefferson City News Tribune article, advocates who provide many different types of services throughout Missouri are working to change how they respond to individuals who have experienced trauma—ultimately changing the question from "what's wrong?" to "what happened?"

The shift in approach is a recognition that trauma doesn’t occur in isolation. Some of the most damaging trauma occurs in or through relationships. Simply treating the immediate needs after trauma occurs doesn’t change relationships or environments that might be causing harm. In Missouri, 47.8 percent of children under age 18 have had at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), according to a recent study conducted by the National Survey of Children's Health. Some ACE indicators include: death of a parent, witnessing or being a victim of violence, and living with someone who is suicidal or has a drug or alcohol problem. As highlighted in the News Tribune article, MCADSV Public Policy Director Jennifer Carter Dochler said, “The ACE (adverse childhood experience) is focused on kids, but kids aren't living in isolation. They're living with parents. So if we can also meet the needs of what traumatized parents are going through, then that would also stabilize the kids and the environment they're in."

MCADSV began working with the Missouri Department of Mental Health five years ago to develop the Missouri Model, a framework for organizations to take a trauma-informed approach to service provision. Trauma-informed care is an approach that acknowledges the role trauma has played in an individual’s life, and providing services through the philosophy of doing no harm.

The Missouri Model has been adopted by others including additional state departments, with the Department of Social Services Children’s Division’s using a trauma-informed approach to child welfare, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education implementing a trauma-informed schools initiative. In addition, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network adapted it for domestic violence programs.

The Model recognizes that implementing a trauma-informed approach is more than going down a checklist, it’s an ongoing organizational change process. 

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