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Trauma-Informed Journey with a local Department of Social Services (Richmond, VA)


Our Trauma-Informed journey began with the Henrico Department of Social Services (DSS) in the fall of 2012 when we approached their leadership with a proposal to partner with the Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network (TICN) to create a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System. 

We began by developing a TIMELINE of activities (please note we set out to complete things in one year - little did we realize at the time that the process is always ongoing!).  The first step on the timeline was to assess the strengths and challenges within this system.  We utilized the Trauma-Systems Readiness Tool from the NCTSN Child Welfare Trauma-Toolkit.  A survey was sent out to all staff and multiple focus groups followed (focus group templates are also in the CW Toolkit).  From these assessment measures, we developed recommendations and provided those to Henrico DSS leadership.  Go to the following link for the recommendations -

Henrico DSS responded by providing the complete Child Welfare Trauma Toolkit Training for their staff, contracting with local expert, Dr. Allison Jackson, to provide additional training related to implementation of trauma-informed principles in daily Child Welfare practice,  piloting the North Carolina Project Broadcast Brief Trauma Screening Tool, provided training on the Brief Screening Tool, sent their workers to the Greater Richmond TICN sponsored Trauma & Resilience Basics Training (and still require this training when onboarding new workers), provided training on Vicarious Trauma, implemented Reflective Supervision practice with all supervisors and formed a Trauma-Informed Leadership Team (TILT).

Their TILT has been in existence since January 2016 and has accomplished the following:

  • Developed and implemented many aspects of the trauma-informed foster care removal process
  • Developed a Worker Advocacy Group that will help worker’s advocate for process and administrative changes that support trauma-informed best practices for our customers and our staff
  • Created decorative wall hangings of our trauma-informed care principles to hang in every child welfare worker’s office and our Family Assessment & Planning Team meeting room
  • Created a self-care calendar in our hall to post and share self-care activities for all staff to participate in, including daily walks, holiday outings, etc.
  • Creation of a TILT Board that posts self-care tips and interesting articles about trauma-informed practice and self-care
  • Creation of a TILT star of the quarter, peer-nominated recognition of trauma-informed practice in action with the winner receiving casual day coupons so staff can dress casually during the work week

Their Trauma-Informed removal process for children entering foster care includes a team approach so that each aspect of this complicated process receives the sensitive, trauma-focused attention it is due.  Aspects of this process:

  • Use of a child-friendly space to transition child to their placement (not the DSS office)
  • Development of car kits and resources to use while transitioning kids to placement
  • Use of TIPS (Trauma-Informed Practice Strategies) with birth parents and foster parents during the removal process
  • Use of foster parent snapshots to present information (bio, photos) of the foster family to the child prior to placement
  • Use of multi-person approach to each element of the removal so that no one person is burdened with the entire process and so each aspect gets the full attention of one worker

Henrico DSS has been committed to the process of becoming trauma-informed (and beyond) and has amazing trauma champions working towards their goals.  A great big THANKS (for co-authoring this blog post with me) and shout out to Henrico DSS CPS Supervisor, Gretchen Brown, who is a SUPER trauma champion and has been an integral part of moving this journey forward.  We are excited to see the ongoing impact of the work of Henrico DSS as their changes help to create awareness and resilience for children, families, residents in their county and their staff.

**The title pic is from Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens that is located in Henrico County.  The growth and resilience of the lotus flower reminded me of the trauma-informed journey with Henrico County DSS as they continue to grow and build resilience **

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Congratulations Lisa!  The process / journey your organization has gone through is transformative!  

I especially appreciate the inclusion of trauma informed leadership AND the focus on self-care.  

Thank you for sharing these lessons and experiences.  Please consider posting additional updates too.  

I’d like to cross post this on the Sonoma County ACEs Connection site, if it is ok with you?  

Thanks again! Karen 

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